Let’s HikeVT! This week, to celebrate being in the thick of summer, we’re recommending hikes with amazing swim spots along the way. Pack a swimsuit and lightweight towel and set out on a day hike to some of the best swim spots in Vermont. The first four are also along the Long Trail, so if you’re planning a thru-hike or section hike, work one or two of these into your itinerary for a “backpacker bath.” Have you tried one of our recommended hikes? Share your photos online: #HikeVT or email them to us at [email protected].
- Ritterbush Pond, Eden (on the Long Trail)
- Lake Pleiad, Hancock (on the Long Trail)
- Clarendon Gorge, Clarendon (on the Long Trail)
- Little Rock Pond, Mount Holly (on the Long Trail)
- Universally Accessible Trail: North Branch Cascades Trail, Worcester
- Spectacle Pond, Brighton (Northeast Kingdom)
Ritterbush Pond, Eden
» 3.8 mi round trip, approx. 500 ft elevation gain
From the parking lot, take the white-blazed Long Trail south. Follow it across Rte 118 and through open hardwood. You will come to a lovely view of Ritterbush Pond called Ritterbush Lookout. As you descend from the lookout, keep an eye for an unmarked trail down to the pond. The pond has a cabin and dock managed by Northern Vermont University. This swim spot is a lovely place to have lunch and take a swim.
When you are ready to leave, you can return the way you come or continue south on the LT where you’ll come to an intersection with the Babcock Trail. Turn onto the blue-blazed Babcock Trail and take it 1.4 mi to Rte 118. Cross 118 and continue on the trail for .4 mi to the parking lot.
For a longer adventure before swimming, continue south on the LT past the pond for another .3 mi, at which point you’ll see a sign marking the entrance to Devil’s Gulch. Devil’s Gulch itself is a .2 mi long ravine with breathtaking cliffs rising above you on either side. The LT climbs over boulders, through tunnels, and along ledges before reaching the other side. You can turn back after exploring the ravine or continue on to Spruce Ledge Camp.
Driving Directions: From Eden: Head north on VT-188 N from intersection with VT-100. Parking lot driveway will be on right just after starting descent from height of Eden Crossing.
From Belvidere/Jeffersonville: Head north on VT-109 N. Bear right on VT-118 S. Parking lot driveway will be on left .6 mi after passing Belvidere Pond. Map It.
Lake Pleiad, Hancock
» 2 mi round trip, approx. 496 ft elevation gain
The hike to Lake Pleiad is under half a mile, but you can hike a mile past the lake to Middlebury Snowbowl’s upper chairlift station for some nice views. Hike back to the lake to cool off before heading back to your car.
Driving Directions: From VT-100 in Hancock, go 6 miles west on VT-125 to the Long Trail crossing over VT-125.
From Ripton, go 5.5 miles east on VT-125 to the Long Trail crossing, 0.8 miles east of the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. There is room to park on the south side of VT-125 at the Long Trail crossing. The trailhead for the Silent Cliff trail is a 0.4 mile hike north along the Long Trail from VT-125. Map it.
Swinging Bridge, Clarendon
» 2 mi round trip, approx. 450 ft elevation gain
Due to the Long Trail suspension bridge that brings hikers over the Mill River and Clarendon Gorge, this swim hole is known as Swinging Bridge. To stretch your legs and warm up before taking a dip, follow the Long Trail south across the bridge for about a mile until you reach a small spur trail leading to Airport Lookout. To find the swim hole, return the way you came but before crossing the bridge, head down a spur trail on the left that leads downstream.
Driving Directions: From Rutland, follow Route 7 south. Take a left onto Route 103 to a large hiker parking lot in about 2.3 miles. Map it.
Little Rock Pond, Mount Holly
»6.7 mi round trip, approx. 1009 ft elevation gain
Little Rock Pond is a popular spot to swim along the Long Trail. For the thrill-seeking swimmers, there is a large rock to jump off across the pond from the shelter.
There are two options for reaching Little Rock Pond. For a longer trip, the recommended route is to start on the Green Mountain Trail 3.2 miles to the pond then after a day of swimming take the easier and shorter option out by following the Long Trail 2.2 back to the parking area.
Driving Directions: From the intersection of US-7 and Brooklyn Road in Danby, take Brooklyn Road east (USFS Road 10) for 3.2 miles to a paved parking lot on the right, 0.6 miles past the Big Branch Picnic Area. Start your hike near the sign board directly across the road from the parking lot. Map it.
North Branch Cascades Trail, Worcester
» 2 mi round trip, approx. <10 ft elevation gain
Developed by the Vermont River Conservancy, this 1-mile nature trail follows along the bank of the North Branch of the Winooski River. Half of it ADA accessible, and there are also multiple cascading waterfalls, multiple spots to stop and picnic, and access points to the many pools to swim in along the way.
Driving Directions: From the North, take Route 12 past Lake Elmore and 8 miles south of Elmore Store is the pull off for the main parking area on your left. There are two other parking areas to the South as well, if this one is full.
From the South, Montpelier area, take route 12 North for 15 miles, and 6 miles north of the Post Office Cafe in Worcester, the main trailhead will be on your right. The farthest of the three trailheads North on Route 12 is the main parking area, where we encourage people to start from. Map it.
Spectacle Pond, Brighton
» 1.2 mi round trip, approx. 37 ft elevation gain
This trail is in GMC’s Northeast Kingdom trail network. Start the day by hiking along the Shoreline Trail, which skirts along the edge of the pond and passes three view points. Make your way back via the same trail, or along the Main Trail. Both will bring you back to the beach, where you can spend the rest of your day swimming and resting by the pond.
Driving Directions: From the town of Island Pond, turn off of VT-114 and onto VT-105 (East Brighton Road). Continue on VT-105 for 1.6 miles, turn right onto Lakeshore Drive, then turn left onto State Park Road, which is the entrance to Brighton State Park. Please stop at the contact station to pay day use and camping fees.
To access the parking area, turn right when the park road comes to a T, then turn left on the campground loop and then left on the spur road to the parking area. Map it.
Questions? Our visitor center staff is here to assist you. Call (802) 244-7037 or email [email protected].