Summertime in the Sugar River Region: The Best Places to Swim and Cool Off

Sunapee Harbor Boats Image Credit: Sullivan County Government.

Summertime in the Sugar River Region: The Best Places to Swim and Cool Off

Written by Madeline Ferland on July 24th, 2023 

Summertime in New Hampshire is an ideal time of year to be outdoors and engage in all the exciting activities such as hiking, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Just don’t forget to bring a swimsuit and sun block! As the scorching days of summer envelop us, there’s no better way to beat the heat than by immersing yourself in the refreshingly cool waters found throughout the Sugar River Region. We’ll dive into the world of swimming holes and hidden aquatic escapes of the wooded areas in the region – perfect for taking a dip, unwinding, and connecting with nature. Join us in discovering some of the most picturesque and well-loved swimming sites in the Sugar River Region. 

Pollards Mills – Newport 

Pollards Mills. Image Credit: Artie Gardiner @artieg100 (Instagram).

For decades, Pollards Mills in Newport has been a beloved swimming hole cherished by locals and visitors alike. Situated in the southern branch of the Sugar River with its multiple pools and a mesmerizing waterfall, this serene mini oasis attracts families and individuals on hot summer days seeking a refreshing escape. The sun-warmed rocks are perfect for lounging and sun-bathing. Or, if you prefer water to the sun, the refreshing pools are ideal for splashing around in or walking up or downstream for further exploration. The swimming hole actually resides on private property, however, the gracious landowners welcome the public so long as visitors’ behavior remains respectful. Pollards Mills is a slice of paradise where nature’s beauty merges harmoniously with the joy of outdoor recreation. Everyone needs to experience Pollards Mills at least once in life. 

Lake Sunapee – Sunapee 

Lake Sunapee, located within the breathtaking Mount Sunapee State Park, is renowned for its immense popularity as a summertime destination for everyone around the county and beyond. With its pristine waters and stunning natural beauty, Lake Sunapee offers a wonderful setting for a wide range of activities. The beach is a beloved spot for families and those seeking a sun-and-sand escape during the warm summer months. Visitors can go swimming, sunbathe, and build sandcastles along the shore. The lake also provides ample opportunities for boating (featured image), kayaking, and paddle-boarding, allowing enthusiasts to explore its crystal-clear waters and take in the beautiful greenery and enchanting lake houses. It’s worth mentioning that because it’s a state park, a nominal fee is required for parking, therefore ensuring the maintenance and preservation of this cherished recreational area. Lake Sunapee truly embodies the essence of a quintessential summertime experience in New Hampshire. 

Connecticut River – Charlestown and Claremont

Cornish-Windsor Bridge (Over the Connecticut River)
Image Credit: Sherry Pardy

The Connecticut River flows between New Hampshire and Vermont and is the official border between the two states, however, it’s more than just a bordering body of water. The Connecticut River is the longest river in New England and is one of the longest in the US – it’s also a fantastic spot to enjoy summertime activities. Some of the most fun things you can do on the river include kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, tubing, and even observing the luscious scenery and wildlife. (Once, when I was kayaking with my family, I watched a squirrel swim across the river, climb onto my Dad’s paddle, and jump onto the riverbank!) There are a few boat launch sites along the river in Cornish, Claremont, and Charlestown, so there’s plenty of options for how long and far you want to be on the river for. If you decide to launch from Cornish, you’ll have quite the view of the Cornish-Windsor Bridge by floating directly under it. The river is always a wonderful summertime destination with its ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. 

Meriden Covered Bridge – Meriden 

KUA Swimming Hole – “Making A Splash”. Image Credit: Madeline Ferland

This swimming hole under the Meriden Covered Bridge in Plainfield is located right near Kimball Union Academy and has long been a cherished spot by students of KUA and lovers of idyllic swimming holes. Nestled in a cove-like area, this gem requires a gentle hike down a slope, so visitors must exercise caution when descending. However, the effort is absolutely worth it! The swimming hole features a mesmerizing waterfall where  you can sit and unwind, letting the cool water cascade over you. You not only have to walk across the Meriden Bridge to reach the swimming hole, you also get a great view of it from the rocks below. Moreover, there’s plenty of opportunities to jump into the refreshing pool from the surrounding rocks and edges, making it feel like a natural oasis. This is one of my got-to summer spots!

Gunnison Lake – Goshen 

Gunnison Lake, affectionately known as the “Goshen Ocean,” holds a special place among locals as a hidden gem for summertime activities. Set against serene surroundings, this lake offers a lot for outdoor enthusiasts, including recreational opportunities such as hiking, swimming, and kayaking. One notable feature is the Ruth LeClair Memorial Trail which is a 3-mile loop that encircles the lake. If you decide to check out this scenic path, it’s important to keep in mind that there are private properties adjacent to the trail, so please remain respectful.

Lake Gunnison – “Goshen Ocean”. Image Credit: Monica Scanlan.

Also along this trail about 15-20 minutes from the parking area, you’ll find there’s a picnic table and rope swing site. This particular location tends to draw younger crowds seeking an exhilarating splash into the lake. Although Goshen Ocean may be lesser known compared to other swimming holes and lakes, it is nevertheless an unquestionably worthwhile experience.

Crescent Lake – “Kayaking at Sunset”. Image Credit: Madeline Ferland.

Crescent Lake – Acworth and Unity 

Crescent Lake is located in both Acworth and Unity and is a hidden gem of quiet and tranquility.  Known for its serene ambiance and residential peace, the lake offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The calm waters make it an ideal spot for a variety of lake activities, including paddle-boarding, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. While there is no physical beach, a small sandy boat access ramp provides easy entry into the water. The natural sounds of the environment, including many birds and crickets chirping away as well as the occasional loon nesting calls, make it a haven for relaxation and solitude. It is a perfect place to unwind, soak up nature’s beauty, and perhaps indulge in a peaceful moment with a good book (as I love to do!).

Slacks Falls – Unity  

In the small town of western Unity sits Slacks Falls, another rather isolated and quiet swimming hole offering a tranquil experience for natural pool lovers. This little but captivating swimming spot boasts a picturesque waterfall and refreshing waters for swimming. Those feeling adventurous can even jump in from the rocky ledges, though it’s important to exercise caution as the water level can sometimes be shallow. Slacks Falls is surrounded by trees and often this means that the pool is in the shade, so the water can be chilly. But when the sun does shine through, it’s a refreshing dip for when the days get hot. As with many swimming holes in rivers, you can go hiking up and downstream to get great views of and explore the natural surroundings. Or, you can also warm yourself on the rocks above the waterfall where the sun reaches better. Slacks Falls is really a great spot for families and anyone looking to relax and enjoy a refreshing and natural location. 

Slacks Falls in Unity. Image Credit: Bruce Denis on Flickr.

The Sugar River Region boasts some of the most breathtaking and refreshing summertime swimming holes and spots you’ll ever come across, and we’ve named just a few in this blog. From the tranquil waters of Lake Sunapee to the hidden gem of Goshen Ocean, each destination offers its own unique charm and natural beauty. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a little bit of both, these swimming spots are sure to deliver an unforgettable experience. So grab your swimsuit and sunscreen, pack a picnic, and dive into the refreshing waters of the Sugar River Region this summer. 

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