Waterfall swimming is adventurous and fun. It is also a great way to diversify your weekends and do something new. Luckily we have quite a few cool waterfalls in Upstate NY to swim in.
(Yes, to prevent any further arguing I hereby refer to anything north of Hudson Valley as Upstate. Feel free to call me out on that in the comment section ;))
When planning a waterfall swimming weekend, make sure to pack:
- Proper footwear. Here’s what we use:
- Extra caution
If you are working on your summer travel plans now, make sure to add these waterfalls to your itinerary:
1.Kaaterskill Falls in Catskills
Kaaterskill Falls is the real jewel of Catskills. Just two hours of driving from NYC, it is also a very well-visited place. There used to be half-mile trail taking you to the waterfall from the lower parking lot, but that parking lot has been closed.
The only way to get to the waterfall is from the upper parking lot (the Laurel House Parking Area), and it can get quite packed, especially on the weekends, so try and arrive earlier. The Laurel House Parking Area is free.
It is about one mile of hiking to get down to the base of Kaaterskill Falls. It is a moderately steep slope down to the pools. It is totally manageable for kids (we had our five year old with us), just keep them close.
The waterfall consists of two levels: Upper and Lower, and people swim in both. The Upper level is taller and the pool is larger and deeper. The lower level is much more cozy. Both will likely be crowded.
I did see some signs cautioning against swimming in the river below the waterfall but not beside the actual pools.
I didn’t let kids stand directly under the falls (the waterfall seemed too strong for myself plunging 167 feet down on my head) but they were happy to swim in the pools. The stones around the waterfall is very slippery. We saw people falling right and left. So be very careful!
Find your Kaaterskill Falls travel map here
How long of a hike is Kaaterskill Falls?
It is a bit less than a mile to get to Kaaterskill Falls from the Laurel House Parking Area (which is currently the only parking area open giving you access to the waterfall). It is considered a moderately difficult trail but we found it very doable even with little kids. Just make sure to wear proper footwear. On your way to the waterfall, you are going to descend a trail, so move slowly and keep kids close.
How do you get behind Kaaterskill Falls?
We did get behind the Upper Kaaterskill Falls in summer. We didn’t take kids with us as it seemed dangerous for them but if you move forward carefully, it is pretty doable.
Can you swim in Kaaterskill Falls?
There are no safeguards or designated swimming areas but people actively swim in both lower and upper pools of Kaaterskill Falls.
2. Lower Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park
Robert H. Treman State Park is one the gorgeous parks in the Finger Lakes region.
It is not as well know as its neighbor Watkins Glen Park but we found it no less impressive, and even more enjoyable because there are swimming areas in Robert H. Treman State Park, so it is much more pleasant for hiking in hot summer days.
The designated area for swimming is located at the lower part of the park. Because we wanted to hike the whole thing first, we parked the car at the upper level, followed a two-mile trail down to enjoy our picnic and swimming.
One of us had to walk back up to the upper parking lot to drive the car close to the swimming area. You can easily go down and up (to see both gorge and rim trails) but we had a 5-year old kid with us and she could only manage on way.
By the time I was going up, people were already swimming in every single waterfall and pool along the gorge trail. So if you want to see the waterfalls without people in them, start your hike earlier in the morning (we started it at 8 when it was still quite chilly).
We were making lots of pictures stopping at every corner, so it took us more than hour to get down to the swimming area.
The swimming area at the lower waterfall is only open when the safeguard is on duty. The guards are totally fine with people climbing on the rocks at the waterfall which is both surprising and fine (as we happily did that). The waterfall is not too tall and seemed pretty safe even if you did slid down from the rocks into the water.
Can you swim in Robert H. Treman State Park?
Yes, there’s a seasonal designated area for swimming at Lower Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park. While swimming is technically prohibited anywhere else in the park, people swim and cool down at every other of the park’s 12 waterfalls.
3. Split Rock Falls in the Adirondacks
Split Rock Falls is located in New Russia on the Bouquet River, a 40-mile river flowing from the Adirondack Mountains into Lake Champlain. The waterfall is located right by the route 9, just a few hundred feet from the parking lot.
The waterfall consists of two levels:
- The lower one which has a nice swimming area in front of it
- The upper level which you can access by walking in the shallow waters and climbing the rocks.
The upper level is why the waterfall is called “Split Rock”: It is a gorgeous formation of dark rocks with water making its ways down. People are readily jumping from those rocks down in the pool.
There are no signs allowing or forbidding swimming in the waterfall, and you will likely see lots of people enjoying the cool waters around the waterfall.
I feel obliged to warn you against jumping from the very top of the waterfall into the water. The rocks are slippery and look quite dangerous.
Can you swim in Split Rock Falls in the Adirondacks?
There are no designated swimming areas but people have been swimming in Split Rock Falls in the Adirondacks for ages.
Waterfall swimming is fun and unforgettable. Just make sure to exercise caution!