Switzer Falls pool
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/ccharmon

Swimming holes near Los Angeles for a cool dip in the mountains

Cool off in one of these scenic swimming holes this summer without straying too far from the L.A. area

Michael Juliano
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Want to cool off during the summer? Go to the beach. Not near the water? Try a public swimming pool. Looking for something a little more outdoorsy? Head to a lake. Alright, but what if you’re looking for some things to do where you can get wet and tack on some off-the-beaten path exploration at the same time? Well, that’s where swimming holes come in.

Part day trip, part wilderness trek, these mountainous oases offer a cool dip in a scenic locale, oftentimes at the end of a waterfall hike. If you’re not afraid of a bit of walking and a risk of fecal bacteria—we’re only half joking—then reward yourself with a dip in one of these swimming holes near L.A.

A few notes before you head out: Water levels vary with the season and drought conditions; the warm summer weather unfortunately coincides with L.A.’s driest stretch of the year, so be advised these swimming holes may be more like “wading holes.” If it does happen to rain, you may want to wait a few days before putting your toes in, lest you want to fool around with E. coli. Additionally, all of these swimming holes require moderate hikes to access them. Rocks are hard, slippery and unforgiving, so please stay on the trails and don’t climb onto or jump off of any boulders. 

Four swimming holes near Los Angeles

Malibu Creek Rock Pool

Just like the the astronaut trio in Planet of the Apes, Angelenos flock to this expansive swimming hole in Malibu Creek State Park to cool off during the summer. But unlike the sci-fi flick, this pool’s porous boulders are overflowing with sunbathers and thrill seekers. Is it scenic? Asbolutely. Crowded? Like you can’t believe.

Requires a 2.5-mile roundtrip hike. $12 parking at Malibu Creek lot (Park Entrance Rd) off Las Virgenes Rd (or free with library pass). Free parking on Mulholland Hwy with additional mile roundtrip hike on Grasslands Trail.

Switzer Falls

One of Angeles National Forest’s largest and most accessible waterfalls brings large crowds along with it. But assuming the crowd levels are low and the water levels high, it’s an enjoyable destination, with additional pools along the trail both before and after the main falls.

Requires a 3-mile roundtrip hike. $5 parking with Adventure Pass at Switzer Picnic Area (Switzer Truck Trail), off of Hwy 2.

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Cooper Canyon Falls

Though it requires an extra 40 minutes in the car over Switzer Falls, the payoff at Cooper Canyon is worth it. You’ll pass through lush mountainous pine forests before scrambling down to this serene (and chilly) pool and its sopping waterfall.

Requires a 3-mile roundtrip hike. $5 parking with Adventure Pass near Burkhart Trail, off of Hwy 2.

Hermit Falls

Temporarily closed (still) due to the Bobcat Fire.

The smooth, slate-colored boulders that surround this small Angeles National Forest pool and waterfall create a natural retreat. Though you may see swimmers treating the falls like a waterslide, we highly suggest keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground.

Requires a 2.5-mile roundtrip hike. $5 parking with Adventure Pass at Chantry Flat lot (Chantry Flat Rd).

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A previous version of this story included the waterfall at Solstice Canyon. However, the National Park Service says that while you can walk around the stream, you can’t swim in the water as it’s a sensitive habitat; anyone caught is in violation of federal law and subject to a ticket.

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