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Take a dip
in a 209 secret swimming hole

Swimming is one of the best ways to cool off in the late summer heat. Taking a dip in a “swimming hole” can not only bring much-needed relief from soaring temperatures, it can also stir up childhood memories of summer adventures. 

Natural Bridges

Swimming in the pools located on the Natural Bridges trail may make you feel like you’re in a scene from a movie. This beautiful, two-mile round-trip hike will lead you to spectacular limestone caverns, carved out over hundreds of years by Coyote Creek. Maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, this natural feature is one of their recommended trails when visiting New Melones Lake. The water may be cold, but it’s perfect for a summer cooldown via a swim, wade or raft through the formation. This area is a fragile ecosystem, so dogs and bikes aren’t allowed. During the summer, mid-week visits are best as this secluded spot is a popular destination. 

Getting there

From Highway 4, turn onto Parrots Ferry Road. Go about 4 miles and park at the marked trail head on the right, keeping an eye out for the brown “Natural Bridges Day Use Area” sign on the side of the road.

Rainbow Pools

Many are familiar with the magnificence of Yosemite National Park, but few are aware that while driving on Highway 120 on their way to the valley, they can stop at one of the best swimming holes in the state. Rainbow Pools are natural swimming holes along the south fork of the Tuolumne River, where timid visitors can dip their feet into the water, experienced swimmers can take a dive and thrill seekers can plunge from the rock-lined edges. Originally a toll stop on the Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite, and then later a resort development, the area is now a picnic, swimming, hiking and fishing spot. 

Getting There

Rainbow Pools is located 15 miles East of Groveland off of Highway 120. Just after you pass the View Point parking area called Rim of the World, which looks down onto the Tuolumne River canyon, watch for a turn on the right just before the big bridge. If you miss the right, just after the bridge is the turnoff to Cherry Lake and you can turn around there.

  • According to the U.S. National Park Service, there are a few things you can do to ensure safe swimming in the 209’s natural pools this summer. 
  • Always supervise children closely, and utilize life jackets when near water. 
  • Swim only during low water conditions; in summer, rivers and creeks swollen by runoff from snowmelt are dangerous. Stay clear of powerful currents, icy water and river obstructions. 
  • Make sure any pool you’re jumping into is clear of hidden obstructions before you dive by extensively scouting the area.