14 Awesome Swimming Holes in Northern California

Photo of Deanna Morgado
4 July 2018

Inflate all the rubber rings you own and pack a nice lunch. We’re off to the top swimming holes in Northern California! These picturesque spots make for the perfect summer getaway into nature.

Bass Lake

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

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.

Mad River

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.

Swimming Hole Ι | © PunkToad/Flickr

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.

Oregon Creek

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!

Golden Quartz

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.

Fall Colors on the Yuba River Ι | © jcookfisher/Flickr

Lake Anza

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.

Lake Anza Ι | © Art Poskanzer/Flickr

Cleo’s Bath

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

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

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.

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