Highlands Pool and Norvin Hike

89 F on a Saturday in New York City?

Chang and I had our eyes on Highlands Natural Pool for a year now and we finally made it.  It’s about an hour from the city in Ringwood, NJ and is absolute bliss.  Fed by a stream, the untreated pool was carved out of the hillside in 1935.  While you swim with salamanders and frogs in the dark, cool pool under a canopy of sassafras, evergreens and poplar, the summer city heat is not even a momentary recollection.

$5/pp first visit, and $10 for your next two, after that you must buy a membership.  This seems to prohibit the pool from extreme crowding.  We risked going on a Saturday, thinking we’d trade navigating between kids in floaties and cannon-balling pre-teens for relief from the city heat.  To much surprise we didn’t find much human company at all.  The huge pool has a fenced in area for the little kids to splash and play and they are far enough away to be only a charming summer soundtrack.  (If you do bring kids there are rules about swimming in the deep end, it looked like the kids needed to pass a swim test.)  The deep end is 14 feet deep, and there’s a diving board.

There is a grassy area right outside the pool area to picnic or lounge at tables, and inside the pool area there are chaise lounge chairs to lay out on.  There’s also port-o-potties, changing rooms, and a small snack stand on the Highlands Natural Pool premises (better to bring a lunch, unless Lean Pockets and Airheads are on your menu).  Just outside of the pool gates lay a large field.  Families were playing Frisbee and volleyball.  Many set up camp for the day at the picnic tables and took advantage of the charcoal grills.  We picnicked on a shady corner of the field and there was plenty of room for all.  The NJ’s Audubon Weis Ecology Center is located in the same area (it all used to be a camp) and provides simple maps of the local trails for 50 cents.  Inside the center they have snakes, a tortoise, animal bones, and bird nests on display.  They also have, in an outdoor pen, a Red-tailed hawk and a Screech owl.

There is camping nearby, on the hill above the pool.  And miles of hiking all around in Norvin Green State Forest.  Chang and I lounged at the pool and in the grass all day and finally managed to drag ourselves on a hike.  We followed the trail to the falls (dry on this particular hot June day) and further to the mine.  After cooling off while exploring the mine (so cold I could see my breath) we hiked back and caught one more swim in the pool before we drove back to the muggy city.  The whole hike took about an hour and a half and was pretty easy, though one could find more strenuous and longer hikes.


One Response to “Highlands Pool and Norvin Hike”

  1. Eric Says:

    I came across your blog by searching for day trips from NYC. Thank you for taking the time to write about the Highlands Public Pool! We never would have found out about it otherwise and wound up having a great day. Thanks and have a great day!

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