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14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California

06.15.16

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14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California

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  • There is a great jumping rock adjacent to the swimming hole at Richardson Grove.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • A placid South Fork Eel River downstream from the main swimming hole at Standish-Hickey SRA.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Pristine water flows from the mountains into Cherry Flat.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Getting ready for take off at one of the smaller cliffs at Cherry Flat.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Relaxing after a swim at Upper Falls on the McCloud River.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Middle Falls on the McCloud River.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Swimming at the foot of Middle Falls on the McCloud River.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Jumping opportunities abound at Lower Falls on the McCloud River.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Climb the log to access jumping locations at Hatchet Falls.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • A swimmer surveys Potem Falls.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Potem Falls.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • There are plenty of places to lounge at Lake Anza Beach.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Oregon Creek Swimming Hole on the Main Fork of the Yuba River.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Polished granite boulders line the river at Highway 49 Crossing.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Contemplation at North Fork Falls.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • A young stand-up paddleboarder enjoying the clear waters off of Rubicon Point in D.L. Bliss State Park.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Emerald Bay's scenic beaches and inviting waters.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
  • Meeks Bay Beach.- 14 Incredible Swimming Holes in Northern California
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With temperatures in summer often soaring into the 90s and beyond, there are so many great rivers, lakes, and ponds to escape to in Northern California. There are a few amazing gems that stand out beyond the rest. Cliffs to jump from into waterfall-fed pools. Boulders to lie out on when warming up after a cool dunk. Crystal clear water from mountain runoff. These swimming holes are worth a short drive, or even a longer one combined with a camping trip.

Swimming holes can mean lots of people, and that usually also means excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, human waste, and toilet paper left behind. If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage and toilet paper and dispose of it properly, use vault toilets and other restroom facilities when provided, and stay on established paths. Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them.

  1. Richardson Grove Swimming Hole - A family-friendly pool south of Eureka, with nearby camping and hiking.
  2. Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area Swimming Hole - A quiet, slow stretch of the South Fork Eel River, with cliff jumping options.
  3. Upper Falls, McCloud River - A quiet, secluded swimming hole in a waterfall-fed pool.
  4. Middle Falls, McCloud River - Slightly busier than Upper Falls, a beautiful broad waterfall pours into the swimming hole. 
  5. Lower Falls, McCloud River - The busiest of the McCloud River falls, Lower Falls is family friendly with lots of great jumping rocks.
  6. Hatchet Falls/Lionslide Falls - Climb a fallen tree turned into a staircase to get from the pool to the top of the falls.
  7. Potem Falls - A hidden gem northeast of Redding, this is a truly beautiful place to cool off in the summer.
  8. Lake Anza - Family friendly beach and lake in the East Bay's Tilden Park, with lots of places to lay in the sunshine before and after a swim.
  9. Oregon Creek Day Use Area - A quiet swimming hole with a covered bridge over it, located northeast of Sacramento.
  10. Highway 49 Crossing - A beautiful and sometimes very crowded swimming hole on the South Yuba River with large boulders to flanking the river.
  11. North Fork Falls - A secluded waterfall with great cliff jumping on the road between Sacramento and Truckee.
  12. D.L. Bliss State Park - Amazingly clear waters and a relaxing beach on the western shore of Lake Tahoe.
  13. Emerald Bay State Park - Continuing south from D.L Bliss State Park, Emerald Bay is as beautiful of a stretch of Lake Tahoe shoreline as it gets.
  14. Meeks Bay Beach - A long stretch of white sand beachfront on Lake Tahoe's western shore, with shaded picnic areas and clear water.

Caution! Be Safe.

Swimming holes and cliff jumping can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable outdoor activities that pose significant risks regarding personal safety. Changing water levels, unseen rocks, and river bottoms that have shifted with currents and seasonal weather can turn a well-known jumping area into a serious hazard. Prior to engaging in these activities, extensively scout the current conditions, and understand the risks involved with serious injury and the logistical challenges of evacuation from the water so you can make safe decisions.

Leave No Trace

The Forest Service and other local management agencies are considering closing access to many of these sensitive locations due to excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, human waste, and toilet paper left behind.  They simply do not have the staff or the funding to attend to these issues. If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage and toilet paper and dispose of it properly, use vault toilets and other restroom facilities when provided, and stay on established paths. Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them.

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