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This Waterfall-Fed Pool Near Yosemite Is SO Beautiful You’ll NEVER Want To Leave 😍

Today, we’re diving into one of Northern California’s best-kept secrets – Rainbow Pool. 

This natural swimming hole is a perfect spot to cool off and have some fun, especially if you’re heading to Yosemite National Park. 

This post covers everything you need to know about this serene swimming hole and there’s also a video at the end to give you a better idea of what it looks like.

Where Is It?

Rainbow Pool is located about 15 miles west of Groveland, California, in the Stanislaus National Forest. 

The Journey

The drive to Rainbow Pool is part of the adventure.

It’s a quick and scenic drive from Groveland, making it a convenient stop if you’re visiting Yosemite National Park. 

As you wind through the forest, you’ll be treated to stunning views of towering pine trees and rugged landscapes. 

The anticipation builds as you approach the pool and it’s crystal clear waters.

Make sure your passengers have their camera ready to capture the breathtaking scenery while you drive there.

Finding it

Finding it can be tricky since it’s off the side of a highway.

google map rainbow pool california
Google Maps

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

  1. To get there, take Highway 120 east from Groveland (towards Yosemite) and turn onto Cherry Lake Road (Forest Road 1N07). 
  2. Keep following the road and you’ll eventually see a sign that says ‘Rainbow Pool Day Use Area’
  3. Keep going further until you reach a small parking area just before a bridge that looks over the pool area.
  4. Park up and head down the walkway to the pool

Note* Cherry Lake Road may be closed in winter.

💡 Pro tip: The Google Maps entry for Rainbow Pool Day Use Area takes you to the turnoff from Highway 120 onto Cherry Lake Road. You still have to keep driving down Cherry Lake Road until you reach Rainbow Pool and the parking area.

rainbow pool google map graphic
Google Maps

Here’s the google maps link.

The Pool Itself

Rainbow Pool is a beautiful natural swimming hole created by the South Fork of the Tuolumne River. 

The clear, cool water is perfect for swimming, especially on a hot summer day. 

Imagine yourself diving into the refreshing waters, the sunlight dancing on the surface, and the gentle roar of the small waterfall in the background.

Surrounded by lush forests and rocky cliffs, this picturesque pool features a small waterfall that adds to its charm. 

It’s a place where nature’s beauty and tranquility come together to create an unforgettable experience.


There’s something for everyone at Rainbow Pool:


The main attraction at Rainbow Pool is, of course, swimming.

The pool’s clear waters and natural surroundings make it an ideal spot for a dip.

You’ll also spot people cliff jumping, which can be fun but potentially dangerous.

You can make up your own mind about this.


Relax on the rocks and soak up some California sun.


Bring some snacks and enjoy a meal by the water. (just don’t leave a mess)

There are plenty of shaded areas to relax and enjoy the scenery. 

Imagine spreading out a blanket, unpacking your favorite snacks, and enjoying a meal surrounded by the sounds of nature. 

No alcoholic beverages are allowed here.

Why You Should Visit

Rainbow Pool is more than just a swimming hole – it’s a slice of California paradise.

Here’s why you shouldn’t miss it:

Natural beauty:

The crystal-clear water, mini waterfall, and surrounding landscape are absolutely stunning.

It gives you a perfect break from city life.

Fun for all ages:

Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Rainbow Pool has it all.

Swim in the water, fish in the river or just take in the scenery.

Convenient location: It’s a perfect stop on your way to or from Yosemite National Park.

Photography and Memories

The stunning backdrop of Rainbow Pool, with its waterfall and surrounding forest, makes it a great spot for photography. 

Whether you’re capturing the waterfall or the lush greenery, you’ll find plenty of picture-perfect moments. 

Unique experience: 

How often do you get to swim in a natural pool with a waterfall?

Great for cooling off: 

On hot California days, there’s no better place to beat the heat.

Know Before You Go

To make the most of your visit to Rainbow Pool, keep these tips in mind:


American Land & Leisure operates Rainbow Pools Day Use during the summer (typically May through September) and charges the following fee: $10.00 per car.

Best Time To Visit

The pool is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the summer months. 

The water is warmest in mid-July, making it perfect for swimming.

Avoid weekends and holidays where possible because it can get busy and parking is very limited here.

If you just want to take in the scenery and are not too bothered about swimming then fall is a good time to visit when it’s quiet and the trees change colors.

Safety First

While Rainbow Pool is a lot of fun, it’s important to stay safe:

The water can be cold, especially early in the season.

 It’s also a good idea to bring a first aid kit for minor scrapes and injuries.

Be careful when climbing on rocks – they can be slippery.

Keep an eye on children at all times.

What to Bring

To make your day at Rainbow Pool awesome, pack these essentials:

  1. Swimsuit and towel
  2. Water shoes (the bottom can be rocky)
  3. Sunscreen
  4. Snacks and water
  5. Camera (for those Instagram-worthy shots!)
  6. Something to pack your trash

No Camping Allowed

While it’s tempting to want to stay overnight at this beautiful spot, camping is not permitted at Rainbow Pool. 

But don’t worry – you can go to Sweetwater Campground which is only a few minutes drive away on the highway if you want to extend your stay.

You can also stay at the nearby Lillaskog Lodge if you don’t like camping.

Leave No Trace

Rainbow Pool is a beautiful natural area, and we want to keep it that way.

Remember to take all your trash with you when you leave.

Help keep this spot pristine for future visitors!


When you’re in a  secluded serene area you can’t always expect the best of facilities. 

There are very basic facilities at Rainbow Pool so be prepared.

There are vault toilets and a limited parking area. 

There are no stores here or nearby so come prepared with anything you think you might need or want. 

Some visitors say the toilets can get pretty dirty, particularly when it’s busy, so just be aware of that. 

Nearby Attractions

Rainbow Pool is amazing, but there’s so much more to explore in the area.

Here are some nearby attractions to check out:

Yosemite National Park

Just a short drive away, Yosemite offers breathtaking views, hiking trails, and iconic landmarks like El Capitan and Half Dome. 

Whether you’re hiking to Bridalveil Fall or marveling at the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, Yosemite provides endless opportunities for adventure and discovery. 

Plan a picnic in the park, take a leisurely hike, or simply drive through the scenic routes to experience the grandeur of one of America’s most famous national parks.

To find out more about things to do in Yosemite check out this guide:

Hetch Hetchy

This is still part of the Yosemite National Park but it’s much less crowded with visitors and a lot of people miss out on it.

For example, you can do a beautiful hike from Hetch Hetchy to Rancheria Falls that offers stunning views of the landscape.

There’s also Wapama Falls, an impressive waterfall that’s particularly spectacular in spring.


The nearby town of Groveland is the closest place you’ll probably head for any supplies or food. 

Groveland has historic old-west-style buildings and shops that are fun to explore. 

Pine Mountain Lake is also here, a beautiful place to relax and enjoy time with the family doing water activities. 

Stanislaus National Forest

In addition to Yosemite, the Stanislaus National Forest offers a wealth of outdoor activities and scenic spots. 

For a scenic stop on your drive don’t miss the ‘Stanislaus National Forest Vista: Rim of the World’.

Here you can take a break and take in the beautiful landscape.

Explore nearby hiking trails to explore places like the South / Middle Fork Tuolumne Confluence where you can find another hidden waterfall.

Visit other places where you can swim like Cherry Lake or Pinecrest Lake, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of the forest. 

There are also plenty of fishing spots in the Stanislaus National Forest if that’s your kind of thing.

The diversity of the landscape ensures there’s something for everyone, whether you’re an avid hiker, a casual nature lover, or someone looking for a quiet spot to relax.

Useful links

Here’s a YouTube video you might useful to see what the place looks like.

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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