The Tubs in Pownal Vermont
Cooling off at The Tubs in Pownal. Photo credit: Shannon Barsotti

June 29, 2023

Vermont’s hot steamy summers often require a mid-afternoon dip, whether it’s in an icy mountain stream or a comparatively warm lake or pond. If you’re seeking relief from the heat or a spot to while away the afternoon, there’s a local swimming hole with your name on it. 

The following swimming holes are located just a short drive from downtown Bennington. Remember that many of these spots are unsupervised, so be cautious when taking a dip.

River Swimming Near Bennington

Living in New England’s only landlocked state, Vermonters have long had an affinity for cooling off in the rivers and streams that run down from the mountains. Swimming holes in Southern Vermont tend to be more shallow than in the north, but they offer plenty of opportunities to cool off when the temperatures soar. 

When swimming in the river, be mindful of potentially strong currents, and inspect the depth of any pools before jumping off rocks or cliffs.

The Tubs: Pownal, Vermont

6.7 miles from downtown Bennington

The Tubs in Pownal. Photo by Jamie Lynn

This beloved local swimming hole is located in North Pownal and includes two small pools that are suitable for swimming under small waterfall cascades. The area is incredibly scenic, but the hike in does require a bit of scrambling, making it a challenge for small children or folks with limited mobility. The Tubs can get busy on hot summer afternoons. If you want to avoid the crowds, opt for an early morning swim on a weekday.

Directions: From the junction of US-7 and VT 346 in Pownal, take VT 346 north for 3.5 miles and fork right onto North Pownal Rd. Drive 0.2 mile on North Pownal Rd and turn left onto Skiparee Rd. Drive north on Skiparee Rd for 1.3 miles (bearing left at a fork after 0.6 miles to stay on the road) and fork right onto Fowlers Way. Drive 0.1 mile east on Fowlers Way and park in either one of the two pull-offs on the right. These pull-offs are about 300 feet after the road leaves farmland and enters a woodsy section.
Cost: Free
Dogs: Yes
Suitable for Kids: Not recommended for small children

The Roaring Branch: Woodford, Vermont

2.7 miles from downtown Bennington

Another favorite with the locals, the Roaring Branch features a sandy “beach” area, several small pools that are suitable for kids, and one deeper pool that is deep enough for submersing. The river flows right down from the Green Mountains and is incredibly cold, even in the summer. There is ample parking right on Route 9 and enough room to spread out. Weekends can be quite busy here, especially in the late afternoon. 

Directions: Head east on Route 9 for 2.7 miles or until you pass the Woodford/Bennington town line sign. You will see a parking area on the right. Take a short trail through the woods to the swimming area.
Cost: Free
Dogs: Yes
Suitable for kids: Yes, with caution

Wallomsac River under the Burt Henry Covered Bridge: North Bennington, Vermont

4.6 miles from downtown Bennington

The Burt Henry Covered Bridge in North Bennington, VT
Burt Henry Covered Bridge in North Bennington

The Wallomsac River is on the shallow side as it meanders through Bennington, so while the spot under the Burt Henry Covered Bridge may not be deep enough for adults to swim in, it is perfect for kids or for anyone who just needs to cool off. There is a small parking area near the bridge and a park with a few picnic tables, a grassy field, and some plantings. The Henry Bridge is one of three covered bridges spanning the Walloomsac River in Bennington and North Bennington and the only one with good access to the river below.

Directions: Google Maps Link
Cost: Free
Dogs: Yes
Suitable for Kids: Yes, with caution

Lake and Pond Swimming Near Bennington

Bennington is fortunate to be within close driving distance of two state parks that offer swimming, as well as our beautiful Lake Paran. Here’s an overview of these awesome swimming spots.

Lake Shaftsbury State Park: Shaftsbury

11.3 miles from downtown Bennington

Swimmers and sun bathers at Lake Shaftsbury state Park in Shaftsbury, VT
Lake Shaftsbury State Park. Photo by Tara Schatz

Lake Shaftsbury is a small lake surrounded by state park land. The swimming area is shallow and roped off, with a nice sandy beach to relax on. There are no lifeguards on duty.

Kayak, canoe, and paddleboat rentals are available, and there is a well-stocked snack bar for hungry kids and parents, plus a clean bathhouse for changing. An easy one-mile nature trail encircles the lake, meandering through vibrant wetlands before climbing a small ridge with great views of the water below. 

Lake Shaftsbury is a perfect spot for a family picnic or barbecue, and the sunsets are pretty amazing if you choose to stay into the evening. 

Directions: Link to Google Maps
Cost: $5 for adults, $2 for kids (under 4 are free)
Dogs: No
Suitable for kids: Yes!

Lake Paran: North Bennington, Vermont

6.7 miles from downtown Bennington

Mid-June to Labor Day Weekend
Open Daily 11 am – 6 pm

Several kids standing on the floating dock at Lake Paran in North Bennington, Vermont
The floating dock at Lake Paran. Photo by Tara Schatz

Lake Paran is a small lake with great views of the surrounding mountains, and the only swimming spot on our list that has lifeguards on duty in the summer. The lake and surrounding recreational lands are part of a local nonprofit, Paran Recreations, which is dedicated to helping people enjoy the beauty of nature and having healthy fun outdoors! We are also stewards of the Paran watershed working to keep our environment safe and clean for now and the future.

There is a small, sandy beach to relax on, a floating dock, charcoal grills, a bathhouse and pavilion, and a concession stand with the best grilled cheese sandwiches around. Canoes can be rented for $10 per hour. 

Directions: Google Maps Link
Cost: $3.50 for adults, $1 for children
Dogs: No
Suitable for Kids: Yes!

Adams Reservoir in Woodford State Park: Woodford, Vermont

Two boys running through the lake at Woodford State Park in Vermont.
Playing in the water at Woodford State Park. Photo credit: Tara Schatz

10.9 miles from downtown Bennington

On those really hot days in Bennington when there doesn’t seem to be any hope for cooling off, head up the mountain to Woodford State Park, where the temperatures are usually 10 degrees cooler in both summer and winter. You can even make a weekend of it by reserving a campsite, lean-to, or cabin, some of which are right on the water.

Adams Reservoir is a small mountain lake that appears brown due to the tannins that leach into the water from the vegetation. Don’t let its color fool you — the lake is clean, cold, and refreshing. The swimming area is small, with a few picnic tables and grills nearby. Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats can be rented from the ranger station for a fee.

Directions: Google Maps Link
Cost: $5 for adults, $2 for children
Dogs: On leash
Suitable for Kids: Yes!

Did you work up an appetite exploring some of these awesome swimming holes? Check out our restaurant listings for amazing summer eats.

Tara Schatz is a freelance writer and author from Bennington, Vermont. She currently blogs at Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips and ideas for outdoor adventures in Vermont.