For years, I’d been dreaming of visiting the elusive Peekamoose Blue Hole in the Catskills of New York. A crystalline, emerald-blue, natural swimming pool tucked within the verdant Sundown Wild Forest in the Catskill Forest Preserve.
Living in New York City, many of us New Yorkers are hungry to reconnect with nature. And a natural wonder like the Peekamoose Blue Hole felt like the perfect NYC day trip into the beautiful outdoors. However, when I got there, I felt emotionally burdened and conflicted. It was a beautiful space, no doubt. But the experience brought up a lot of complex topics that we need to talk about before you decide on going to the Peekamoose Blue Hole.
Fun fact: This idyllic blue hole is formed as a part of the Rondout Creek which flows into the Rondout Reservoir where nearly half of our drinking water in New York City comes from!
Peekamoose Blue Hole Is Hurting
Rather than finding blissful solace in a natural space resembling a tropical oasis… Rather than embracing and reconnecting to nature… My mind went down a rabbit hole of thoughts such as the paradox of sustainability versus accessibility due to the pollution and swarm of crowds I witnessed at the Peekamoose Blue Hole on a Wednesday morning.
Sitting on a boulder on the edge of the pool, I could see a thin veil of oil floating on the surface of the clear blue water. Maybe it was just the natural oil secretion from so many visitors’ skins, but also, likely mixed with bug spray and/or sunscreen both of which can be detrimental to nature.
In front of me, large groups sat on beach chairs with coolers and large trays of food. To my right, another group with their own cooler, drinking from red plastic cups, one of which was already laying on the ground next to a plastic bottle. What the heck? I thought in dismay. When I looked up, I saw another group coming down also with a large cooler. These large groups were here to spend the entire day as if they were arriving at Coney Island.
“All of the issues we saw in previous years are being amplified; more trash, more damage to plants, more erosion, more foot traffic, more illegal parking.”– Steward at Peekamoose Blue Hole
Concerned, I wondered: how do we keep this and other local gems, preserved and protected while still keeping it inclusive for visitors? Especially nowadays, with so many NYC folks needing a reprieve from the quarantine blues after months of being confined to our tiny bedrooms.
Important Things to Know Before Visiting Peekamoose Blue Hole in the Catskills, NY
Today, Peekamoose Blue Hole is at risk of being shut down to the public due to the pollution and environmental strain from the mass crowds visiting every year. But there are ways we can work to lessen our impact on this natural wonder to both conserve and still enjoy it.
Below are 13 important tips and information to know before planning your New York getaway to Peekamoose Blue Hole.
Fun Fact: The Peekamoose Blue Hole is approximately 10 feet at its deepest point according to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
1) Parking is Extremely Limited
There are only a few parking lots available and each with maybe a dozen parking spots. This means that if you don’t get there early, you won’t just add to the overcrowdedness, you also won’t find a parking spot.
There is also a huge problem with people blocking other people’s cars in. That means that they park directly behind another car so that if the driver of the first car wants to leave, they won’t be able to.
As for parking alongside the road, this is prohibited and you are almost guaranteed to get a $250 ticket. Or worse, you might even get your car towed.
2) There is a Garbage & Litter Problem
You might see the photo above and think: “Wow why don’t they take out the garbage more in this place?” I know that’s what I thought when I first saw this. But in actuality, this is not a street corner in Manhattan. It’s a natural forest space. That means it’s our responsibility to bring our trash back home with us. We should leave no trace.
So if the dumpster is full, take your garbage with you. It’s also only there as a courtesy in the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
In addition to dumpsters overflowing, visitors are also leaving garbage along the trail and within the forest. So consider bringing an extra garbage bag to pick up the plastic and other garbage left by others. It’s a shame that we have to literally pick up after people, but consider helping out for the sake of protecting this special place.
3) How to Avoid the Crowds at Peekamoose Blue Hole
Again, it’s important to get there early not just for parking, but also because we are living during a pandemic where crowded spaces are not safe for everyone.
In addition to health risks, overcrowding strains the natural resources and ecosystem of the area.
“Blue Hole… isn’t an area that is set up to accommodate 1,000 people a day, it’s not even a state park. Which limits our resources/funding to manage and control the area.”– Steward at Peekamoose Blue Hole
Thus, it’s important to choose wisely when to visit the Peekamoose Blue Hole. Weekdays in the early morning are excellent options. Weekends should be avoided unless you can get there extremely early.
You should plan to leave before 11:00 AM because by then it’s crowded. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other fun things to do in the area next, like these beautiful hikes near NYC, some of New York’s best lakes, hidden gem waterfalls, and visiting these charming NY small towns; such as the very cute hippie town of Woodstock for lunch!
4) Don’t Forget Buttermilk Waterfalls
There’s a beautiful waterfall just one mile away from Peekamoose Blue Hole. If you park in the farthest parking lot (coming from NYC), you’ll be able to easily pop into this beautiful natural gem. The crazy thing is that this waterfall is usually completely empty, as the crowds are over at the blue hole. And this is just one of several other waterfalls you can visit in Upstate New York.
5) The Water is Ice-Cold
If you want to come here with the intention of spending most of your time swimming in the water, then this is probably not the place for you. The water is freezing cold. So cold that people only spend a few minutes inside and then hang out by the rocks (pictured above)… So cold that my body tingled for minutes after just a few seconds inside the water… And so cold that you’ll hear screams from first-time visitors dipping their legs into the water.
Please be careful if you have heart conditions to avoid a cold shock response which can cause heart attacks for people with cardiovascular disease/other heart problems. – Source
6) Playing Music is Prohibited
You probably wouldn’t like listening to my esoteric music playlist. Just like I probably wouldn’t like hearing whatever music you normally play. So let’s do each other a favor and not play any music at all. After all, most of us are in the outdoors for the nourishing sounds of nature.
And if being considerate to your fellow human beings isn’t enough, then be warned that park rangers will issue you a ticket for playing music. Reports say the tickets are $250.
7) You Will Need a Permit to Visit (May through September)
Due to the enormous influx of visitors in recent years, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has implemented restrictions for “public safety and [to] reduce impacts on the environmental resources.”
Every year, from May 15th to September 15th, a permit is required to visit the Peekamoose Blue Hole from Reserve America. Permits are free but must be reserved online at least 24 hours ahead of time and 7 days before your visit at 9:00 AM. Permits are limited to 6 travelers and you must submit the name of every person coming with you. Here is the most recent announcement about the permit requirement.
8) Consider the Impact of Your Social Media Influence
We are all influencers. In some way or form, we influence each other with our actions and words and/or with the content we produce digitally. If you upload a picture of a natural wonder, consider also educating your friends and family about their impact and how to take care of the space. I’m not telling you not to geotag places, in fact, here’s an article arguing why you should keep geotagging. However, let’s provide the full story, especially to those who are new to the outdoors.
Leave No Trace provides some excellent social media guidance to consider before publishing your content online.
9) Have a Plan B
You shouldn’t plan to spend more than 2 hours here. So if you’re in the area for the day, you should definitely plan another activity in the region. There’s also a chance you may not find parking or the Peekamoose Blue Hole might be at full capacity and you get turned away. So plan ahead for other things to do in the Upstate New York region. Rent a car for the day and check out nearby hiking trails, go blueberry picking, consider renting a kayak, go see a waterfall, check out the wineries in the Hudson Valley, and much more.
There are also several other swimming holes in the Catskills besides this one. Unfortunately, the locals tend to gatekeep these spaces which leads to the small handful of places we know being so overcrowded.
10) Know the Rules or Risk Getting Fined
“Know the rules and regulations of the area before you come here. No fires, no grills, no music, no glass… I encourage everyone to take at least 5 minutes before they leave their house to research where they are going and usually in that time they see the rules and resources to help educate”– Steward at Peekamoose Blue Hole
In addition to the rules which you can read here, you hopefully shouldn’t be at the Peekamoose Blue Hole long enough to have to use the bathroom. But if you do feel the need to go while you’re there, there are two porta-potties available.
11) Have Compassion & Empathy for the Newbies
Shaming and scolding others isn’t the way to educate. Call people in, not out. Remember not everyone has had the luxury of enjoying the American outdoors growing up. For many, this is their first year venturing out into nature and they are learning. Recognize your privilege, and try to extend some compassion, understanding, and empathy.
The outdoors can be a safe haven and a place to heal especially during these turbulent times.
Directions & Trail to Peekamoose Blue Hole
12) Directions & Trail to the Blue Hole
You can easily type in “Peekamoose Blue Hole” into Google Maps and it will populate the driving directions there. Once you are there, you will have about 3 parking lots to choose from. They each have very limited parking spots.
You may have to park about a mile away and walk alongside the road to the short trail that leads you to this Blue Hole. The trail is off the side of the road and can easily be found if you download MAPS.ME app and download the offline version of the Catskills/New York State map. This is perfect in the likely chance that you lose phone reception. Remember that while short, the trail down is steep so take your time and wear proper shoes.
13) Opening Hours & Cost
Except for certain camping grounds, the Peekamoose Blue Hole opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset.
Entrance is free. But if you break the rules, prepare to pay a hefty fine.
Packing & Preparing for Your Peekamoose Blue Hole Visit
DOWNLOAD THIS APP: One of the best ways to plan your outdoor adventure more seamlessly is by downloading the MAPS.ME application onto your phone. This provides a downloadable offline map that will come in handy if when losing phone signal. This application does have the Peekamoose Blue Hole location.
And here is a basic packing list of the things to bring on your day hike:
|Hiking boots (make sure to go half a size up for hiking down slopes)||–Travel towel|
|Snacks (including protein)||Swimsuit|
|ECO sun screen (you won’t need it at the pool because it’s shaded but in case you venture elsewhere).||Hiking poles|
|Sun umbrella||Battery pack|
|Day pack||First-aid kit|
|Phone||ECO bug spray (you won’t need it at the pool but in case you venture elsewhere).|
|Tissues (for peeing)||Tampons/pads (just in case)|
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