If escaping the rush and the heat of the city streets sounds blissful, then maybe it’s time to retreat to a secluded swim hole. Portland is only a short drive away from several that will fill your kids’ days with thrills and squeals while you relax in the shade. Leave the crowded, chlorine-filled pools behind hop in your car and head to one of these natural Splash pads. Read on to find out more. 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.
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
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
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
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
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
For a classic beach day without the drive to the coast, Walton Beach on Sauvie Island is the ticket. Spend a day on the river watching for eagles, counting cargo ships, and splashing the sand away. It’s a popular spot that doesn’t usually feel too crowded—there’s still plenty of room to fly a kite! Keep in mind that it’s still 9 miles once you get to the island, and roads can be busy on sunny weekends. A $10 daily parking pass is available at the Cracker Barrel Store right off the bridge to the island.
(If you’ve heard rumors of a nude beach, they’re true: Collins Beach is also at the north end of the island, but it’s much further north—there’s no risk of accidentally ending up there if you don’t want to.)
38378-38798 NW Reeder Rd.
photo: rh via yelp
Decades ago you might never have thought to swim in the Willamette, but it’s been cleaned up a LOT and is now just fine for water fun. One of the closest access points is the Sellwood Riverfront. The beach is more of a pebble-sand thing, and you might have to share it with some pooches, but for a quick afternoon dip’n’splash, it can’t be beat.
SE Spokane St at Oaks Pkwy.
Oxbow Regional Park
On the banks of the Sandy River, Oxbow has plenty of sandy areas to enjoy. Because of the wide swaths of beach and the calm, shallow river, it’s a great choice for kids who want to play and splash. Combine a trip with some of the trails through the nearby forest, or cast off your kayak for a float. No dogs allowed, day use fee is $5.
3010 SE Oxbow Pkwy.
photo: denise via yelp
George Rogers Park
This wide Lake Oswego beach on the Willamette River keeps very popular with families on the hottest days of the year. While it’s not huge, there’s plenty of space to fit in, and the nearby park with amenities like a playground, restrooms, picnic areas, and sports fields means there’s something for everyone.
611 S State St.
Lake Oswego, OR
Dabney State Park
Downriver from Oxbow, Dabney makes a fun day trip with kids. Sand dunes, clean water, and a small river offshoot that makes for fun explorations with the little ones. Because it’s such a calm spot on the river, it’s very popular to launch inner tubes from, and can get crowded on a hot summer day. But you can always escape to the rest of the park, with an old orchard, ponds, disc golf, and forest hikes waiting. $5 day use fee.
30174 E Historic Columbia River Hwy.
Henry Hagg Lake/Scoggins Valley Park
A man-made lake with lots of beaches to choose from, Henry Hagg is surprisingly big, and the water is pleasantly warm! Tucked outside of town on the west side, it’s a beautiful area. The beaches are well-used and offer grills and boat ramps, as the lake is a popular boating destination. If your first beach choice is too crowded, you can drive around the lake until you locate your perfect spot. $7 entrance fee
50250 SW Scoggins Valley Rd.
Located off Marine Drive in the north of Portland, this popular beach offers unparalleled access to the Columbia River as jets fly by overhead. The beach may fill up with families on hot days, but as it stretches 1.3 miles, there’s plenty of space to share. It makes an excellent option for an easy, nearby day at the beach. $5 day use fee.
4356 NE Marine Dr.
photo: yiling via yelp
Blue Lake Regional Park
A beautiful vibrant lake popular with the whole family! Explore the wetlands, reserve a picnic shelter, rent a paddleboat, or play on the sports fields. While the littlest can’t swim in the lake, they can enjoy the nature discovery garden or play in the gushing, dumping, spraying, splash pad. $5 day use fee.
21224 NE Blue Lake Road