PORTLAND, Maine — This is a formula that ought to bring you happiness on a hot day: Go for a hike on a trail with fine scenery…work up a sweat…and at the end of the hike cool off with a refreshing dip in a swimming hole.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But do you need help in figuring out where to go? Shannon Bryan from FitMaine.com has a six-pack of recommendations.
Located at the head of Merrymeeting Bay, just off the coast of Richmond, Swan Island is a 4-mile-long, half-mile-wide island that isn’t far out to sea, but feels remote once you’re on it. It’s open to the public from May to October and offers easy-going trails (ranging from 0.5-2 miles), kayak rentals, and a fine spot for swimming on the east side of the island near the camping area. You could paddle yourself to Swan Island – it’s a stone’s throw from the mainland – or take the 5-minute ferry offered by the IFW.
Blueberry Mountain and Rattlesnake Pool
Evans Notch, White Mountains
The emerald-colored water of Rattlesnake Pool is mesmerizing. It’s also really cold. I generally get in up to my shins and call it good, but plenty of bolder hikers plunge in all the way. If you hike the entire 3.9-mile loop (starting on the White Cairn Trail to Blueberry Ridge Trail and then to Stone House Trail), the pool will be a welcome reward close to the end of the hike. But you can also skip the loop and hike straight to the pool via the Stone House Trail. Both trailheads are accessed from Stone House Road.
Morse Mountain and Seawall Beach
The 2-mile trail to Seawall Beach includes a trek up Morse Mountain (an elevation of 180 feet) and then down to the beach, where you can take a dip, lounge for a while, or walk the beach. Get there early to ensure a parking spot in the lot (parking is limited) and bring bug spray (but leave the dog, the beach umbrella, and the Frisbee at home).
The 1.9-mile Brook Trail will take you straight up to the pond near the summit, where you can lounge near the water or get in for a swim. (With all the sweating you’ll do on your way up, it’ll feel great to cool down in the pond.) Or take the Loop Trail for added challenge (in the form of steam crossings, rock scrambling and Fat Man’s Misery – a narrow fissure in the mountain you’ll have the pleasure of climbing through).
Mousam Way North and Indian’s Last Leap
Hike through Riverside Cemetery and along the Mousam River to get to Indian’s Last Leap, a cool swimming hole. Or wade into the family-friendly waters at Springvale Park. There are multiple places to park at various parts of the 3.9-mile trail network, allowing you to hike a longer or shorter distance, depending on what you’re up for. Part of the trail is pavement and crushed gravel, and in the woods the trail becomes more rugged and steep.
Echo Lake State Park
North Conway, NH
You could skip the hike and go straight to the water. The small beach (with roped-off swimming area and a lifeguard) is right near the parking lot. But the Whitehorse Ledge Trail and/or Cathedral Ledge are really worth seeing. The Whitehorse Ledge Loop Trail is 3.1 miles. It's a moderate hike, steep in parts, and with stupendous views. Small $2-$4 entry fee.