You won’t find them in a tourism pamphlet, and no smartphone app will lead you there: Our 12 favorite Maine swimming holes are little heralded and sparsely visited, sylvan spots along quiet trails where locals gather when the mercury rises. Ready to take a dip?
Sea kayakers favor this refreshing swimming hole scooped out of pink-granite ledges by quarriers in the late 1800s on Stonington’s 47-acre Green Island, now a Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserve.
➼From Stonington’s town landing, paddle south out of the harbor between Scott and Russ islands to Green, which will be on your right. The trailhead is on the shore of a small cove, and it’s a short walk to the quarry.
This stunningly clear and emerald-tinged basin is worth every step of the short hike near Evans Notch.
➼From Fryeburg, follow Rte. 113 north for about 22 miles to Shell Pond Rd. Turn right and follow the road a little over a mile to the small parking area at the gate. Take Stone House Trail for about a mile to the short spur trail to the pool.
Gulf Hagas, a spectacular 3-mile-long gorge east of Greenville, has several tempting swimming holes, but this deep, slate-walled pool below Screw Auger Falls is the best of the bunch.
➼From Brownville Junction, drive north on Rte. 11. At 5.5 miles, bear left at fork onto gravel Katahdin Iron Works Rd. Drive 6.3 miles to gate, register, and continue 6.4 miles to Gulf Hagas east parking lot. Follow trail 1.5 miles to the falls.
Granite ledges enclose a deep, cool pool carved out by a 10-foot waterfall on the unspoiled Bull Branch River.
➼From Rte. 2 in Newry, follow Sunday River Rd. 7 miles (staying right at every fork) to a pair of twin logging bridges. Take an immediate right after the bridges on Bull Bridge Rd. and look for a parking area on the right, less than a mile in.
Indian’s Last Leap
Somersault, cannonball, or do as the name suggests —leap! — into the Mousam River from its bouldery banks just off Mousam Way Trail in the village of Springvale.
➼Trailheads, with green “M” blazes, can be found in the Sanford Springvale Recreation Area on Rte. 109, Mousam Way Park and Pavilion at Pleasant and Oak streets, Gowen Park on Main St., and the Sanford/Springvale YMCA parking lot.
Bathe to the soothing music of water falling over ledges at this lush roadside picnic area where the Sandy River and Chandler Mill Stream converge.
➼Follow Rte. 4 south from Rangeley about 12 miles.
Overshadowed by Sand Beach and Echo Lake, this trout-stocked pond with a sandy beach is a hidden gem at the end of an unmarked road in Acadia National Park.
➼From Rte. 3 in Hulls Cove, follow Crooked Rd. for .7 mile. Lakewood Pond Rd., on your left, will take you to within a couple hundred feet of the pond.
Houston Brook Falls
A 32-foot waterfall makes for some shallow, misty swimming holes, just a quarter-mile’s hike from the road.
➼From Rte. 201 in Bingham, take Bridge St. across the Kennebec River and turn right on Pleasant Ridge Rd. Park at the lot near the Pleasant Ridge Transfer Station and follow the trail to the left of the gate.
Sorry, New Hampshire: our maps say this blue-green lagoon on the Baldface Circle Trail near Stow is yours, but we’re annexing it because — face it — you can only get theah from heah.
➼From Fryeburg, follow Rte. 113 north as it swings in and out of Maine and that other state for about 20 miles to the Baldface Circle trail parking area. The pool is about half a mile from the trailhead.
Keep your eyes open while you swim: this stretch of the Swift River is one of the best places in Maine to pan for gold.
➼Located on Rte. 17, about 14 miles north of Rumford.
Nestled alongside the Blackwoods Scenic Byway, Fox Pond couldn’t be easier to get to, and the views of Tunk and Catherine mountains are superb.
➼From Rte. 1 in Franklin, follow Rte. 182 east for 3 miles to reach the pond on your right.
Make like Tarzan and splash into the Presumpscot from the rope swing alongside this rare covered bridge in South Windham (no worries if you’re not that adventurous: you can just slip into the current from the river bank).
➼From Gorham center, follow Rte. 202 east about 4 miles. Turn left onto River Rd. and go 1.7 miles. Turn left onto Covered Bridge/Hurricane Rd. and you’re almost there: the bridge is less than half a mile away.