The Best Swimming Holes Within Two Hours of Sacramento
We’re neck deep in the dog days of summer, and things are heating up. With Sacramento’s toasty temps, one of the best ways to keep cool is by spending the day by the water. Pools are nice (if you have one!) but another option is to find a refreshing swimming hole. Luckily, the Sacramento area is crisscrossed by rivers, streams and creeks, so there are plenty of options to choose from! Whether you’re looking for an easy dip with the kiddos or a longer hike to a more remote location, there’s a swimming hole to suit every taste.
Before you go, it’s important to keep some safety tips in mind. Most importantly, enter the water with caution. Cold temperatures, strong currents and underwater hazards can lead to serious injuries. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and sunscreen, and of course, pack out your trash and clean up after your dogs.
Note: Some facilities may be inaccessible due to COVID-19 closures and/or construction. Please check the websites for the most up-to-date information.
The South Yuba River in Nevada County has some of the best swimming holes in the Sacramento region, with clear, emerald green water, large riverside boulders perfect for lounging or jumping, and shady banks to keep the sun at bay. Some spots to consider are near the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, where the water is mellow and perfect for families, under the Old Highway 49 Bridge, which has deep pools and stairs down to the water, Edwards Crossing, with a small waterfall, and Purdon Crossing, where you can access wide, sandy Mother’s Beach. You can download a map and take your pick!
This spot in Yuba County is along Highway 49 where Oregon Creek meets the Middle Fork of the Yuba River. There is also a covered bridge here, as well as restrooms and picnic facilities. Like the South Yuba, Oregon Creek Day Use Area has plenty of spots to spread out, so although it gets popular in the summer, you’re sure to find your own secluded area, depending on how far you’d like to hike. There are sandy beaches, large granite slabs and lots of shade to be found.
Part of the Auburn State Recreation Area in Auburn, the area around the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American Rivers have swimming spots galore! Many hikes begin in the area near the intersection of Highway 49 and Old Foresthill Road, with spur trails down to the water. These include the Quarry Trail and the Western States Trail to the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls. Another good (and easy!) spot is Clarks Hole, which is less than a mile upstream. You can also access it via the Lake Clementine Trail. The area is also great place to take your dog for a swim!
Located in Upper Bidwell Park in Chico, Bear Hole is a popular swimming spot for adventurous types. It has deep, sparkling pools and towering rocks along Big Chico Creek. There are additional swimming holes further upstream if you’re in the mood to explore.
It’s not the biggest swimming hole in town, nor is it very hidden, but Hidden Falls in Auburn is a good bet if you’re looking for a quick cool off. An easy hike takes you to a deep pool on Coon Creek, with scenic falls along the way. Note that to keep crowds at bay, parking reservations are required in advance.
North Fork American River | Various locations
Just off I-80 in Placer County near Colfax is the northern section of the Auburn State Recreation Area, which has plenty of spots to relax and cool off. One place to consider is beneath Ponderosa Bridge. Or, if you feel like a hike, head to Stevens Trail, which has amazing views and river access about three miles in. If you’re looking to make it an overnighter, check out Mineral Bar Campground, which is known for its swimming holes. North Fork Falls near Emigrant Gap also has a great swimming hole, plus an impressive waterfall to boot! Note that the roads to many of these spots can be narrow and bumpy, and parking is often tight in the summertime, especially on weekends.
Putah Creek is an 85-mile long creek that runs through Solano and Yolo Counties, with lots of quiet stretches where you can hop in the water and go for a swim. One option is near the Putah Creek Trailhead parking lot just outside Winters, south of Lake Berryessa. Here, you’ll find a calm bend in the river with deep pools. You can claim a spot on a rock and bring a floatie to let the gentle current bob you around.
Natural Bridges is a natural rock formation near Vallecito in Calaveras County. A short trail leads you into the Coyote Creek Canyon, where there are large, cool caverns that you can swim through (or better yet, float through on a tube!). It’s a small spot, so come early to avoid the crowds.
American River Parkway | Various locations
The American River Parkway, which stretches from Folsom to Sacramento, is one of the most popular places to cool off in the greater Sacramento area. There are dozens of secret and not-so-secret spots to take a dip. Some options include the area near the Watt Avenue Access in the Arden-Arcade area, the Sunrise Recreation Areas near Fair Oaks, Nimbus Flat Recreation Area in Folsom, and the area near the Rainbow Bridge, also in Folsom, accessed by the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area.