5 Fun Water Holes Near Groveland CA

Some people love to enjoy a hot summer day by lounging around and swimming in the safe waters of a pool. Others prefer the old fashioned joy of paddling around in a natural pool or stream.  And still others search out cliffs and waterfalls to jump into eye-popping cold water. Water that was ice an hour before.  Swimming pool people, these recommendations may not be for you! All others, here are five great ideas for some summer swimming fun.

So put on your suits, get out your waterproof sunscreen and water shoes!  There are some wonderful swimming holes just a short drive from the Groveland Hotel. Here are 5 of them:

Rainbow Pool in Groveland, CA

Here is a great stop either on the way to or from Yosemite. There are bathrooms nearby, but sometimes parking is difficult, if it is crowded.

Rainbow pools are natural swimming holes formed along the south fork of the Tuolumne River.  The area is rocky, not sandy, with some folks jumping from rocks into the cool water. Make sure you have the proper footgear, as the rocks can be mossy and slippery.  At one end, there is a small waterfall, which is gorgeous. There is less of a slope on the far side, which makes for wading or just relaxing and dipping your feet in the water. Bring water and snacks, as there is nothing close by.

Directions: 15 miles East of Groveland on Hwy 120. Once you pass the View Point parking area (Rim of the World), watch for a right turn just before the big bridge.

Carlon Falls in Groveland, CA

Carlon Falls is actually in Yosemite, but the trailhead is just outside the park, so you can visit without a pass.  There is a 2.25 mile (each way) hike from the trailhead, going upstream with the river on your right side. There are several rather steep uphill/downhill climbs on the trail. 

Before you get to the falls, there are a couple of smaller swimming holes, or, go all the way to the falls, where there are larger pools right at and under the falls.  You can also hike to the top of the falls for several more pools for wading or hiking. The amount and force of the water will vary with the season and rainfall, but be aware that the rocks can be slippery. Carlon Falls is one of the waterfalls that usually has water year round.

Directions: Hwy 120 to Evergreen Rd, one mile to Carlon Day Use area.

God’s Bath in Sonora CA

The path into the Clavey River Canyon starts from the Northeast corner of the bridge.  There are ropes to assist you down the steep and sandy trail. Once you have reached the canyon, it is about a mile of rock-hopping and wading upstream until you reach the pools.

There are several pools, including a granite bridge. You can jump off the waterfall/cliff, and swim under the bridge and pop out in a hole milled by the water.

Directions: Hwy 120E 15 miles to left turn onto Cherry Lake Rd until you reach Cherry Lake, then continue on Cottonwood Rd another 15 miles until you reach the Cottonwood Bridge, park in one of the pullouts

Natural Bridges Hiking Trail in Vallecito, CA

No matter how hot the day, the water will be cold running through the caves carved by Coyote Creek.  (Snow melt from the Sierra Nevadas!) There is a one mile hike from the trailhead to the water, with a restroom at the start. Bring with you lots of water, snacks, and (optional but a lot of fun) a flotation device.  Make sure you have foot coverings that work in the water to protect your feet from sharp rocks.  The trail is wide and easy enough, but don’t wander far off the trail–there is lots of poison oak on either side.

Best time to go is early in the day to have the area to yourself.  The creek enters and exits the cave; the entrance water is quite shallow, but it gets deeper, darker and colder as you go into the cave.  Here is where the flotation device comes in (or you could use a life jacket)!  Float on your back and use a headlamp (or your phone, if you have it in a waterproof case) to shine up to the ceiling of the cave and check out the stalagmites and stalactites.

Directions: Hwy 4 to Parrots Ferry Rd, travel 4 miles to marked Trailhead. No pets allowed.

Cleo’s Bath in Pinecrest, CA

This swimming hole and waterfall has a 7 mile hike (loop); so if you are up for it, go! The hike is challenging in parts, but scenic.

Once you reach the water, there are two main swimming areas that comprise Cleo’s Bath.  The main pool is about 60 feet across and about 6 feet deep. The second is a 15 foot waterfall with a small swimming area underneath it. Some brave souls jump from the top of the waterfall to the hole beneath, but do beware! There are cascades outside of the waterfall that would be dangerous to be caught in.

Directions: Hwy 108 E to Pinecrest Lake

Whenever you are going to a natural pool, waterfall or stream, please make sure that you check to make sure that the area has not been closed due to weather or fire conditions. Conditions can vary greatly from season to season.

  • Check river and stream conditions before heading out on your adventure and always let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Inspect swimming areas carefully. Sometimes hazards might not be evident from a quick glance.
  • Don’t assume you have the swimming skills to keep you afloat, even the strongest swimmers are not a match for some water conditions. Consider bringing a flotation device.
  • Keep a close watch on children even if they are far from the water. Water safety for children is especially important as they can quickly enter the water when your attention is diverted for only a moment.
  • Be extremely careful when walking, playing or climbing on slippery rocks and logs near rivers and streams.
  • Don’t swim or wade upstream from a waterfall, even if the water appears shallow or calm.
  • Be cautious of sudden drop-offs.

We want you to have fun, and come back to your comfortable room at Groveland Hotel and tell us all about your adventures!

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