The 12 Best Secret Swimming Holes in Southern California

Written by Lev Baker
Updated: July 12, 2023
© trekandshoot/
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Are you ready to explore the sun-drenched shores of Southern California, where hidden wonders await beneath the sparkling surface? In this article, we will unveil the best secret swimming holes – an exclusive guide to the region’s most enchanting aquatic gems.

With secluded rock pools nestled amidst breathtaking cliffs and pristine natural springs that offer blissful solitude, these hidden oases are sure to captivate the adventurous at heart. Also, they make for great photo ops to spice up your Instagram!

1. Devil’s Hole

Looking for a peaceful, secluded spot to enjoy swimming? Look no further than Devil’s Hole, a hidden gem nestled in the breathtaking San Bernardino Mountains. As one of Southern California’s finest swimming holes, Devil’s Hole promises a memorable experience.

Be prepared, though, as it’s a considerable trek of approximately 11.5 miles round trip, making it an excellent opportunity for seasoned hikers seeking a workout. Keep in mind, though, that the hike itself is moderate in difficulty.

Once you reach your destination, prepare to be amazed by the magic of the swimming hole. Immerse yourself in the refreshing, crystal-clear waters, which provide the perfect respite after your tiring walk. Surrounded by lush greenery, you can unwind in the serene ambiance of this oasis.

What sets Devil’s Hole apart is its crowd or lack thereof. So, you can revel in the freedom to swim in any direction your heart desires.

2. Santa Paula Punch Bowls

Los Padres National Forest provides a captivating backdrop to the city, offering a range of breathtaking trails. Among them is the Santa Paula Punch Bowls hike, which leads you through the rugged terrain and into one of the best secret swimming holes in Southern California!

This popular trek spans approximately 8 miles round-trip, encompassing challenging inclines and sections that require boulder scrambling. In fact, to ensure your safety, it is advisable to travel cautiously and rely on GPS guidance.

The “bowls,” or pools of water along the hike, are one of the clearest in the state and have depths of up to 7 feet, depending on rainfall levels. At times, these cascading swimming holes may be fully submerged, blending seamlessly with the flowing water.

The main attraction is a magnificent 30-foot cascading waterfall, where many visitors choose to pause and enjoy a refreshing dip. Venturing further upstream reveals additional pools and smaller waterfalls, but there may be increasingly challenging terrain.

3. Malibu Creek Rock Pool

Rock Pool picnic area at Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles, California.
An easy 3-mile hike leads to Malibu Creek Rock Pool.


Discover the beauty of Malibu Creek State Park and its iconic Rock Pool, a must-visit natural swimming hole. What’s more, the roundtrip hike to reach the pool is under three miles, making it an easily accessible adventure. Unsurprisingly, this Southern California gem has gained immense popularity.

To make the most of your visit, consider starting early to secure a serene spot, as the rock pool tends to get crowded during the peak midday heat. Once you find a safe spot, indulge in cliff jumping or simply relax with a swim and some delicious snacks. If you’re feeling adventurous, continue past the rock pool to explore the park’s hidden treasures, accessible through bouldering or swimming.

Extend your hike by exploring additional trails, such as Century Lake and Grasslands Trail, as Malibu Creek State Park offers abundant opportunities for hikers. 

4. Solstice Canyon Swimming Hole

Experience the charm of Solstice Canyon Swimming Hole, a captivating oasis nestled in Malibu. While it may not rival the popularity or size of Rock Pool, this Southern California gem can still draw a crowd, especially on weekends. For a more serene adventure, opt for a weekday afternoon visit and increase your chances of having this spot all to yourself.

What makes this destination truly special is the three-mile loop trail that effortlessly combines stunning scenery with rich historical significance. As you traverse the trail, you’ll encounter captivating remnants of the past, including intriguing historical ruins and a breathtaking waterfall. Every step along this canyon hike promises an exhilarating experience, leaving no room for boredom.

The waterfall gracefully cascades, creating a series of small pools that provide a picturesque setting to unwind and enjoy a leisurely lunch. Take a moment to soak in the tranquility before retracing your path back to the trailhead.

5. Hermit Falls

Enjoy the seasonal adventure of Hermit Falls, a captivating swimming hole located in Monrovia, Southern California. This natural gem is accessible only during the summer months, making it a sought-after destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

To reach the swimming hole, go on a scenic two-and-a-half-mile trail, which includes stream crossings. Don’t worry; these crossings are easily navigable with the right footwear, requiring only a few skips and hops.

Here, slide down the rock cascades or marvel at the daring cliff jumpers leaping from the top of Hermit Falls. However, be cautious if you cliff jump, as it involves risks that should be approached with utmost care. Alternatively, unwind and cool off in the pool while immersing yourself in the beauty of the falls.

Hermit Falls features two main pools, with the lower one requiring ropes for access. If you don’t have any, fear not, as the upper pool offers just as much enjoyment. 

6. Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls (Devil's Punchbowl) in San Diego, California, USA
Cedar Creek Falls is a popular spot to swim in near San Diego.

©Jimmy W/

When exploring hiking options in San Diego, Cedar Creek Falls is an infamous party spot that’s likely to catch your attention. The hike takes an unconventional approach, as you’ll descend to the falls and then ascend on the return journey. Although the elevation gain is only 1,000 feet, the exposure and heat can pose challenges if you’re unprepared.

Standing tall at approximately 100 feet, the waterfall is a captivating sight. Its expansive pool below is a major draw for those seeking a refreshing swim and a delightful escape on scorching summer days. However, it’s important to note that climbing, jumping, or diving near the falls or the adjacent cliffs is strictly prohibited.

To visit the Cedar Creek Falls Visitor, a visitor use permit is required. It’s essential to be mindful of weather conditions, as hiking in temperatures exceeding 90°F is strongly discouraged.

7. Switzer Falls

Switzer Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles California.
The 14-foot cascade of Switzer Falls is a sight to behold.


Nestled within the majestic San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest, Switzer Falls offers an easily accessible and breathtaking trail. As you begin this adventure, the trail leads you through a serene wooded canyon, accompanied by the melodic sound of a babbling creek that runs alongside. The abundance of biodiversity adds to the captivation of the surroundings.

Renowned as one of the finest swimming holes in Los Angeles, Switzer Falls also presents an opportunity to relax in a magnificent Southern California waterfall. With its 14-foot cascade and refreshing swimming hole during the spring season, it serves as the perfect respite. Additionally, the majority of the trail is well-shaded, ensuring a comfortable hike even on hot days.

Immerse yourself in the beauty of Switzer Falls, where you can bask in the joy of swimming or simply relax by the water’s edge. It’s hard to imagine that this secret oasis is a mere 20 miles away from the bustling city of Los Angeles!

8. Deep Creek Hot Springs

Deep Creek hot springs reflecting during sunsetin California, USA
Deep Creek Hot Springs is a collection of three hot pools, ranging from 96 to 102 degrees.

©Tom Ha/

Escape to the tranquil oasis of Deep Creek Hot Springs, a hidden paradise situated amidst lush vegetation and natural beauty. As you venture into this serene sanctuary, you’ll be transported to a parallel universe of relaxation and rejuvenation. The cool waters of the Mojave River offer a refreshing respite, while a small sandy beach entices sun-seekers to unwind and soak up the warmth.

Located at an elevation of 3,000 feet in the scenic San Bernardino Mountains, Deep Creek Hot Springs attracts visitors from all over the state. 

Relax in three inviting pools resembling large hot tubs, each boasting its own temperature range. From the soothing 96°F waters of the first pool to the invigorating 102°F embrace of the third pool, you’ll find your perfect spot for unwinding.

The pools are conveniently situated along the river, allowing for a delightful mix of hot relaxation and refreshing dips in the icy waters or even a thrilling adventure on the slackline.

It’s worth noting that clothing is optional at the springs, creating a liberating and accepting atmosphere for all. For a more secluded experience, consider planning your visit on a weekday!

9. Red Rock Pool

A delightful half-mile hike leads you to Red Rock Pool, where every step offers picturesque scenery. As you ascend the gentle hill, a captivating panorama unveils the pool’s beauty, gracefully nestled down the slope on your right.

Allow yourself to be captivated by the serene atmosphere of the Red Rock swimming hole, cradled within the magnificent boulders that create a sanctuary for a thriving colony of swallows. Admire their nests adorning the rocks, a testament to the harmony between nature and wildlife. 

One of the most remarkable aspects of this idyllic retreat is the awe-inspiring vistas that greet you, whether enjoyed from the water’s edge or admired from a higher vantage point.

Should you desire a more secluded experience, venture farther along the trail and uncover other hidden swimming holes. Explore deeper, and you’ll find peaceful spots away from the crowds!

10. The Bridge to Nowhere Swimming Holes

Bridge to Nowhere Hike Los Angeles
The swimming holes at the Bridge to Nowhere are famous because of the bridge.


Discover a hidden gem beneath the iconic Bridge to Nowhere hiking trail—an incredible secret swimming spot in Southern California. This outdoor haven is a favorite among adventure enthusiasts, particularly hikers, who are rewarded with a unique combination of accessible metro access, breathtaking landscapes, and an abundance of stunning swimming pools.

The highlight of this experience is, undoubtedly, the magnificent bridge itself—a captivating structure that adds to the magic of the journey. As you traverse the trail, you’ll be delighted to find an array of inviting swimming holes, perfect for cooling off in the refreshing waters, enjoying a leisurely lunch, or simply basking in the warm sun on the smooth flat rocks.

With its scenic beauty and ample opportunities for relaxation and exploration, the Bridge to Nowhere Swimming Holes ranks among the top Southern California day hikes.

11. Hidden Swimming Holes of Colby Canyon

Escape the hustle and bustle and seek refuge from the sweltering heat at the enchanting swimming holes of Colby Canyon. This hidden gem is not to be underestimated, as the rugged paths leading to the pools will remind you of its well-deserved “hidden” status. Before setting off, ensure you come prepared with suitable footwear.

Start an adventurous hike that involves mountain climbing and bushwhacking, promising an exhilarating experience for those with a taste for challenge. Your determination will be richly rewarded when you discover the pristine expanse of granite bowl pools situated within the often-overlooked Colby Canyon of the Angeles National Forest.

For those seasoned hikers who crave more demanding trails, venture to the point where Colby and Daisy Canyons converge. Once there, you will find marvelous swimming holes awaiting your arrival.

12. Three Sisters Waterfall

Three Sisters Falls in Cleveland National Forest near San Diego, CA, USA
Overnight camping is available at Three Sisters Waterfall.

©Jimmy W/

Located approximately 30 minutes south of Julian, Three Sisters Waterfall stands as one of Southern California’s top-tier cascades, showcasing its beauty when flowing gracefully. This collection of falls gracefully tumbles over the rocks. In fact, it earns its name from the presence of three distinct waterfalls known as the Three Sisters.

Swimming hole enthusiasts will find solace at Three Sisters. That’s because it remains one of the rare spots in San Diego County to seek respite and embrace the cooling waters. Carved by Boulder Creek in the scenic Cuyamaca Foothills, this series of falls can be accessed by embarking on a quick 2-mile descent into the canyon. However, remember that the return journey entails a hot 2-mile ascent, so ensure you go prepared with an ample supply of water.

Upon reaching the falls and assessing the water’s depth, feel free to indulge in a thrilling slide from the middle pool to the bottom. Adventurers seeking a more secluded experience can navigate a quick scramble to reach pools further upstream.

Further, for those desiring an overnight camping experience, several primitive campsites are available nearby the trail.

Summary of the Best Secret Swimming Holes in Southern California

RankSwimming HoleLocation
1Devil’s HoleSan Bernardino Mountains
2Santa Paula Punch BowlsLos Pardes National Forest
3Solstice Canyon Swimming HoleMalibu
4Malibu Creek Rock PoolMalibu Creek State Park
5Hermit FallsMonrovia
6Cedar Creek FallsCleveland National Forest
7Switzer FallsSan Gabriel Mountains
8Deep Creek Hot SpringsApple Valley
9Red Rock PoolLos Pardes National Forest
10The Bridge To Nowhere Swimming HolesSan Gabriel Mountains
11Hidden Swimming Holes of Colby CanyonAngeles National Forest
12Three Sisters WaterfallCleveland National Forest
Summary Table of the 12 Best Secret Swimming Holes in Southern California

The Featured Image

Rock Pool picnic area at Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles, California.
© trekandshoot/

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About the Author

I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. My two biggest loves in the world are music and animals. I have even gone on to start my own personal blog called Frontman Philosophy. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

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