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These 10 Natural Swimming Holes In SoCal Are A Must-Visit This Summer

There’s only one thing that’s better than taking a dip in a refreshing pool on a hot summers day.

Taking a dip in a natural swimming hole on a hot summers day!

And luckily, there’s many beautiful swimming holes located right here in Southern California.

So in the rest of this guide, we’ll be revealing the 11 best swimming holes you need to visit in SoCal.

We’ve included a range of options from glorious waterfalls with pools at their base to secret springs located deep within the forest.

Some of these spots are true hidden gems and you might even get to enjoy them entirely to yourself!

Let’s get into it…

1. Red Rock Pool

Red Rock Pool is a stunning natural swimming spot located on the Santa Ynez River near Santa Barbara. 

Tucked away in a scenic canyon, it’s a place where clear, cool water flows over smooth red rocks, creating a beautiful and inviting pool that you can swim in!

To get there, you’ll need to take a short hike through the Los Padres National Forest, following a trail that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness. 

The hike is only 0.5 miles from the parking area.

The pool itself is a popular destination for swimming especially on hot summer days when the water feels super refreshing. 

You’ll be able to enjoy the crystal-clear water, jump off the rocks or just relax and soak up the natural beauty of the area.

Around the pool, there are also lots of large red rocks and sandy areas which are perfect for sunbathing or enjoying a picnic. 

Since Red Rock Pool is a bit of a hidden gem, it’s not usually too crowded so it should be pretty peaceful.

2. Devil’s Hole

Devil’s Hole in the San Bernardino National Forest is a hidden natural pool known for its clear, cool waters. It’s perfect for a refreshing swim!

This swimming hole should not be confused with Devil’s Hole in Death Valley National Park which is not safe for swimming.

Located deep within the forest, this secluded spot offers a peaceful retreat away from the busy world. 

To get there, you’ll need to follow a scenic trail that starts at the Splinters Cabin Trailhead and winds through towering trees and lush greenery. It’s a 6-mile round trip.

It really showcases the beauty of the national forest and you’ll be able to gaze at the creek and canyon below.

The Greater Southwestern Exploration Company / Flickr

The journey to Devil’s Hole is all part of the adventure as it’s filled with the sounds of nature and the chance to see wildlife. 

Once you arrive, you’ll find a serene pool surrounded by rocks and shaded by trees. Feel free to jump in!

The water is crisp and invigorating, it’s ideal for cooling off on a hot day. You’ll also get to meet the fish and tadpoles that call this place home.

Since Devil’s Hole is off the beaten path, it’s usually not crowded at all and if you’re lucky, you might have the swimming hole to yourself!

3. Cooper Canyon Falls

Angeles Chapter History Archives / Flickr

Cooper Canyon Falls is a beautiful, hidden waterfall located in the San Gabriel Mountains which is part of the Angeles National Forest. 

This special place features a waterfall that drops into a small, clear pool below. It’s surrounded by tall trees and green plants. 

To reach Cooper Canyon Falls, you’ll need to hike the Burkhart Trail that is about 3 miles long. It starts from the Buckhorn Campground. 

The hike is fairly easy and offers stunning views of the mountains and forest so it’s an exciting adventure. 

Once you get to the falls, you can cool off by dipping your toes or taking a swim in the pool at the waterfall’s base. 

The water is cold and refreshing, especially after the hike. It’s a peaceful spot and is usually not too crowded.

You can just sit back and listen to the sounds of the waterfall and nature! 

4. Rock Pool at Malibu Creek State Park

The Rock Pool at Malibu Creek State Park is an awesome natural swimming spot located in the Santa Monica Mountains, near Malibu. 

This cool pool is made from the waters of Malibu Creek and it’s surrounded by tall, smooth rocks that give it its name. 

It’s a popular place for locals who want to swim, splash around or just chill by the water. 

Tony Hoffarth / Flickr

Getting to the Rock Pool involves a fun hike through the park where you can see beautiful views of the mountains and maybe even spot some wildlife. 

The hike is around 3 miles round trip so suitable for most people.

The pool itself is pretty big and has clear, refreshing water that’s perfect for beating the heat on a sunny day. 

Wayne Hsieh / Flickr

Around the pool, you’ll find that there are plenty of spots to lay out your towel and relax or have a picnic. 

It can get pretty busy on weekends, so if you’re looking for a quiet spot, try to visit on a weekday. 

5. Santa Paula Punch Bowls

KnaPix / Flickr

The Santa Paula Punch Bowls are a series of natural swimming holes located in the mountains near Santa Paula. 

This hidden gem is located within the lush landscape of the Los Padres National Forest. It’s a really beautiful spot for an adventure. 

To get there, you’ll need to hike through the forest along the Santa Paula Canyon Trail which takes you through the forest and past a creek. It’s around an 8-mile round trip.

This journey itself is all part of the adventure as it offers stunning views of the surrounding nature and the chance to see some wildlife. 

The Punch Bowls themselves are like natural pools and have been carved out of the rock by the flowing water of the creek. 

The water is cool and crystal clear so is perfect for taking a refreshing dip on a hot day. 

Around the pools, there are spots to relax and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature. 

6. Under the Bridge To Nowhere

The Fun Chronicles / Flickr

The natural pool underneath the Bridge To Nowhere is a secret swimming spot hidden in the mountains of Southern California. 

This unique place is part of the San Gabriel Mountains and is located in a remote area that’s only reachable by hiking. 

The Bridge To Nowhere is an actual bridge that was built in the 1930s but now leads to nowhere because the road was never finished. 

Jason Hickey / Flickr

Underneath this abandoned bridge, there’s a beautiful natural pool formed by the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. 

The water in the pool is cool and clear so it’s the perfect spot for a refreshing swim after the hike but make sure to check the currents beforehand.

The Fun Chronicles / Flickr

Surrounded by wild nature, you’ll be able to enjoy the peaceful sounds of the flowing river and birds singing. 

The hike to get there is an adventure itself with stunning views of the canyon and the chance to spot local wildlife. 

7. Laguna Beach Saltwater Pools

The Laguna Beach Saltwater Pools are a series of 2 cool, man-made pools right by the ocean at Thousand Steps Beach in Laguna Beach. 

Ok, so this one isn’t a natural swimming hole but it’s pretty cool so I couldn’t not include it!

These unique pools fill up with saltwater from the Pacific Ocean which is a pretty special experience. 

They’re also located right at the base of a cliff which makes it feel pretty magical and dreamy.

To reach the pools, you’ll need to take a walk down the 250 steps to Thousand Steps Beach.

When you reach the bottom, turn left and walk along the beach until you reach the pools.

Swimming in the pool is a blast especially because you get to enjoy the ocean water without the strong waves. 

The area around the pool is perfect for hanging out, sunbathing and enjoying the stunning ocean views. 

Since it’s not a super well-known spot, it can be less crowded than other beaches, offering a more peaceful day by the water. 

Just remember to check the tide schedule before you go as you should only swim here during low tide. It can be very dangerous at high tide.

8. Switzer Falls

Switzer Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in the Angeles National Forest, not too far from Los Angeles. 

This popular spot is known for its stunning 25-foot waterfall that cascades into a cool, clear pool below. 

To get there, you’ll need to hike from the Switzer Picnic Area, following a trail that winds through a scenic canyon filled with trees and a babbling creek. It’s a 4-mile round trip.

Engineer John / Flickr

The hike to the falls is an adventure and offers amazing views of the forest and the chance to see local plants and animals. 

Once you reach Switzer Falls, you can swim in the natural pool at the base of the falls which is a refreshing reward after the hike. 

ccharmon / Flickr

The water is crisp and refreshing especially on hot summer days. 

The area around the falls is also ideal for relaxing, taking photos and enjoying a picnic. 

9. Three Sisters Waterfall

The Three Sisters Waterfall is an amazing natural attraction located in the Cleveland National Forest, near San Diego. 

Melissa Emmons Photography / Flickr

This spot features three beautiful waterfalls that cascade into a series of pools which has created a perfect place for a cool dip on a hot day. 

To reach the falls, you’ll need to hike a challenging trail that’s about 4 miles round trip. It starts at the Three Sisters Falls Trailhead.

The hike can be steep and rugged in places so it’s important to wear good hiking shoes and bring plenty of water. 

Melissa Emmons Photography / Flickr

When you get to the Three Sisters Waterfall, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the waterfalls and the surrounding forest. 

The pools at the base of the falls are great for swimming but it’s important to be careful as the rocks can be slippery. 

Swimming here feels like a hidden oasis in the middle of the forest.

10. Green Valley Falls

penny meyer / Flickr

Green Valley Falls is a beautiful set of waterfalls located in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, near San Diego. 

This spot is known for its picturesque waterfalls and the cool, clear pools that form at their base. 

The falls are actually part of the Sweetwater River which flows through a lush, green valley filled with oak and pine trees. 

penny meyer / Flickr

To get there, you can take an easy ¼ mile hike along the well-marked trail that offers great views of the surrounding nature. 

The pools at the base of falls are perfect for swimming especially on hot summer days when the water feels wonderfully refreshing. 

Besides swimming, you can also enjoy picnicking, exploring the nearby trails or just relaxing by the water. 

The area around Green Valley Falls is usually not too crowded so it’s a peaceful place to enjoy the outdoors. 

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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