Welcome to SUMMER ladies and gentlemen!!! As of June 21st, its officially the season we dream about all winter during those cold rainy nights. Summers in Northern California are what authors write about, and song writers sing about. Although Sacramento’s peak of summer can hit temperatures in the triple digits, the perfect combination of warm weather and low humidity often still makes the rest of the country jealous. So with this picturesque scenery and sometimes sweltering heat, what is the first activity that comes to mind? SWIMMING. We are blessed in Sacramento with a multitude of rivers and lakes that dot and scamper though the sierra foothills. From natural water slides, to 60 foot jumping rocks, there is nothing like taking a nice refreshing plunge into what makes Northern California so unique, Swimming Holes.
Since I moved to Sacramento, I have become obsessed with finding the perfect swimming hole, a one of a kind utopia that fills my dreams. After 16 years of searching, driving unmarked dirt roads and often hiking without a trail, these are four swimming holes that I think are the perfect representation of what Northern California has to offer. Be it the perfect family hangout, the spot that no one knows about or just a good hike, these are some of my favorites and some of the most easily accessible. When the heat reaches 105 degrees in the valley, you will share my dreams of these beautiful utopias.
1. University Falls: This is probably the most well-known and classic swimming hole, a true site to behold. After a beautiful two mile hike through the sierra forest, you emerge to find a set of natural water slides. I’m not kidding, after thousands of years of erosion, the granite now forms three slides dropping into safe pools of crystal clear water. Because this is a better known spot, there may be upwards of forty people there on a hot summer day. Total hike is about 4 miles, moderate with a small part that is slightly strenuous. Located off highway 49, approximately 10 miles out of Georgetown.
2. Golden Quartz: There aren’t many swimming holes in the Foothills that are accessible enough for kids, and if so, they are usually flooded with people. This family friendly swimming hole off the South Fork of the Yuba River is still a relative secret. The small sandy beach and picnic area isn’t a far walk from your car. Golden Quartz also has the added benefit of a slow water current meaning you can loosen your lease on the little ones playing in the water. It’s a bit of a drive (about 1.5 hours from downtown Sacramento) but pack a picnic, roll your windows down and your family will continue to come back every year.
3. Oregon Creek: This is one of my personal favorites because of the peaceful solitude you can find here. Located off the Middle Fork of the Yuba River, the lack of signs and directions make finding it difficult and thus decreases its foot traffic. After a short but steep walk from the main road, the trees open up to a cathedral of nature that takes your breath away. As for the swimming, its a little shallow but there are plenty of rocks to meander around and find your inner salamander. The large granite rocks provide great spots to picnic, suntan or read a book. This private romantic swimming hole will definitely win some points with the lady.
4. Yankee Jim Bridge: This beauty on the North Fork of the American River has everything you look for in a swimming hole. There are large granite tanning rocks, small sandy beaches, multiple tall jumping rocks and of course crystal clear water. Prepare to drive three miles on a dirt road, parking is a little tough if you show up midday and the 100 yards of steep decline to the river is difficult but are well worth the beauty of old Yankee Jim Bridge suspended above the granite stadium seating cheering on the gently flowing waters.
When the pressures of daily life get stressful, I find that a day in the Foothills rejuvenates and reenergizes. Surrounded by beauty and solitude, escaping the lines, traffic and cell phone service, I can shed any worries or troubles and appreciate my life and those I love. Hopefully those who read this will go visit, not one but all of these swimming holes and experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the Sierra Foothills.
On a more serious note, its MOST IMPORTANT to remember that California can only be as beautiful as we keep it. You must pack out what you pack in, this means your mother will not pick up your trash after you leave. Be RESPECTFUL of others sharing the experience at these waterholes. Do not trespass on private property! And be CAREFUL!! None of these places have cell phone reception, that means if you take a turn on the dirt road too fast or jump off a rock that’s too high, emergency services are not around the block. These are not easy places to get to, you must be prepared for steep hikes, dirt roads with cliff edges and swift currents.
For more info, check out this fantastic blog on California’s top swimming holes.