9 magical swimming holes in California to escape the heat
Need to chill? California’s coastline and beaches typically get all the attention, but consider an old-fashioned swimming hole to cool off on hot days.
If you go, be mindful of fast-moving water, check the park websites for current conditions and restrictions, and make sure to pack out all of your trash.
Ready to take the plunge?
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Santa Paula "Punch Bowls"
The trail begins near Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula. This popular swimming spot is between Big Cone and Cross campgrounds and is an eight-mile round-trip hike.
Seven Falls, Santa Barbara
The trail starts on paved road (used by utility crews), becomes dirt road, then follows Mission Creek. Everyone who takes the journey seems to have a different response. In the first days of April, one hiker on AllTrails reported that “I love this trail so much.” Said another: “Dry and I got lost twice.” It’s generally wetter in winter, of course.
Santa Barbara Red Rock Pools
Red Rock Pools, the most popular, is about a half-mile from the trailhead and can be crowded on the weekends. The more secluded pools are farther up the Santa Ynez River.
Century Lake, Malibu Creek State Park
Rainbow Pool, Yosemite National Park
Today, the Rainbow Pool day-use area is a picnic spot — managed by the Stanislaus National Forest — that caters to those visiting Yosemite.
Natural Bridges, Calaveras County
The Natural Bridges parking area is between Columbia State Historic Park and the wineries of Murphys. The round-trip hike is about two miles, but make sure to pack plenty of water because the return back to the car is all uphill.
Wawona Swinging Bridge, Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is famous for its towering waterfalls, but when conditions are right the park also offers places to cool off in snow-melt water.
A swimming hole at the Wawona Swinging Bridge can be fun for the family. The swinging bridge is off California 41 near Yosemite’s southern entrance.
South Yuba River
The South Yuba River, near Grass Valley and Nevada City, is known for its pristine swimming holes surrounded by smooth granite rocks.
Swimming spots include Oregon Creek, South Yuba River State Park, Edwards Crossing, Mountain Dog, North Canyon, Middle Yuba Bridge and Shangri-la.
Swim Beach, Richardson Grove State Park
Swim Beach, as it’s known, is adjacent to the river parking area. A few years ago, a footbridge was installed to allow access to a seasonal swimming hole.
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