While widely known as a winter wonderland of snow, every year, the springtime thaw ushers in a new, watery world warming up within Okemo Valley. With bountiful bodies of freshwater and abundant ways to soak, swim or float, this
region makes exploring by swimsuit deeply satisfying for newcomers and seasoned water lovers alike. Beyond the physical sport or leisure of family splash-time, swimming is a simple and low-gear immersion into Vermont’s nature scapes.

The valley waterways have the potential to both entertain and educate, to be both soothing and silly. Whet your wanderlust in new and unexpectedly pleasant ways within Okemo Valley’s many places to plunge, splash and soak this summer. Ready to dive deeper?

Here’s a shortlist sure to float your boat and swim-suit you well:


Buttermilk Falls is a beloved swimming and family-hiking destination just outside Ludlow Village. The half-mile trail leads to waterfalls that cascade between upper and lower drops; expect a roar or gentle flow depending on the season and recent rainfall. The 25-foot-wide pool of emerald-clear water reveals a pebbly bottom when not being playfully plunged into by its many summertime fans.

Along the Williams River in Chester, Rainbow Rock Swimming Hole is a public park with 700 feet of river frontage known for its beautiful bedrock outcrops perfect for lounging and drying off after exploring the deep swimming hole, a locals’ favorite on hot summer days.

Gorges are indeed gorgeous, and Twenty-Foot Hole has no shortage of awe-inspiring sights and swim sites within its three natural pools and half-mile of river shore access along the Black River in nearby Reading. Like many, this stunning area was conserved thanks to thoughtful citizens, the Vermont River Conservancy, State and local efforts to make public access a reality for generations to come. This particular gem gathered donors and conservation
backing from supporters as far as California and Bermuda.

For the more intrepid venturer, the Green Mountain National Forest brooks are symphonies of sight and sound, lovely for walking alongside or simply wading into a secluded, sandy spot. Before you go, visit Fs.usda.gov/gmfl for more info and ranger stations to acquire maps. Additional informational resources include
vermontriverconservancy.org and vtstateparks.com.


Some locally loved lakes near Okemo include Amherst Lake, Echo Lake, Lake Pauline, and Lowell Lake State Park.

Amherst Lake in Plymouth is 76 acres of secluded calm with charming residences and cottages spotting the shoreline. With no motors, the boat launch on the lake’s northern tip is a quiet public space to put in your canoe or dip your toes.

Located in Tyson Village in Plymouth, Echo Lake has a convenient public boat launch on its western side along Route 100 and beautiful Camp Plymouth State Park on its northeastern shore, prime for picnics, family swimming, spreading out, and staying awhile.

Lake Rescue in Ludlow has a boat launch, scenic access point, and a passionate Lake Rescue Association touting the many year-round recreational resources and attributes of this 180-acre lake fed by the Black River. Of note, a dam separates Lake Rescue from the smaller Lake Pauline.

Also, just north of the aforementioned line of four lakes lapping along the Vermont Scenic Route 100 Byway, the two Knapp Ponds within the 105-acre Woodward Reservoir are man-made, yet highly undeveloped and worth the woodsy detour if that’s what you seek.

Star Lake Wildlife Management Area’s main attraction is its 63-acre namesake, Star Lake, known by local swimmers and boaters but most often missed by those beyond Mount Holly. Also in Mount Holly, Lake Ninevah, with its 3000 acres of conserved wilderness, is a pristine paddling area. Here, you’re often just in the
company of a couple of loons.

Lastly, the State Park’s apt description of Londonderry’s Lowell Lake State Park as “minimally developed,” with just an informal car-top boat launch, is idyllic for a quiet paddle.

STAY & SPLASH – Pool, Lake, or Riverside

Echo Lake Inn and the Inn at Water’s Edge are neighbors quite literally a stone’s throw from the southern edge of Echo Lake. Echo Lake Resort provides its guests with access to its large outdoor swimming pool and oversized jacuzzi and both properties offer onsite boats and beach access during the summer season.

Okemo Mountain Resort is a hub for swimming in soaking. The Spring House Pool & Fitness Center Complex features a heated pool with designated lap swim times and hot tubs adjacent. There is a children’s splash pool with a froggy slide (you’ll have to see it!) as well. At Jackson Gore Inn Pool, even Goldilocks would find the perfect fit among the outdoor pool, two outdoor & one indoor ten-person hot tub, the sauna, and the steam room. The Jackson Gore Inn Pool Complex is available to Inn owners and guests as well as by membership.

Guests at the Black River adjacent, Timber Inn Motel can both admire the flowing water and go for a dip in the seasonal outdoor pool.

A year-round outdoor heated pool and hot tub are delights for spa & resort guests at the Aveda Concept Spa located in the carriage house at Castle Hill Resort in Proctorsville Village in Cavendish.

Public Pools

You need not book a room or be a member; regional town and community pools are also excellent options. The Town of Chester’s outdoor public pool offers open-swim and adult-swim hours and swimming lessons during its summer
recreation programming. The sunny indoor pools at Edgar May Health & Recreation Center in nearby Springfield offer various membership options for swimmers of any age. It is always a good idea to check in advance on policies regarding public pool access.


While in the peak heat of summer, fresh cold water can be deeply refreshing. Shoulder seasons can be nippy; one way to add a bonus swimming month onto each end of summer is to invest in a wetsuit. It can help you acclimate to mountain water swimming and stay in longer. Another gear item that can open your eyes to the joys of underwater chasing of perch, or at least not freestyling into the pool’s edge, is a pair of goggles. Conveniently, some local mountain outfitters double as swim shops come summertime. Mountain Outfitters at Jackson Gore at Okemo carries goggles and swimsuits, while Tygart Mountain Sports has swimwear and a watersports section to outfit customers with canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.


Suppose you’re also considering the benefits of water as a source of healing. In that case, head to Jasper Forest where you can find water-based flower and gem essences, sumptuous bath oils, CBD, teas, and tinctures, plus an assortment of immersive holistic treatments like sound “baths” or crystal collections for water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, & Pisces). At this community wellness center and integrative studio on Main St in Ludlow, you can also connect with the owner to learn more about float-fit classes and paddleboard yoga beginning in the summer of 2023.


If you’re ready to go all in, Okemo Valley’s pool and spa companies can steer you in the right direction. Head to the showroom or book an appointment at Knight Tubs Pools & Spas on Main Street in Ludlow. With information on the breadth of “tubs” today as well as being an informational resource on the benefits of hydrotherapy and hydromassage, Knights delights and inspires locals, second homeowners, and window-shoppers alike. In nearby Mendon, Allen Pools & Spas is Vermont’s oldest pool and spa company with over 50 years of family-owned business experience installing and maintaining hundreds of swimming pools and thousands of spas throughout
Vermont, New Hampshire, and northeastern New York.


Finally, one instance where going off the deep end is indeed a good thing! As you immerse yourself in water, your senses start to tune in. You may soon feel increased ease, relaxation of muscles and joints, and even a sense of playfulness naturally bubbling up. In fact, time spent within natural water environments has positive health and wellness benefits that can last a lifetime. Recent research results published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology indicate that childhood exposure to “blue spaces” – rivers, lakes, and coasts – is linked to
better subjective well-being as an adult. Additionally, the whole sensory experience of simply being in water was linked to better mental health outcomes.

Whether you like it hot or cold, in a swimming pool, salt bath, or clear mountain lake, hydrotherapy can usher in relaxation and improved mobility. Plus, the benefits of buoyancy, beyond being just plain fun to float, include relief from stress on our joints and muscles. Enjoy these positive effects, and don’t forget some sunscreen ….one last bonus is that extra dose of Vitamin D you soak up while splashing in the sunshine!

Okemo Valley offers picturesque and pristine proof that no busy beaches or pier pressure are needed to (water) fall in love with the wondrous, watery parts of our world.
by Jen Williams