Those coastal dwellers don’t even know what they’re missing. Sure, they can boast miles of swimmable water, waves, seagulls — the whole summer package. But do they have rope swings? Waterfalls surrounded by sylvan beauty? How about mountain water clean enough to drink?
Yeah, Western Mass has all that. And it’s a good thing, too, because temperatures are rising. In the Valley, the quality spots are tucked away and can be difficult to find. But we’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorites to float you. If you know a good place we missed, add it to the comments section for this story at www.valleyadvocate.com.
Puffers Pond, Amherst
While this spot may be a bit overcrowded when the three colleges in the town are in session, it’s quiet enough in the heat of the summer. Woods surround the pond, on the northern edge of Amherst, but there’s a large, sandy area to one side for sunbathers and nappers. On the other side of the pond is a waterfall. The falls and their gentle trickling have a soothing effect. Fed by the Mill River, its waters pour from a stone wall, beautifully cobbled together in such a way it is difficult to decipher whether it is natural or man-made. Jumpers plunge from the same wall into the depths below.
Mill River, behind Smith College in Northampton
Walk far enough along the dirt path behind Smith College which winds along the Mill River, and there’s a pool with the famous Northampton rope swing. Disclaimer: there was talk of its removal last summer. Another disclaimer: the pool becomes small and shallow during periods of little rain. Both disclaimers aside, it’s a nice place to bring a book on a hot day and take a cooling dip. Some of the trees have external root systems big enough to cradle lounging guests.
DAR State Forest, Goshen
Nestled in the Hilltowns that border the Berkshires, the DAR State Forest is a vacation spot for locals. Its woods and waters seem like a faraway land. The Upper and Lower Highland Lakes offer plenty of swimming area to go around and there’s a sandy beach in the camping area.
Chicopee Memorial State Park
The 25-acre pond at Chicopee Memorial State Park, also known as Cooley Brook Reservoir, is great for swimming. The sandy beach and buoyed swimming area make it family friendly. Plus, there are public restrooms and picnic areas to make things easier for parents.
Robinson State Park, Feeding Hills
This spot makes you work for it. A hearty 20-minute hike along state trails stands between the park’s main entrance and a swim at Robinson Pond. But in addition to the swimming, hikers are rewarded with beautiful views. Those looking for a shortcut, however, can find parking closer to its shores.
Green River Swimming and Recreation Area, Greenfield
This swimming area is a great place to take the kids for the day. When they need a break from swimming along the sandy beach, they can also make use of athletic courts, concession stands, and a full playground.
Chapel Brook Falls, Ashfield
Looking for picturesque beauty to accompany your swim? This place is certainly postcard-worthy and the water seems clean enough to drink. Water froths as it cascades over the rocky slopes of Pony Mountain.
Musante Beach, Florence
This is a great spot for the sunbathers among us, who may have a difficult time in many of New England’s shaded, riparian swimming areas. This one, about five minutes outside of downtown Northampton, offers a sun-filled sandy beach along the town reservoir. Kids here delight in catching baby crayfish. Lifeguard included.
Deerfield River/Whirley Baths
Ah, the Deerfield River. Tubing down the south bound tranquil waters is a Valley must-do. Don’t have the whole day to kill? Whirley baths off Route 2 is a popular swimming hole in the Charlemont section. This cool water spot is named for its swirling white pools, often described as Jacuzzi-like. Look for the signs.
Lake Congamond, Southwick
Hampton Ponds State Park, Westfield
Gay Beach, Cummington
Glendale Falls, Middlefield
Knightville Dam, Huntington
Sunburn Beach, Shelburne Falls
Orange Dam, Leeds
The Bend, West Chesterfield•
Contact Amanda Drane at email@example.com.