As the dog days of summer approach, we’ll soon find ourselves spending our days searching for the next best body of water to cool off in. The search stops with Highlands Natural Pool, located at 180 Snake Den Road in Ringwood, NJ. This natural spring-fed pool is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day and is surrounded by the beauty of Norvin Green State Forest. Read on for more about this must-visit swimming hole, located just forty minutes outside of the Montclair area.
About Highlands Natural Pool
Highlands Natural Pool was first opened in the mid-1930s as one of the first racially integrated camps, Camp Midvale. The pool was carved out of a hillside by the New York chapter of The Nature Friends, which owned the camp. In 1997, the pool was subdivided from the former camp property, and today the pool is a 501(c)3 non-profit community-owned and operated facility.
The man-made, Olympic-sized freshwater swimming pool is not treated with chemicals. Instead, the water is constantly refreshed by the stream that fills it. This means that the temperature rarely rises above 65 degrees. This can be quite chilling, but also extremely refreshing during the hottest days of the year. The depth of the pool ranges from under four feet in the shallow section (children’s area) to more than ten feet at the deep end. Luckily floats and noodles are permitted, perfect for those looking to lounge rather than fully submerge.
Highlands has a lakeside, outdoorsy feel that’s rare to find so close to Montclair. The pool area is tree-lined and surrounded by the natural beauty of a forest, so it’s not uncommon to find a bit of wildlife like fish and newts in the pool. Sunbathers will appreciate the lawn chairs available for use, though outside chairs are also allowed. The pool’s snack bar has a variety of hot foods, snacks, soft drinks, and ice cream, which is accompanied by a table area for dining.
Things To Do
In addition to swimming or floating in the pool, there are a lot of other great activities that make a day trip to the Highlands worth it. With Norvin Green State Forest along its perimeter, there is an abundance of hiking options. Several of the trails climb hills of up to 1,300 feet in elevation, providing scenic vistas overlooking the New York City skyline, Wanaque Reservoir, and Ramapo mountains. No matter the view or mileage (Highlands has a recommended list of hikes ranging from .5 to 5.5 miles), there will be a natural pool waiting for you at the end to cool off in.
There is also a picnic grove just outside the pool area, with several tables and charcoal grills. Adjacent to that is a beach sand volleyball court and ping pong tables. If you’re looking to bring your furry friend to Highlands, they can join you on certain trails and in the picnic grove but are not permitted in the pool area.
Know Before You Go
Highlands Natural Pool offers day passes, which cost $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for children (free for ages 2 and under). There are also membership options for individuals, couples, and families. Members receive some perks including a reserved parking area, the ability to use a picnic grove table and grill at no extra charge (costing non-members $25), members-only swim hours, and more. The number of day passes available for non-members each day is limited, and admission fees are paid at the pool entrance.
The pool season begins Memorial Day weekend, open only on weekends until the end of June. The pool is now open daily until Labor Day and then will be open on weekends through the end of September. The pool hours are 12PM to 6PM.