A Breeze Blows Through It: 8 Cool Summer Hikes
Sometimes, escaping to the mountains isn’t enough to get away from summer’s steamiest weather. What’s a hiker to do? Get creative, seek some shade, and plan a victory dip. Here are eight hikes to get you through the heat.
1. FERRY BEACH
Steady breezes roll off the ocean across all of Ferry Beach State Park, but this diverse loop hike scores a bonus: After traveling through forest, salt marsh, and swamp, you’ll emerge onto a long, sandy beach—a rarity for the typically rocky Maine coast. Beginning at the summer parking lot, head north past Long Pond for a clockwise loop that follows Tupelo, Witchhazel, White Oak, Red Oak, Vines, and Plymouth trails. From there, a short road walk leads to the beach, where a plunge in the frigid water provides the ultimate summer relief. Take a right on the sand and follow the surf 1.5 miles back to the parking lot.
DISTANCE: 4.1-mile loop
INFO: Saco Bay Trails; Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands; AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast (AMC Books)
2. EMERALD POOL
What better way to end an epic summer hike than at an iconic swimming hole? Baldface Circle Trail begins at the parking area on Route 113, on the Maine/New Hampshire border near AMC’s Cold River Camp, and heads west 0.7 mile to Circle Junction. Turn left to begin the loop, following the Baldface Circle Trail as it climbs for 2.5 miles, with a very steep final rise, then levels out along a spectacular ridge. Pass over the summits of South and North Baldface before descending back to Circle Junction, where Emerald Pool awaits. A dip should keep you cool for the short hike back to the trailhead. You can also hike directly to Emerald Pool and save the ridge-top trek for a cooler day.
DISTANCE: 9.8-mile loop or 1.5 miles round trip
INFO: White Mountain Guide (AMC Books)
3. BRIDAL VEIL FALLS
For a modest investment in the White Mountains with a big payoff, try this gentle brookside hike. From the parking area on Route 116, follow the dirt Coppermine Road 0.4 mile then take the yellow-blazed Coppermine Trail. The trail climbs gradually through northern hardwood forest, following Coppermine Brook from the 1-mile point all the way to Bridal Veil Falls, 2.5 miles from the parking area. This series of cascades is one of the prettiest waterfalls in the region, and hikers can cool off in the pool at the bottom.
DISTANCE: 5 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide (AMC Books); New Hampshire Parks and Recreation
4. SNOW HOLE
This hike follows Taconic Crest Trail (TCT) to the peculiar—and cooling—Snow Hole. Start from the parking area on Route 2 at Petersburg Pass and head north, following TCT’s white diamond blazes. Gentle climbs and descents pepper the moderate route as it parallels the Massachusetts border then passes briefly into Vermont. Shortly after TCT cuts back into New York, look for the red trail, which leads to Snow Hole. This deep crevice can hold snow well into summer and provides a welcome flow of crisp air. While experienced cavers have explored its depths, doing so without a guide is discouraged. Return via the same route.
DISTANCE: 5.5 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley (AMC Books); Hopkins Memorial Forest
5. SAGES RAVINE
Thru-hikers love this section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) for its cool, low-elevation forest and its cascading brook—features accessible enough that day-hikers can enjoy them, too. Start from the small parking area on Mount Washington Road, near the Massachusetts–Connecticut border, and follow Undermountain Trail east. The trail passes AMC’s Northwest Camp before reaching a junction with the AT after 0.5 mile. Turn left to follow the AT northbound through refreshing Sages Ravine. Here you’ll meet the brook, which flows over a series of small cascades. You’ll pass Sages Ravine Campsite and climb up and over ledges, above the water. You can continue farther north, but a good turnaround point is the state-line sign you’ll reach at 1.5 miles.
DISTANCE: 3 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Berkshires (AMC Books); AMC’s Connecticut Chapter
6. LAKE AWOSTING and AWOSTING FALLS
New Paltz, N.Y.
The carriage roads and trails of Minnewaska State Park offer a few places to escape the heat. From the Lower Awosting parking lot, located off Route 55, follow the Carriageway southwest. It’s a straight shot of about 2 miles to Long Path, where you’ll take a left and be lakeside in a half-mile. Cool off with a dip or extend your hike on the trails circling the lake. After (or instead of) a hike to the lake, head west from the parking area, following the road until you reach Trapp’s Trail. It’s a short hike from there to the dramatic Awosting Falls. Swimming isn’t allowed at the falls, but you can catch the mist blowing off the 65-foot cascade while you explore the rocks.
DISTANCE: 5.6 miles round trip to the Lake; 1 mile round trip to the Falls
INFO: Lake Minnewaska; AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley (AMC Books)
7. BONTICOU CRAG
New Paltz, N.Y.
You’ll have to use your hands and feet and climb through a narrow crack, but this hike rewards you with cold air rising from deep fissures. Follow the red-blazed Crag Trail from the parking area, located off Upper 27 Knolls Road, to Cedar Drive, which connects you to Bonticou Road. The scramble follows, as you ascend Bonticou Crag over the steep and jagged conglomerate rock common to the Shawangunk Mountains. Enjoy the cool breezes before descending to complete the loop.
DISTANCE: 3-mile loop
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley (AMC Books)
8. HIGHLANDS NATURAL POOL
Despite its name, this “natural” swimming spot is actually artificial. The Nature Friends, a group of outdoor enthusiasts seeking a retreat from industrialized society, cut the Olympic-sized pool into this hillside in 1935. What is natural is the mountain stream that feeds and flows through the pool. Adjacent Norvin Green State Forest offers more than 20 miles of trails to the south, some winding right past the pool. Hike Wyanokie High Point Loop from the New Weis Center parking area on Snake Den Road. The 4-mile trek passes an old mine, the pool, and reaches a high point with views of Manhattan.
DISTANCE: 4-mile loop
INFO: See Highlands Natural Pool for fees.
Mike Dickerman, Peter W. Kick, Carey Kish, René Laubach, Sue Rose, Steven D. Smith, Jennifer Wehunt