11 Epic Swimming Holes In Northern California

Can I let you in on a little secret? The rest of the USA hates us because of our weather. Parts of our lovely Northern California can easily climb into triple-digits but with our low humidity and clear skies we can understand why so many are jealous of us.

When it comes to taking a dip on a hot day there are a few swimming holes you may not even know about. While the rest of Northern California goes to the same beach again every year, here are a few places you can go to impress your family and friends and make your summer epic.

1. Bass Lake, Point Reyes

Behold the Northern California coast: rugged, inspirational, and freakin’ freezing. Where can you enjoy a shoreside swim without risking hypothermia? Try Bass Lake in Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s a scenic 2.7-mile coastal hike up from the parking lot, and the water’s warm (warmer than the Pacific, at least) and clean. Keep your eyes open for poison oak and nettles, but other than that enjoy!

2. Russian River (Secret Spot!), Healdsburg

Sometimes the crowds at the Russian River can be kind of spring break-y, which can be fun, but if you want a little more quiet, check out this hidden spot. There’s a little island you can float to and make your own, too. A public entrance is at the far eastside of Redwood Drive. Parking can be a slight challenge but worth it once you spread out your blanket on this secluded beach.

3. South Fork of the Yuba River, Nevada City

Although you can’t dive here, this beautiful little swimming hole has some circulating water that makes you feel like you’re in a natural hot tub. It’s about 6 – 8 ft. deep, so don’t try to dive in, as several injuries have occurred here. Please note: Clothing is optional.

4. Mad River, Kneeland

The Mad River in Kneeland, Calif. is only about an hour east of the 101 north right off the Indianola Cutoff. The water is a clear turquoise and does look like it could be in Hawaii. One of the best features of the river is the rope swing that swimmers can reach by treading towards the rocks. It’s been said this spot looks like Humboldt and Hawaii had a baby, and this is it.

5. Tuolumne River, Tuolumne County

When you discover a swimming hole like this one on the Tuoumne River you’ve struck gold for sure. Can you guess which one this is?

6. Oregon Creek, Middle Fork Yuba River

You’ll find this hidden gem off of the Middle Fork of the Yuba River. It’s a short walk from the main road and it’s peaceful here because most people don’t know about this spot. The water here is pretty shallow, so diving is not safe and shouldn’t be attempted. You’ll find several large rocks along the river that are perfect for picnicking, reading or just soaking up the sun.

7. North Fork American River, Colfax

This swimming hole is beneath Yankee Jims Bridge. Named after a miner from 1850 who found gold a few miles away from this spot, he was run out of town by miners for stealing. Yankee Jim fled for Southern California and continued his life of crime. He was hanged as a horse thief. Oh, and the swimming hole is pretty awesome, too.

8. Golden Quartz, South Fork Yuba River

Located off the South Fork of the Yuba River, this little-known swimming hole has a small sandy beach and picnic area that’s perfect for a day with the family. The water current here isn’t very strong, which also makes it an ideal spot for families with children. It’s secluded, safe and peaceful here.

9. Local Swimming Hole

Not sure you’re up for taking little ones on a hike to a waterfall? Load up the car and take them to your local swimming pool, or better yet, purchase a cheap kiddie pool and splash and play as long as you want. Little ones won’t know the difference!

10. Cleo’s Bath, Pinecrest

The infamous “Cleo’s Bath” swimming hole is one of Northern California’s most sought after secret aquatic adventures. You hike around the lake for about one mile, then you hike up into the hills for about three miles with gorgeous panoramic scenery of mountains and forests below. If you don’t enjoy the water, the hike will definitely make this journey worthwhile.

11. Carlon Falls, Groveland

With a trail entrance just outside the Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park, Carlon Falls stays full—and cold—well into September and October. The falls themselves, about 15 feet tall, cascade in a thick sheet of white. Expect to hike a couple of miles in along the South Fork of the Tuolumne River, with lots of chances to take a dip en route.

Now, there’s just one thing you need to do before grabbing your inner tube and hopping in the car. Remember that the water at some of these spots may be a little lower than usual. Mother Nature hasn’t been as generous with our rain and snow lately, so that means to be safe out there and don’t go diving off of any rocks without make sure it’s safe first. Okay, we’re done telling you what to do. Go have some fun!


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