Swimming in Nature: Wet & Wild Water Holes

Summer is the time of the year when L.A. kids head to their favorite spots to cool off and spend the day splashing about. Beaches, splash pads, pools – we love them!  But sometimes you want a break from the chlorinated water of pools and pads or the salt rash from the ocean. We went back to nature to round up a few wet and wild spots to add to your summer swimming roster.

malibu creek

Swim in a Lava Lake
Pack a lunch, swimsuits and sunscreen and head out for a leisurely stroll down an oak-lined lane to the Rock Pool at Malibu Creek State Park. The 3.5 mile round trip hike is perfect for children as the path is flat, wide and well-maintained. The shaded path winds a short distance until you reach the sparkling rock pool, which is just past the visitor center. Lined with volcanic rock, you may recognize the setting from the Planet of the Apes. Be warned: the water is cold so make sure it’s a hot day. If you don’t want to swim, it’s a great spot for a picnic, skipping rocks and marveling over the bravery of the cliff jumpers and rock climbers. 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Agoura, Ca 91376. $12 parking.

eaton canyon

Stomp through the Streams
Tie on some water-ready shoes and head out on a 1.5 mile hike to the 50 foot waterfall at Eaton Canyon Falls. If your kids lack the stamina (or coordination) for the longer route, park at the Pinecrest gate for a short .4 mile walk from the bridge. The longer walk has plenty of streams to stomp across along the way with the big payoff at the end. Bring along an inner tube to float on or dip your feet into the chilly water to cool down. 1750 North Altadena Drive, Pasadena, Ca 91107. Free.


Wading, Waterfalls and Wildflowers
Switzer Falls/Bear Canyon hike is peppered with swimming holes, and is a great trek for kiddos with plenty of spots to splash in various bodies of fresh, mountain-fed water and streams. It’s super busy on weekends, especially at the entrance where families settle in for picnics and wading in the Arroyo Seco Creek. If you crave less commotion, head about a mile downstream where waterfalls and wildflowers abound. At the fork in the road, veer off to Bear Canyon Trail which loops back to the stream and takes you to a cascading waterfall and a swimming hole surrounded by rocks. Bring water and sunscreen – those non-shaded areas get hot.  Angeles Crest Highway (Angeles Forest Highway), La Canada, Ca (626) 574-5200. $5 day pass parking, available at the local Sport Chalet.

sturtevant-falls 2

Fifty Feet of Falls
Ranking as the most challenging of our cascade escapades at 3.7 miles, the out-n-back Sturtevant Falls trail in the San Gabriel Mountains is still super family friendly with a mostly flat and shady trail.  There are three modest water crossings, perfect for rock-hoppers of all ages. And then you get there and see a stunning fifty-foot waterfall that plunges into a shallow pool that the kiddos can wade and splash around in – and the freezing temperature will cool them off from the hike.  Yes, this year with the drought, the water is more of a trickle than Niagra Falls, but it’s still cool and wet.  Strollers won’t be happy crossing streams, but we’ve seen plenty of bjorn, backpack and sling-toting parents ambling through these parts. Santa Anita Canyon Rd., Sierra Madre, Ca 91025 (626) 574-1613 $5 adventure pass for parking is available at the pack station.

hansen dam lake

Less Legwork, More Meandering
For a refreshing change—and less legwork—head to the massive swim lake plopped between the 5 and 210 freeways known as the Hansen Dam Aquatic Center. Boasting 1.5 acres of crystal clear water (yes, it is chlorinated) and two huge water slides, this truly is an oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. The actual lake is open for water activities like boating and kayaking while the swim lake is the place for getting wet. Built to mimic a lake, the kids can wade into the water from the sandy “beach” and dunk, splash and swim to their hearts content. Check the website for hours of operation. Open June – September, weather permitting, hours vary by day and date. 11798 Foothill Blvd., Lake View Terrace, Ca 91342 (818) 899-3779.  Free for kids, $2.50 for adults (or $2 if you show your Los Angeles library card).

Did we miss any back to nature water spots? Let us know.

Still want more ways to splash? How about:
Dive in to these terrific community pools.
Play in the water without swimming at these splash pads.
Spend the day at at family friendly beach.

— Lara Burnap

Photo credits: T.K. via yelp, Jeremy Miles via Creative Commons, Jennifer Wolfe, and Marco Antonio Torres via flickr.