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ALL THE BEST SWIMMING HOLES NEAR SAN FRANCISCO

11 PLACES

UPDATED AUG 18, 2020

There’s nothing like a refreshing dip on a hot summer day. And we've got the rundown of all the best swim spots in and around San Francisco.

author

LARISSA RUNKLE

FITT SAN-FRANCISCO CONTRIBUTOR

As the largest river in California, the Sacramento River is a solid spot for a swim. Paradise Beach is open year-round and is one of the prized free swimming areas along the river. But no reason to spend all day paddling when you can float. This is one of the best places for lazy-day tubing in the state.

American River intersects with the Sacramento River, so it can sometimes be hard to tell the two apart. Most swimmers flock to Watt Ave., but as with all river swimming, be sure to check the strength of the currents before diving in.

This swimming hole is about as beautiful as it gets. Down past railroad tracks is a secret cove with chilly waters surrounded by rocky cliffs and shady forest. To get there, follow Highway 9 through the Santa Cruz Mountains and take the Ox Trail along the San Lorenzo River.

The saltiest swimming hole around, this lake is an amazing place to go for a float. Just east of the Sierra, Mono Lake is best enjoyed after a few days spent in the famous Yosemite Valley. Trust us — you’ll welcome the swim post hike. Take Tioga Pass for a cool-down dip and insane mountain views before heading back to the city.

You're going to have to work to get to this secret swimming hole. Hidden in the middle of a 6.5-mile loop hike in Pinecrest, Cleo’s Bath is the ultimate lounge pool and comes with epic waterfall views. It’s nestled in Stanislaus National Forest, so other trails will be much busier, making this the perfect under-the-radar getaway on a hot weekend.

Easily the top swimming hole of East Bay, Lake Anza is a man-made rec spot just beyond Berkeley. Often crowded on warm days, the sandy beach make it a top place for swimming and laying out on the shore.

The pride of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay is a gorgeous place to get your swim on. With vibrant aquamarine waters, this part of Tahoe is just as nice as its better-known locations (it’s not exactly a secret) and an awesome place to splash around on a summer day.

McCloud is a bit of a journey for anyone coming directly from The Bay. But if you find yourself hanging out in the northern part of the state, make a stop at one of the river’s three famous falls. Upper and Lower Falls are by far the best, with upper sometimes being more secluded and cold, and lower being your typical beachy hangout.

This place is a tubing paradise but also has several amazing beaches for swimming. Sunset Beach is one, offering ample picnicking space and a place to launch your kayak. Too active? The “Secret Spot” off Redwood Dr. is the perfect for a secluded swim.

More like a lakeside resort than a simple swimming hole, this place makes our list for its incredible scenery and fun summer vibes. Not for the low-key beach goer, this Alameda County lake is pretty much guaranteed to be busy at all times.

This is easily Point Reyes's best freshwater swimming option. It's has sandy shores, crisp, blue waters, and paddleboard rentals. And for those who want to explore the area, check out the trails and nearby restaurants before taking a dip.

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