UPDATED JUN 10, 2020
The hike may be hard. You may get lost more than once. The water is probably freezing. But discovering your town’s natural swimming holes tops overly chlorinated pools any day. The secret is out, but these spots are 100% LA bucket-listers.
Away from the city but close to the beach, Solstice Canyon offers all (expect crowds) a bit of everything: The oldest stone building in Malibu, a burned-down mansion, and for you swimming-hole-seeking folk, a waterfall with a small pool perfect for cooling off on a hot day. Coast down and back the Solstice Canyon Trail for an easy three-mile out-and-back stroll to reach it! Update 2017: this spot is currently closed off to the public by the park service due to the discovery of rare red-legged frogs. Sorry! Malibu, CA – 45 minutes away
A four-mile out-and-back trip, hiking to Switzer Falls is well-worth braving crowds to get your swim on. In the Angeles National Forest, kick things off from the easily accessible Switzer’s Picnic Area and follow signs for Switzer Falls. Above the chatter of nearby hikers and the barks of friendly dogs, you’ll probably hear Switzer Falls before seeing it in its 50-foot glory! Fitt Tip: way too crowded? Continue down Bear Canyon Road to find some less-popular (yet just as cold and refreshing!) swimming holes away from the masses. Tujunga, CA – 40 minutes away
At Eaton Canyon within the Angeles National Forest, discover a peaceful swimming hole perfect for chilling with buds on hot summer days. Beginning at Eaton Canyon Creek and then hopping over to Eaton Canyon Trail, cross several bubbling streams (multiple times) before hearing the canyon’s most popular attraction: A 40-foot waterfall cascading into a large swimming hole! Despite being crowded on weekends, going for a chilly dunk or cooling off on the bank to break up this four-mile out-and-back hike leaves you refreshed and hungry for more Eaton Canyon adventures. Pasadena, CA – 30 minutes away
Protected by sycamore and bay trees at the end of a craggy gorge, this swimming spot also serves as a picnic paradise. An easy local favorite in Malibu Creek State Park, this popular rock pool is home to hikers, rock climbers, cliff jumpers, and plenty others looking to escape the LA heat. BUT, be careful if you decide to cliff jump at this spot — there are tons of rocks (and kids!) looking to mess up your 10-out-of-10 pencil dive. Fitt Tip: skip out on paying $12 at the park’s central lot and park on Mulholland Highway, then hike to the pool via Grasslands Trail. Calabasas, CA – 40 minutes away
In Santa Anita Canyon within Angeles National Forest, you get Hermit Falls, a magnificent area with two swimming holes. Park in the lots near Chantry Flats for $10 or along the road leading to the trailhead with an Adventure Pass, then take Chantry Flats to Hermit Falls Trail to begin your switchback descent into a shaded and overgrown canyon that feels hours away from bustling LA. After some hiking, you’ll arrive at Hermit Falls, a hearty creek that cascades into two swimming pools and keeps the water chilly and clear! Note: Probably best to splash around and not jump off anything. Cliff jumping here has proven hazardous. Arcadia, CA – 40 minutes away
Make a day (it’s an 11-mile round-trip hike) of the Bridge to Nowhere in the San Gabriel Mountains to find the most secluded swimming spot in LA. Kick things off at East Fork Road and follow Bridge to Nowhere signs, which will have you crossing multiple rivers, hiking over rough terrain, and jumping between pockets of shaded and expanses of sunny space. Once you reach the bridge, hike down to its base for a long swim in one of its many fast-flowing, crystal clear rock pools — you’ve certainly earned it! Just be sure to buy a Wilderness Permit upon entering and hiking this part of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. La Verne, CA – 1 hour away
Cooper Canyon Falls in San Gabriel Mountains National Monument offers adventurous Angelenos a chance to hit up the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail—a beast of a trail that spans from Mexico to Canada) and a small yet precious rock pool all in one outing! The three-mile out-and-back trip to this spot begins at Burkhart Trail and continues for a little over a mile until you hit the PCT, and then you descend into a small canyon. Hear the gentle sounds of Cooper Canyon Falls? You’ve almost reached your beautiful destination, and once you’re back, you can tell your friends you’ve hiked the PCT to boot (even if it was just a small portion)! Pearblossom, CA – 1 hour, 20 minutes away
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