The Best Swimming Holes In California

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: December 14, 2022
© Tom Ha/
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When temps edge close to the triple digits, our desire to jump into a swimming hole to cool off climbs right along with the mercury. Fortunately, there are lots of options for both in the stunning state of California. Along with the sandy beaches along the shore, there are a few swimming holes deeper inland in which you can cool down when the weather is warmer.

Red Rock Pool

About an hour’s drive from Santa Barbara, in the woodland along the Santa Ynez River, is a swimming hole known as Red Rock Pool. When the river is flowing, the water is deep enough for people to leap off of cliffs at different heights; some adventurers even do so from rocks that are about 35 feet above the water. 

The pool may be seen down an incline to the right after a short, half-mile hike that includes a hill that is about 50 feet tall. Further down the path, which extends for another three miles to Gibraltar Dam, are more swimming spots that get progressively less busy. 

A flock of swallows makes the stones its home, and many of the boulders are covered in their nests. The Parks Management Company oversees the parking lot and day-use amenities at the Red Rock Trailhead. Parking costs $10 per vehicle each day.

Red Rock Pool swimming hole in California
Red Rock Pool is a swimming hole found along the Santa Ynez River in California where people can often cliff jump into the water.

©Harold Litwiler / Flickr – License

Cedar Creek Falls

A magnificent cascade, Cedar Creek Falls plunges 80 feet into a sizable body of water. Hikers can follow the routes to Cedar Creek Falls via the stunning wilderness hills in eastern San Diego. During the warmer months, the falls usually aren’t in use, and the pool at their base stagnates and overgrows with algae. 

This San Diego landmark spot offers a natural drinking hole, breathtaking views, and excellent exercise. However, it is not a route that is suggested for novices as it may be very challenging and take up to six hours for a roundtrip, especially in the heat.

Is there anything more entrancing than reaching a magnificent waterfall at the end of a strenuous hike? We struggle to think of a better prize. On your next vacation, stay away from the beaches and instead swim around San Diego’s waterfalls for a more memorable experience. 

Visitors will be on the right path toward this refreshing water hole in Southern California if you begin the walk at Thornbush Road in Ramona.

Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls in San Diego offers a natural drinking hole, breathtaking views and a fun, yet challenging, hiking experience.

©Jimmy W/

Hidden Swimming Holes of Colby Canyon

The swimming spots in Colby Canyon are the ideal places to go if you want to get away from the tourists and the heat. This location’s “secret” designation should not be taken for granted. This will probably become apparent as you make your way through the difficult terrain heading to the holes. 

Wear the proper footwear, as we’re advising you in advance. You’ll find fantastic swimming spots close to the area where Colby and Daisy Canyons meet if you do have some hiking ability and are willing to take on difficult terrain.

With required mountain climbing and bushwhacking, it is undoubtedly an adventurous hike. The reward is a spotless stretch of granite bowl pools, which are the ideal place to cool off during your exploration of the frequently disregarded Colby Canyon of the Angeles National Forest.

Under the Bridge to Nowhere

Bridge to Nowhere, a deserted bridge that crosses the East Fork of the San Gabriel River on a washed-away roadway in the San Gabriel Mountains, is known affectionately as such by nature-loving Angelenos. 

On this 10-mile round-trip journey with a 900-foot elevation gain, you’ll have a great time. To reach the Bridge to Nowhere, the walk crosses multiple rivers, providing additional opportunities to pause and go for a dip. Give this excursion at least six hours of your time. 

To hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, you need a day-use pass for the national forest as well as an easy-to-get wilderness permit. The Bridge itself is quite distinctive. You can dive into the pools of water below and bungee jump off of the bridge!  

Bridge to Nowhere California
The Bridge to Nowhere in the San Gabriel Mountains of California makes for a fun and refreshing 10-mile round-trip journey.


Deep Creek Hot Springs

The Deep Creek area’s terrain is distinct in the context of southern California, and the area and country place a high value on its recreational activities. The thermal hot springs in this area are distinctive and significant for the region. 

Whenever someone travels to Deep Creek, they can take advantage of anywhere between six and seven geothermal pools. The five main hot pools are normally between 100 and 105 degrees. The highest pool has the warmest temperature and is the ideal size for one or two daring soakers. Don’t hesitate to use the hot shower down below!

Do not drink the water when visiting these hot springs. Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, an uncommon and occasionally fatal disease, is present in the Hot Springs pools of Deep Creek. The Deep Creek drainage is becoming more and more polluted by humans and organic matter as a result of the numerous visitors to the Hot Springs. 

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Deep Creek hot springs in California
Deep Creek hot springs in California.
© Tom Ha/

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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