Best Swimming Holes In New Hampshire

By Mike Boisvert.

One of the many things that draws me to the White Mountains is the abundant swimming holes. Every swimming hole has a charm and beauty of its own, and it's hard to compare them to each other. But in the last ten years, I find myself revisiting some of the same swimming holes over and over. Mostly for their picturesque beauty. Here is my list of the best swimming holes in New Hampshire.

The term "swimming hole" encompasses a fairly large definition. Even a nice chlorinated pool could be referred to as a swimming hole. However, the New Hampshire swimming holes I'm talking about are the well hidden pockets of cold river water that flow through the mountains. The grassy knolls on the side of the back roads that dip into the shoulder of a deep lake. These are the swimming holes I'm referring to.

As always, use precaution when swimming in an unfamiliar area. Do not dive in shallow areas. And do not swim in strong currents. For safety, seek out the assistance of a local who knows the swimming holes well. They are great guidance.

Upper Ammonoosuc Falls

The Upper Ammonoosuc Falls is a beautiful area located in the Bretton Woods area of the White Mountains. The beauty can sometimes be marred by the large crowd it attracts, much of the visitors being HOT young male adults looking for the thrill of jumping off the high ledges. But if you're lucky enough to visit the Upper Ammonoosuc Falls when the river is high and the crowds are low, you will not be disappointed. Unlike Dianas Bath, the falls is a few feet off the side of the road and easy accessible. You should readily expect visitors at this spot year round.

Dianas Bath

As of the most scenic wonders in the White Mountains, Dianas Bath is located on West Side Rd, not to far from another scenic area, Cathedral Ledge. Dianas Bath is an extremely popular destination in the summer time. You have to make a one mile hike journey through the White Mountains National Forest in order to reach your destination. However, the few times I've visited, there was not much swimming. The water here is extremely cold. But the waterfall is beautiful and the emerald green pool it dips into is a welcome pleasure after a 1 mile hike to get there. Be sure to explore the falls by climbing the stairs to the right of the swimming hole. The most fun is sitting in the shallow waters just before the falls and feeling the rapids cascade over feet. 

Sculptured Rocks

The Sculptured Rocks area is a frequented area of New Hampshire tourists, but it's not as crowded as one would expect. I attribute that to its off the grid location. There is no major direct route to Sculptured Rocks and I would encourage the use of a GPS. If you decide to visit, you won't be disappointed, especially if you're into geology. As for swimming, the area is thin and riddled with rocks, so you should approach with caution. The area is shaded by trees, so it feels like the water never gets beyond freezing.

Livermore Falls

One of my favorite swimming holes is off of Route 3. It's called Livermore Falls and is in the college town of Plymouth, New Hampshire. There are two parts to this swimming holes. The first part is at the base of the trail. At the end of the trail, it opens up to a medium sized area. The golden sand beneath your feet is right under the sun, and usually very hot. Be careful. The area is large enough for a few groups. However, there are a lot of rocks to sit on too. The swimming hole has a small shallow area but quickly drops. This area has very little to no current.

Livermore Falls [More Adventurous]

The second swimming hole at Livermore Falls is for an older crowd. Its located down the river from upper Livermore Falls. This awesome swimming hole is like a natural water park, as it sprouts long rapids to ride, rocks of many sizes to leap from, and a great big rope to swing cabled to an old railroad bridge.In addition, the scenery is amazing. Right along Livermore Falls are the ruins of old abandoned brick buildings. If you wear the proper attire, you can explore these buildings. The building go underground and right to the water's edge. However the buildings are filled with graffiti, empty beer cans and broken glass bottles. The waters of the Pemigewasset River aren't as clear as some of the northern rivers, but it doesn't really take away from the atmosphere. There are lots of rock, many of which are slippery. Take plenty of caution while walking on the rocks. As long as you're careful, you should be able to enjoy the vast geological wonders of this area. Livermore Falls is a swimming hole you can spend all day at, and I highly recommend checking this one out if you are in the area.  

Lower Falls

The Kancamagus Highway, nicknamed "The Kanc," is a scenic route through New Hampshire's beautiful White Mountains region. Close to the middle of "The Kank" is lower falls. If ever there were a natural water park, this would be it. Rock slides and waterfalls make this area the perfect place to bask in the summer sun all day. Some dangerous spots, but for the most part, as long as you can keep your balance, it's a tremendous place. Whether you choose to go down the main slide or just sit beneath a waterfall as hundreds of gallons of cold water wash over you, it's a thrill like no other. This place is a must visit. Just note that this is a very popular swimming hole, even during the week.

Georgianna Falls

Many visitors to Georgiana Falls only reach the lower half of this waterfall. They are simply unaware of the quiet isolation provided by the set of falls lying upstream. This is not surprising at all, considering how much rougher and poorly-marked the trail beyond the Lower Falls is. Located in Lincoln. The falls consists of a 30-foot high set of cascades spread across a 20-foot wide ledge. At the base of this waterfall is a deep, dark pool. At the falls is a very spacious ledge for sunbathing and picnicking. Although this waterfall is regularly visited, you can still find a spot to claim as your own at this highly photogenic, delightful spot. Upper Georgiana Falls, which has been referred to as Harvard Falls in the past, has a different personality than the Lower Falls. Here Harvard Brook splits in two and plunges over sixty feet to into long chasm below. The plunge on the right is particularly fascinating; the plunge actually fans out then reverse fans back in before landing, somewhat resembling the shape of a diamond. The plunge on the left is rather difficult to see from the trail, and we could not find a reasonably safe approach to the bottom of the gorge. It is worth noting that view the falls head-on from a cliff on the trail can be thrilling and dangerous, so watch your footing. You can also continue bushwhacking to the top of these falls for an additional perspective.

Sawyer Rock

The Sawyer Rock swimming hole is situated in Bartlett, New Hampshire. Bartlett is a small town, but home to one of the more popular ski areas, Attitash. Sawyer Rock is located on the same road as Attitash, Route 302. The swimming hole can be easily neglected, if you don't know what you're looking for. As you drive west along Route 302, look on your left for Sawyer Pond Trail sign. Just after the sign on your left, there will be a small bridge and pull off on the right side of the road. The swimming hole has plenty of large rocks for sun tanning and picnicking. There are a few rock ledges that allow for some great jumping. The ledges aren't too high. There are also some short rapids to play in. Despite its site right off Route 302, the Sawyer Rock swimming hole doesn't get very busy. It's worth the trip.

First Bridge

Named after its cardinal point, First Bridge is found on River Road, just a few minutes from the center of North Conway. As you leave North Conway, River Rd. crosses 2 bridges, one of these (the biggest) is "First Bridge" (or "First Iron Bridge") which is well signed. The are parking areas and swimming places at both ends of this bridge, as well as a canoe ramp. Due to its convenient location,  First Bridge is a very prominent swimming hole and one that I visit often during the summer season. The swimming hole extends a few hundred feet along the Saco River. On one side of the bridge, you have a large grass area that is perfect for picnicking and a game of football. Despite the celebrity, I have never seen the grassy field over crowded. There is enough room for everybody. On the opposite side of the open field there is a canoe launch. This is one of the more public canoe launches, so I would recommend not swimming directly near the launch. Local canoe and rafting companies use this launch and make several stops daily. Further down the river on the left, there is a magnificent tree outcropping. Hanging from the tree is a long rope. This area gets a lot of use, but occupants are gracious and everybody gets a turn on the rope swing. The river is very wide and there is plenty of room for lap swimming or finding your own little corner to visit with friends. First Bridge is an easy and convenient New Hampshire swimming hole and perfect for a quick dip.

Franconia Falls

If you are a real outdoorsman like me, then you will love Franconia Falls. This is a true hidden swimming hole. In order to get to Franconia Falls, you will have to hike an easy trail for 3.5 miles. Luckily, you are able to hike the trail. Once you arrive at Franconia Falls, you'll see plenty of visitors as there is camping in the area. The swimming hole is famous for its chutes. You can ride the water for almost 80 feet, depending on the water levels. There are also plenty of places to sit under the sun and just get your feet wet. Slightly down the river from popular Franconia Falls, you will find some quiet spots in the river where you can jump and relax. But the real champion of this site is the rapid chutes. To get to Franconia Falls, check out the ranger station just outside Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire.

Moosilauke Gorge

Moosilauke Gorge is pinpointed in Nortwestern New Hampshire, and lays just outside the Moosilauke mountain range. It also happens to be home to some of the coldest water I've ever swam in. This is one of my favorite swimming holes. Though Moosilauke Gorge lacks rope swings and a large body of water, it does offer unique geology and some nice rock outcroppings to jump from. There is a bridge over the gorge, but I highly discourage jumping from it. I have seen visitors jump from the bridge, and it is very dangerous. The Moosilauke Gorge is located off Rte 118, Sawyer Highway just outside Warren, New Hampshire.

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