TOP SWIMMING HOLES IN THE CENTRAL VALLEY
When you’re exploring the Northern California coast, you’ll probably notice that it’s freezing almost all the time. However, if you find yourself suited up and ready to literally dive in, head to Bass Lake. The water here is much warmer than the icy Pacific Ocean and the 2.7 mile hike to get there is delightful.
Upper Falls gives a much more secluded and calmer break than other parts along the McCloud River Three Falls Hike. A lovely waterfall pours down into the swimming hole below that is rimmed with basalt. It’s a pretty deep swimming hole that’s shaded for part of the day so the temps can get rather chilly. Upper Falls is most satisfying when summer has reached peak heat.
Richardson Grove Swimming Hole
As Richardson Grove is located in the redwood state parks, the gorgeous forest creates the perfect backdrop to this fun spot. Cool off with a swim and watch the giant redwoods look down at you.
South Fork of the Yuba River
This calm natural whirlpool is great for the adventurous. All the more so because clothing is optional! For those who do go to South Fork, the circulating water is about 8 feet deep and feels like a hottub that was handmade by nature.
Located in Kneeland, the Mad River waters are as blue and beckoning as they come. To make things even better, there’s a rope swing that’s just begging you to grab hold and launch yourself into the river.
Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area Swimming Hole
A bit of hot summer weather makes the Standish-Hickey Swimming Hole, located in Mendocino County, that much more enjoyable. Its depths are perfect for some shorter cliff jumping for any adrenaline lovers out there and the sandy beach is ideal for basking.
Russian River “Secret Spot”
Although not exactly a secret anymore, this swimming hole is much more secluded and tucked away compared to many other Russian River spots. If you want an even more quiet trip, the Secret Spot has a little island you can easily swim out to.
Just a short walk off the main road along the Middle Fork of the Yuba River will take you straight to Oregon Creek. The shallow waters of this swimming hole are perfect for some peaceful wading and floating.
Yankee Jims Swimming Hole
Not only is this swimming hole in Colfax perfect for a watery good time, the area has a little bit of history too. The swimming hole and the bridge above it was named after a miner from 1850 who discovered gold in the area. As more and more miners came to mine gold for themselves, the local town grew and was named after Yankee Jim, along with the swimming hole and bridge. Unfortunately, Yankee Jim was eventually run out of town for stealing, and was hanged for even more thieving acts. A little ironic, but the swimming hole definitely shows you a good time!
Cherry Flat Swimming Hole
Follow Trinity Lake upstream and you’ll find yourself at the delightful Cherry Flat swimming hole. It’s right within the heart of the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area between both Sapphire and Emerald Lake. It’s a beautiful sight to be a part of and swim on merrily through.
Along a sandy beach and adorable picnic area, is Golden Quartz along the Yuba River. You’ll feel like you’ve struck gold when you find this lesser-known swimming hole. It’s perfect for a family day out, soaking in the sun and floating in the cool waters.
The swimming hole within this Berkeley Hills lake is lined with sandy beaches and another great place for families. The buoyed area has lifeguards monitoring the swimming hole daily. Tilden Regional Park is the picturesque setting of this family hot spot.
The infamous Cleo’s Bath is an extremely popular swimming hole. And for good reason. In order to reach it, you first have to hike around the Pinecrest lake for a mile and then the trail takes you farther into the rolling hills for three more miles. Even if swimming holes aren’t your thing, this absolutely gorgeous hike will make it worth it. For those looking to enjoy this wonderful swimming heaven, Cleo’s Bath is separated by two parts, one with a natural shallow pool perfect for wading and the other has a mystical waterfall you won’t believe until you see it.
Carlon Falls is the best combination of swimming hole and waterfalls. The pools are cool for those hot summer months and the roughly 15 foot falls are the cherry on top of this already great swimming hole sundae. It’s a few miles hike to reach this spot. Since the hike follows along the Tuolumne River, if you feel like taking a quick jump in the water before reaching Carlon Falls, it’s totally possible and encouraged.
Hatchet Falls, also known as Lion Slide Falls, is one of Shasta County’s most popular swimming holes. A fallen tree between the falls has resulted in the waterfall to split and created a pseudo-staircase. The surrounding rocks above the swimming hole are perfect for cliff jumping and diving.
TOP SWIMMING HOLES IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Some of these require a drive and some are just a hop skip and a jump away! Take advantage of all the cool spots we have throughout California!
Bear Hole, located in Chico's Upper Bidwell Park, is a popular spot for people to jump off high rocks during the late spring and summer because the water is especially deep. However, swimmers should be cautious of where they jump at Bear Hole because of submerged rocks. In addition, water currents move swiftly through the hole and can trap people in between boulders.
Carlon Falls is part of the South Fork of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park. The hike to the falls is about 4.5 miles, but it's well worth it! Visitors can also hike to the top of Carlon Falls where there are smaller pools of water. But be careful because the rocks can be very slippery, and the current can flow strongly through the area.
Just south of Yosemite National Park is Dinkey Creek, which many consider the Lake Tahoe of Fresno. Right near the Dinkey Creek Campgrounds are the Honeymoon Pools, which have a couple little trails of water snaking through the rocks.
Gold Quartz is a great family swimming hole located a mile or two up from the city of Washington, off Highway 20 in Nevada County. Gold Quartz's flat, sandy, open beach provides a safer environment for the kids, but still has a couple rocks for the young ones to jump from. It's also a pretty easy place for parents to get to while carting chairs, snacks and towels.
Outside Yuba City, near the South Yuba River State Park, is Lemke's Lagoon with its big holes and nice-sized cliffs. The beautiful swimming hole has clean, crystal-clear water. Lemke's Lagoon is a little difficult to get down to because of its high cliffs, but once you get in, the water feels great.
Another unique swimming hole is in Calaveras County called Natural Bridges. Check out the cool ceiling and walls made up of bumpy limestone formations. Try to avoid touching though, because the oil from your hands can disrupt the limestone growth. Those brave enough to enter the dark, deep tunnel can swim the 250 feet from one end of Natural Bridges to the other.
South Yuba River is full of clear swimming holes, most of which are surrounded by smooth, granite rocks. Visitors at the South Yuba River swimming holes should be careful because the water can be pretty cold much of the year and the current is often strong in certain locations.
The Silver Fork of the American River near Kirkwood meanders through mounds of granite rocks, creating a gorgeous view and some cool swimming holes, known as the Potholes. The pools are an easy hike from the Silver Lake West Campground or nearby Highway 88. The scenery is breathtaking, but the area can be dangerous because of the deep running water, tall rocks and cliff bands. Winds can also be strong here, so be sure to go on a warm day.
And that's not all! Here's more closer to home!