The secret swimming holes of Vermont
The size and breadth of options means that all ages and levels of daring are sated. I gleefully slithered down the rockslide into a mid-level pool, my wife relaxed in a small eddy and our daughter jumped, paddled, climbed and splashed until her teeth chattered from the 74-degree water.
Located on the Mad River, Warren Falls is on Route 100, a few miles south of Warren, Vermont. Follow a short trail and descend a ladder of tree roots down to the bottom of the falls.
Lacking dramatic waterfalls or cliffs from which to leap, this chain of pools and cascades is deceptively tame. Once you plunge in you find sections that alternate between slow streams where you can beach yourself against a flat half-submerged rock, and fast currents of waterslide fun.
The whole section is a wide, and therefore sunny, switchback of tiers flowing into one another and exploring is rewarded. My wife discovered a 2ft wide crevasse that worked a cool water massage into her back and, more accidently, a chute we rode by leaning way back and letting the water pick us up. The spot also lacked crowds and had a slightly warmer water temperature (78F).
Circle Current technically did not make Dave’s top ten list. He subbed it for a similar sliding option, the Waterslide in Danby, Vermont, which is accessed by private property and recently closed because swimmers were leaving garbage behind. Warren Falls had been closed for years for similar reasons, according to a site called Waterfalls of the Northeastern United States. So be sure to clean up after yourself or other precious spots could prohibit visitors.
From the town of Bristol, follow Route 116/17 for two miles to Lincoln Gap Road. A trail leads you to easy entry points.
As wide as Bingham is tall, Bristol Falls also feeds an Olympics-sized moss green pool you can swim the length of to climb behind the waterfall. The slippery but otherwise easy clamber leads to a cave that could easily host a small party (and had the day before, judging from the beer cans left behind). On either side of the large pool are tiers of 25ft-high rocky diving boards and a rope swing for the most daring (or reckless).
The first to arrive in the morning, we had the area to ourselves for awhile. The water was a chilly wake-up but worth braving for having such a large area in which to swim by ourselves. After getting our fill we laid out on a wide flat rock at the water’s edge and let the sun dry our suits. Families and warmer temperatures arrived as we left.
The pool is located a couple of hundred yards downstream from Circle Current, along Lincoln Gap Road.
Two features distinguish this swimming hole from the others. It is not on a river and it has a sign; not a commercial announcement, but a historical marker that states you are about swim in the oldest marble quarry in the United States, opened in 1785. Before it closed and an underground spring turned the quarry into a huge natural pool with 360 degrees of diving-off edges, it supplied the material for homes, gravestones and the main branch of the New York Public Library.
On a hot Sunday afternoon, the place was bustling with kids, packs of friendly teenagers and parents sunning on slabs or the small lawn. The space easily accommodated the 100 or so swimmers and sun worshipers. Other than swimming in the deep, dark waters, diving is the only recreation. Marble launch pads range from 2ft-high, perfect for my intrepid daughter, to roughly 25ft, for older thrill seekers. My comfort zone was somewhere in between, even though there was no chance of hitting the bottom.
Located in southwest Vermont, the quarry is on Route 30, between the towns of Manchester and Dorset. It is easy to spot from the road and there is a separate dirt road for parking.