Cool Off at the Highlands Natural Pool in New Jersey

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Friends relaxing in Highlands Natural Pool

Cooling off in a pool is one thing, but cooling off at Highlands Natural Pool in New Jersey is quite another experience. This stream-fed natural swimming hole is an easy getaway from urban life, offering more than just swimming. We’ve got more ways than one to cool off this summer in New Jersey. 

What Is a Natural Pool? 

Natural pools, often called swimming holes, are natural ones created by nature. They’re in various locations, from the middle of a forest to the edges of rivers. The natural pools are usually unheated, which means they can be quite cold, even in summer. 

However, many believe swimming in a natural pool is a much more exhilarating experience than swimming in a traditional pool. Some even believe that they have healing qualities. 

Natural pools also tend to be much quieter and more peaceful, and maybe even better for your health as there are no added chemicals. Instead, you can enjoy the sounds of nature and the feeling of complete immersion in the natural world.

While Highlands Natural Pool is a natural pool because a mountain stream feeds it, it is also man-made. Created in the 1930s for a camp by being carved out of a hillside, this Olympic-sized freshwater pool has more characteristics of a natural swimming hole than a man-made pool. It is, after all, chemical-free and home to many fish that love its mucky bottom.

Where Is the Highlands Natural Pool? 

Ready to experience this mucky-bottomed, cool-water getaway? Highlands Natural Pool is in Ringwood, a borough of around 12,000 people in northern New Jersey. It’s close enough to the big city to be accessible via public transportation, but far enough away to feel like a true escape.

This natural swimming hole is situated in the Ramapo Mountains and is in the middle of state parks, lake communities, and hiking trails. Highlands Natural Pool is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate amidst nature.

You’ll find Highlands Natural Pool at 180 Snake Den Road in Ringwood, N.J., a mere 40 miles from Newark and New York City.

About the Highlands Natural Pool

We touched on some history earlier, but this natural pool was created for a summer camp in 1935. Dug out of a hillside, a 501(c)3 non-profit operation now owns and operates.

Today, you can enjoy its refreshingly natural cool waters as a day visitor or a pass holder. And while swimming is the main activity of choice at Highlands Natural Pool, because of its prime location within the Norvin Green State Forest, there’s plenty more to do here.

Picnicking at Picnic Grove includes charcoal grills and plenty of tables for all the picnic-style foods you can dream of. The neighboring New Weis Center property shares space with Highlands, so you can enjoy beach volleyball and ping pong. And within Norvin Green State Forest, you’ll find hiking trails for all abilities.

So what does all of this cost? 

Traveler’s Tip: You’ll love exploring these Hidden Gems in These 5 New Jersey State Parks.

Little boy swimming in Highlands Natural Pool

Day Passes

If you’re just passing through, day passes are easily available. The fee is $17 for anyone over 18 and below 65. Seniors 65 and over and active military and veterans pay $15. Kids ages 3 through 17 will get in for $10, and anyone 2 and under is free. 

If you only purchase a day pass, you are still welcome to use the picnicking facilities at Picnic Grove, but there is an additional fee of $25.


However, if you want to avoid the above table use fee, become a member, and that fee is no longer applicable. That is most definitely a benefit to membership. But the best reason to become a member is that you can show up anytime during the season and enjoy the cool, refreshing waters.

Additional member benefits include members-only swim hours, members’ parking, discounted visits for five guests per visit, and even access to two guided hikes at the neighboring New Weis Center.

Membership fees per season range from $205 per individual to a family membership for $383, with discounts for seniors and couples.


Whether you have a membership or are just a day visitor, there are plenty of amenities to enjoy while playing at Highlands Natural Pool. And the best amenities are the natural ones. Nature is out and about here in full force with surrounding trees, a natural rock-bottomed pool, and spring-fed water.

Along with Mother Nature providing her amenities, you’ll also find picnic tables, charcoal grills, and a snack bar. Have small children? There’s even a fenced-off swim area for the little ones. They didn’t forget the swimmers, either. The pool section for advanced swimmers slopes from six feet to 10 feet deep. But there’s more than just swimming.


When you need a break from the cool waters, there’s plenty to do here. Don your hiking shoes for a hike around the surrounding forest. With hikes ranging from a half-mile loop to a 5.5-half mile loop, you’ll find the level that fits you.

Rather play a game? Access to sand volleyball is in your admission price, so get a team together for some competitive fun. Or get your ping pong game on for additional game time fun outside of the water.

And when your stomach starts rumbling, Picnic Grove is the perfect place to gather your friends for a BBQ and picnic lunch.

Pet Policy

We can’t forget Rover. Our furry friends love to play, too. While you can’t bring pets in the pool area, you can bring them to Picnic Grove. And as any good pet owner knows, be sure to pick up after your pet and keep them leashed at all times.

Woman floating in natural swimming pool

Are Natural Swimming Pools Heated?

Don’t get too heated when it comes to leaving Rover out of the pool area. Natural swimming pools aren’t heated, either. That’s why many call them natural swimming pools, not natural hot springs.

Natural swimming pools, like Highlands Natural Pool, are usually fed from rivers and streams flowing down from mountains and higher regions. That often means snow melt. In turn, that translates into cool swimming water. And in the heat of summertime, those waters are refreshing, invigorating, and the perfect way to cool off in the midday sun.

Traveler’s Tip: While in New Jersey take some time to Hike the Actual Stairway to Heaven.

Is It Worth Visiting Highlands Natural Pool? 

Cool water enveloping your body, sand in your toes, and food in your belly all add up to one fantastic day. But that equation isn’t complete yet. We can’t forget that this oasis is only 40 miles away from the big cities, making it the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If you’re asking us, we’d have to say that visiting Highlands Natural Pool is well worth your time.

Would you go for a swim in the Highlands Natural Pool?

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