The magical summer swimming hole is the place where lifelong memories are made. Fortunately the Pacific Northwest has tons of them, and even a few that aren’t that far from Portland. Forget the crowded, chlorine filled pools. You don’t have to drive very long to find a natural splash pad for your warm-weather adventures.Put away your pool pass and read on to find out where your new favorite natural swim spot is waiting.

photo: Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center via flickr

High Rocks Park

While jumping off rocks might not be Mom’s idea of wholesome summer fun, don’t worry–this place has lifeguards! It’s the perfect spot for kids to be a little daring. On the Clackamas River in Gladstone, right off Highway 205, it’s a popular spot and is often busy during the hottest parts of the day. While the lifeguard provided by the city makes it a safer swimming hole, make sure the kids are still strong swimmers–currents and a rocky terrain has risks.

E Arlington St.
Gladstone, OR

Hood River Waterfront Park

For a change of scenery, take your swimsuits to the Gorge! This swimming spot on the Columbia in Hood River is not only great for dipping, but kids will love the playground when they dry off. It’s beautifully landscaped and maintained full of unique play structures. And it’s right across the street from some of the best dining Hood River has to offer.

650 Portway Ave.
Hood River, OR

photo: Ano Lobb via flickr

Lost Lake

A perfect view of Mt Hood graces your every splash at this lake deep in the woods. Grab a campsite for the night or come on a weekday to beat the crowds– the jewel-tone water is irresistible. Rent a paddle boat or canoe (with life jackets!) and get out on the water. When you dry off, an easy hike around the lake is a fun way to see it from another point of view.

1 hour and 40 minutes outside of Portland

photo: Virginia State Parks via flick

Moulton Falls Regional Park

This collection of deep pools is more than just a picturesque spot– it’s one of the best swimming holes around! The falls itself are beautiful, and they’re surrounded by big flat rocks that make a perfect spot to soak up the sun in between dips. With an easy hike, a two-story bridge, picnic spots, and that deep blue water, you can see why it’s so popular. Arrive early to claim your rock!

40 minutes north of Portland

Silver Falls State Park

Home to some of Oregon’s most majestic waterfalls, you can find plenty of opportunities to get wet at this park. Dip in the lazy river, wade in the deep pools, or just put your arm in the splash-zone of the tumbling falls. For a whole day of fun, explore the hiking trails, then bbq up a delicious dinner on the picnic grounds.

20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE
Sublimity, OR

photo: Eli Duke via flickr

Glen Otto Community Park

These sandy stretches along the appropriately-named Sandy River make excellent summer destinations. The wide river banks offer slow moving and shallow water, and further back you’ll find picnic grounds, barbecue pits, and a playground. The easy access from Portland means that this spot is popular (read: gets really busy), but the water’s always fine!

1102 E Historic Columbia River Hwy
Troutdale, OR

Battle Ground Lake State Park

This beautiful forested lake holds the promise of an escape from the city–even while being super easy to get to. With miles of hiking trails to explore you can make the kids earn that swim! They’ll splash and dip in the sapphire water while surrounded by the pines and firs.


Note that kids under age 4 are not allowed to swim.

18002 NE 249th St
Battle Ground, WA

—Katrina Emery


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