Northern California Swimming Holes

    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.

    THJ on Slide (1 of 1)

    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.

    IMG_0878

    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.

    swimming holes

    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.

    jankee jim

    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.

    patrick@aitchison-adams.com

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    27 Responses to “Northern California Swimming Holes”

    • HoneyMichelle Hendricks

      Written on

      I am floored, awe is all i can come up wth. on fb i sald there are just no words…jawe dropping (kindof a play on the word jaw, because these swimming hole are awesome and my jaw just dropped). Thank you for sharing. I will be sharing with all 558 of my fb friends and family. Love it I really hope i get to experience at least one. Thank you again.
      Sincerely,
      HoneyMichelle Hendricks

      Reply
    • Natalie

      Written on

      Just hoping to get a little more direction to golden quartz. Could you help?

      Reply
      • Cat McDonnell

        Written on

        Would love to know how to get to Golden Quartz please. Can’t find it anywhere.

        Reply
    • angelina

      Written on

      Golden Quarts, Oregon Creek and University Falls. Could I get directions coming from downtown Sacramento please I’m excited to check these out

      Reply
    • Joel Short

      Written on

      Enjoyed your article. Would love to get the specific directions to these swimming holes. Thx!

      Reply
    • Cindy Shaver

      Written on

      Thank you love the info & picture are spectacular !! I would love the directions.

      Reply
    • DENA RAMSAY

      Written on

      You forgot about Butte County!! We have some of the best swimming holes in the North State!!

      Reply
    • Melissa

      Written on

      This is great. My family loves to find crazy places to swim and hike and these will be on our agenda this summer to go find and play.

      Reply
    • Ben Friedrich

      Written on

      It’s always worth telling people NOT to go near the fourth fall at University Falls. People die on that one every year. My friend volunteers at the fire department up there and only a month ago they had to pull out a girl in her early 20s who fell to her death there.

      Reply
    • Phillips

      Written on

      Thank you so much for the share. I’ll need to check out as many places as I can.

      Reply
    • Wendy

      Written on

      Thank you Patrick for reminding everyone to be safe and to respect our beautiful rivers! While it may just be a day at the river for some, for many it is our home and for me, it happens to be my children’s backyard 🙂

      Reply
    • Jen

      Written on

      This is a great list, but how do you get to the locations? Directions would be great!

      Reply
      • Matt Aitchison

        Written on

        We will be sure to pass along any referrals your direction for people looking for a great crossfit gym!

        Reply
    • kelly Dunham

      Written on

      This year the trash at University Falls is outrageous. We’ve heard that with all the human excrement at the site the water may be unsafe to swim in. My family has taken this one off our list because it has turned into swimming in a toilet.

      Reply
    • Meghan

      Written on

      We just went to University Falls last week. It was beautiful and very clean!!! It is a long hike in but so worth it! It is located just past the town of Cool. I was able to find it on a google search. No such luck for the other spots. 🙁

      Reply
    • Tracee

      Written on

      What a walk down memory lane or in my case “Yankee Jims Rd” which I used to live off of and would regularly walk or jog down this road with my dogs to to river. Memories…

      Reply
    • Sara Gibson

      Written on

      Important to know #1.

      Pilot Creek Falls (a.k.a University Falls) are undeveloped wildlands overseen by UC Center for Forestry. As with all Center for Forestry lands, VISITORS ENTER AT THEIR OWN RISK, and access may be restricted or prohibited at any time. Motorized use and camping are strictly prohibited.

      Several issues and hazards exist:

      – The route leading to the falls passes through public and private lands. Land surrounding the falls is PRIVATE. The trail to the falls is undeveloped and can be hazardous.

      – Getting to the falls involves a 5.4 mile round trip along dirt roads and an unimproved trail. The elevation change is 1200 feet and involves a steep ascent.

      – Several injuries and fatalities have occurred. Many of these injuries have occurred on the fourth falls, although every fall can cause injury. Slippery rocks and the slippery trail have also caused injuries.

      – Water may be unsafe for drinking and swimming from upstream contamination.

      – Emergency response may take 2 or more hours. There is no cellular reception at or en route to the falls.

      – You may be responsible for financially reimbursing emergency response services.

      – All open flames and camping are strictly prohibited.

      – Street side parking is limited. Illegal parking (in Quintette or across white lines) can lead to your vehicle being cited and likely towed at your expense.

      – There are no restrooms or garbage service at or along the route to the falls.

      Reply
    • Michelle Grace

      Written on

      Please stay away from University Falls! It is unsafe and unhealthy for people to visit anymore!

      Pilot Creek Falls (a.k.a University Falls) are undeveloped wildlands overseen by UC Center for Forestry. As with all Center for Forestry lands, VISITORS ENTER AT THEIR OWN RISK, and access may be restricted or prohibited at any time. Motorized use and camping are strictly prohibited.
      Several issues and hazards exist:
      – The route leading to the falls passes through public and private lands. Land surrounding the falls is PRIVATE. The trail to the falls is undeveloped and can be hazardous.
      – Getting to the falls involves a 5.4 mile round trip along dirt roads and an unimproved trail. The elevation change is 1200 feet and involves a steep ascent.
      – Several injuries and fatalities have occurred. Many of these injuries have occurred on the fourth falls, although every fall can cause injury. Slippery rocks and the slippery trail have also caused injuries.
      – Water may be unsafe for drinking and swimming from upstream contamination.
      – Emergency response may take 2 or more hours. There is no cellular reception at or en route to the falls.
      – You may be responsible for financially reimbursing emergency response services.
      – All open flames and camping are strictly prohibited.
      – Street side parking is limited. Illegal parking (in Quintette or across white lines) can lead to your vehicle being cited and likely towed at your expense.
      – There are no restrooms or garbage service at or along the route to the falls.

      Reply
    • Audrey

      Written on

      Kelly is absolutely right. University Falls has been turned into a swimming toilet and the amount of trash and human waste is unbelievable and disgusting. In addition, the place is literally overrun with people – forty people would be a relief and a super slow day – the last time I went there were more than 80 cars parked on the road near the trail head, which means there were at least 150 people, and CHP was towing cars because they will no longer let people park on the shoulder with their tires partly on the road. The place just isn’t big enough for the crowds, and the people that are still going have no respect for the place or the other people there. I recommend you take this one off the list, it has lost its appeal.

      Reply
    • Melissa

      Written on

      Agree with Kelly. It has become a disgusting and unattractive sight because of irresponsible people! Why can’t people pack in what they pack out? And for crimes sake…if you gotta go, take doggie-doo bags instead of leaving it and toilet paper along the shore! Go to yelp and check out some of the nasty pictures…

      Reply
    • Ask

      Written on

      I like what you guys tend to be up too. This type of clever
      work and exposure! Keep up the great works guys I’ve you guys to
      my personal blogroll.

      Reply
    • Paul

      Written on

      I’d also avoid Oregon Creek and Golden Quartz. Backwoods swimming holes draw backwoods crowds. If you are missing half your teeth and plan to schwill a case of MGD while there, then you might fit in.

      Reply

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