Some of the Best (and Coldest) Natural Swimming Holes Around


Now that the warmer temperatures are upon us many of us have a longing to be outside, and when the thermometer rises for days on end we begin to seek cooling waters. Living in the Northwest we have so many choices for water recreation, whether for sport or quiet retreat. Something about being in the water out in nature restores and energizes us. We enjoy the benefits of such close proximity to roaring rapids, wild ocean, rippling streams and quiet lakes. Sometimes it’s even hard to choose! Whether you’re in the mood for a dip or a dive, or a float or a paddle—there are enough natural water areas around here to fill an entire summer bucket list.

Lewisville Park – Battle Ground, WA

Great For a Float or Paddle

30 minutes from Vancouver

This is the original park for Clark County. Some of the original buildings date back to when the park was founded in 1936. For generations this park has been a local destination for summer fun along the banks of the Lewis River. The 154 acres include picnic areas, ball fields, hiking trails, and river access with several swimming holes. The Larch area of the park is said to be the best swimming hole for young families, with a sand and pebble beach for easy wading and swimming, and a grassy area directly behind the beach. The Ponderosa area of the park is a great place for more advanced water skills, with a stronger current and smaller beaches lined by rows of swaying trees. For a good river float in two hours or less, locals recommend driving two cars to the nearby Daybreak Park and leaving one car there, then drive the other car with all the float gear to launch from Lewisville Park.

Battle Ground Lake – Battle Ground, WA

30 minutes from Vancouver

Another historic recreation area enjoyed by generations of locals, Battle Ground Lake is a spring-fed green lake in the Cascade Mountain foothills. The 280-acre park is shaded by a evergreen forest centered around a crater lake formed by a volcano. Once a privately owned lake resort dating back to the 1920s, the park is now owned and operated by Washington State Parks and offers camping and day use facilities, miles of trails, picnic areas, ball fields, and lake access for swimming, paddling, and fishing. The shallow swimming area is a great place to wade or swim and relax on the beach and grassy area beside the lake. For those wanting to venture out into deeper waters, Paddle EZ ( offers kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals year-round.

Dougan Falls – Washougal, WA

45 minutes from Vancouver

Most of the Washougal River is dotted with deep pools and sunny rocky outcroppings providing many opportunities for a dip or a splash. For those willing to drive the journey to the end of the winding Washougal River Road, a natural gem awaits where a 19-foot cascade of water tumbles into a clear-blue pool surrounded by flat rocks. Here you can wade in the pool below the waterfall, set up a lawn chair in the shallows above the falls, or sun yourself on the sandy beach below the bridge. You might even see a kayaker or two braving the ride over the falls! Dougan Creek Campground is nearby with facilities for those who want to make a day of it.

Siouxon Creek – Amboy, WA

Great For Hikers

90 minutes from Vancouver

Directly south of Mount St. Helens in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a peaceful, sparkling creek dotted with waterfalls such as the 50-foot Chinook Falls and the 100-foot Wildcat Falls that plunge from cliffs of basalt. For those up for a hike, magical emerald green pools formed by snow melt provide crystal clear refreshment all along the 7-mile trail through old growth forest. For the truly adventurous, there are backcountry campsites along the trail for a true overnight wilderness experience. Inside scoop: The most popular swimming hole here is at the 2-mile marker.

Lower Lewis Falls – Cougar, WA

2 hours from Vancouver

In the mossy forests of the Lewis River the falls here are spectacular. The big pay-off view of the falls doesn’t actually involve any hiking at all. You can park at the Lower Falls Campground and within a few hundred yards you’ll be amazed by the breathtaking views. This is a popular place for people to swim and enjoy the water both above and below the falls. From the parking lot you can venture right out to the clear crystal waters above the falls. To wade and explore the pools below the falls, several steep trails will take you right down to the water’s edge and the popular hang out, “Sand Island” at the base of the falls. For hikers and those wanting to get away from crowds, put on your trail shoes for the long trek to the Middle and Upper Falls, both well worth the journey!

Moulton Falls – Yacolt, WA

45 minutes from Vancouver

At the confluence of the Lewis River and Big Tree Creek near Yacolt, is a not-so-secret spot known by local old timers as “the cold hole.” The 347-acre park is heavily forested with so much to explore. There are miles of trails, two stunning waterfalls, a collection of deep pools, high cliffs, volcanic rock formations, a swing bridge across the creek, and historic indian meeting grounds. There are no beaches at this swimming hole but you can play lizard and bake in the sun on the large, flat rocks after your exhilarating dip in the icy waters. The three-story arch bridge that stretches across the Lewis River is incredible to behold, and though may be tempting, jumping from it is illegal so you must resist the temptation to try this plunge. For facilities, there’s parking, picnic tables, and a restroom. Note that this park is free and draws a crowd so arrive early to claim your spot.

Paradise Point – Ridgefield, WA

Good For Young Families

20 minutes from Vancouver

Just north of Woodland, and a short jump off Interstate 5, these this freshwater shoreline is  within easy reach of Vancouver. With a swimming hole under the freeway, this doesn’t exactly provide the pristine wilderness experience of other more remote swimming holes, but the waters of the East Fork of the Lewis River are refreshing regardless. The Paradise Point State Park is a great choice for young families who want to wade or spread their water wings somewhere with campground facilities and within a short drive. The park even has tent sites and yurt camping for a fun weekend campout that’s not too far away.

Sandy Swimming Hole – Washougal, WA

20 minutes from Vancouver

This is where the local fire department used to give free swimming lessons to children in the 1940s. Today this swimming hole is still a popular place for locals and visitors seeking relief from the heat. Located at the upper end of the lower Washougal River Greenway, Sandy Swimming Hole Park has a large shallow area, rock beach, and large wooden view deck. Facilities include restrooms, picnic tables, a beach, a boat launch for non-motorized boats, and parking.

Alder Flat – Estacada, OR

Good For Thrill Seekers

90 minutes from Vancouver

Along Clackamas River Road is an often overlooked swimming hole and primitive picnic area on the bend of the Clackamas River. A ¾ mile hike through lush forest, a beaver pond, skunk cabbage bogs, and other natural wonders will bring you to a 40-foot-long stone, a sand beach, and campsites shaded by alders leaning over flowing waters. The midstream rock formation of a trio of basalt boulders is known as “Skull Island,” a popular point to do a cannonball plunge into the beckoning waters.

Pegleg Falls – Mt Hood National Forest, OR

90 minutes from Vancouver

Among the pristine mountain lakes and forests of Mt Hood is a deep wilderness swimming hole more than an hour from civilization. Some say Pegleg Falls gets its name from the dangerous leap daredevils take from the height of the falls. The 21-foot tall waterfall along the Hot Springs Fork of the Collowash River is a destination for thrill-seekers and relaxation seekers alike. A short path from the “Road Closed” sign a few miles upstream from the popular Bagby Hot Springs campground will lead you to a wide pool flanked by flat rocks and dense foliage. Look for the fish ladder carved into the bedrock. There may even still be a rope swing there!