Oregon’s 363-miles of rugged coastline gets a lot of attention come summer, but it’s not the only way to cool off when the sun comes out. If you’re looking to splash about sans sand, one of Oregon’s many swimming holes could be for you. There are hundreds dotted around the state too, from exhilarating natural ‘rock slides’ to one of the world’s clearest lakes. Looking for fun and frolics in a natural swimming pool? Here are some of the best swimming holes in Oregon you’ll want to check out before the summer ends.
The Best Swimming Holes in Oregon
Triangle Lake gets its name for its shape. Located in Oregon’s dense and river-rich forest, around a 50-minute drive from Eugene, it’s the perfect spot to take a dip. The lake is famous for its ‘rock slides’, that send you sliding into the water under the canopy. Cliff jumping is popular too, with multiple jumping platforms at 25 and 35 feet. Sporty types like it here, but it’s perfectly acceptable to float.
For pristine wilderness, head east and you’ll find the marina at Wallowa Lake State Park in Joseph. It’s one of the clearest lakes in the world, thanks to snowmelt, so make sure you bring your mask and snorkel. Unlike most lakes, you don’t need to throw yourself off a cliff to get into it either – there’s a shallow sandy area for wading in. It’s pleasantly crowd-free all year round too.
If it’s paddleboarding and windsurfing you’re after, look no further than Viento State Park in Gorge. It’s pretty windy here and many say it gets its name from the Spanish for wind, ‘Viento’, but that’s just a happy coincidence. In fact, Viento comes from the first letters of the railroad tycoons who built the first railroad in the area. If you’re keen to say the night, there’s easy access to camping grounds, as well as a shady picnic area. Viento State Park is also a trailhead for a 5.6-mile section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.
4. Elephant Rock
For cliff jumping, turquoise waters and riverside bars, Elephant Rock is second to none. It’s located around 12.5 miles up from Brookings Harbor on the ‘banana belt’. The temperatures around here are significantly warmer than other nearby towns thanks to the ‘Chetco Effect’. Take the trail to the gravel bar and sandy beach, and you’ll find the series of 12-foot Elephant Rock, so-called because it looks like an elephant taking a dip.
5. Three Pools
Three Pools is one of the most popular swimming holes in Oregon, attracting over 15,000 visitors per year. It’s no wonder why though, with its deep emerald pools surrounded by rock and basalt outcroppings. It’s busy from June until early September, but there’s usually plenty of room for visitors since it’s a pretty large site. Due to its popularity, alcohol is strictly prohibited. The Little North Santiam is the most popular of the Three Pools.
6. Oneota Gorge
It would be remiss to skip Oneonta Gorge off any best swimming holes list, given that it is universally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful gorges in the United States. Located just 37 miles from downtown Portland, it’s easy to get there too. There’s a hike along a mossy canyon to get there, but it’s worth it for a quick dip in the refreshing pool that plunges from the falls.
Probably the most scenic entry on the list, Jefferson Park boasts breathtaking scenery – mountains, forests and wildflowers. But best of all are the lakes, all located along the park’s main trail. You’ve got a few to choose from, including Russell Lake, Scout Lake, Rock Lake, and Bays Lake. The latter is probably the most popular, thanks to its peninsula, but at Scout Lake, you’ll find the best views. Don’t expect bathwater temperatures though, swimming here is ‘invigorating and ‘refreshing’ rather than relaxing.