Tucked in the mountains of Oregon is Serene Lake. Nada Sewidan/PSU Vanguard.

Northwest Swimming holes

There are no shortages of hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest, and that goes for swimming holes. With shuttles now available through the Columbia Gorge Express, it’s never been easier to visit and enjoy some of the best spots near Portland, including areas such as Rooster Rock State Park, Multnomah Falls, Cascade Locks and Hood River. From cliff jumping and windsurfing to beach lounging, swimming and barbequing, the northwest boasts some of the best swimming holes around.


High Rocks

25 82nd Dr, Gladstone, OR 97027

This suburban city swimming hole is located in Gladstone off 82nd overlooking the Clackamas River. It’s the spot for cliff jumping, with high enough cliffs to produce some serious adrenaline, and in the summer there are usually lifeguards standing watch over nearby swimmers.  Fun fact: Before cliff jumping made this destination popular, there was bridge jumping. An old railroad bridge, prior to it being converted into today’s pedestrian bridge, was the place locals went for a jump.

When you get hungry, there’s a pod called Happy Valley Station not too far from the water offering beer, ice cream and other beverages.

The cost to spend the day there is free and there’s plenty of parking spots in a nearby parking lot.


Dabney State Recreation Area

Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR 97019

Dabney is a more mellow swimming hole on the Sandy River, with a relatively low current. Located off of Historic Columbia River Highway, Dabney is surrounded by a foresty setting, with barbecue grills, picnic tables and paved footpaths for exploring and bird watching. It’s a great place to float, go fishing or canoeing and is easily accessible. There’s also a Disc Golf course, a Volleyball court and a Horseshoe pit not too far from the beach.

It’s a $5 day-use fee and only service pets are allowed on the premises.


Serene Lake

Estacada, Oregon

Located in Mount Hood Forest, Serene Lake is a few hours away from Portland, but the lakes are worth the trip, boasting beautiful blue alpine waters in a peaceful foresty environment. Make a day of it by hiking around the four Rock Lakes and camping by the water. To get to the lakes you have to hike through the forest, and the difficulty of the hike depends on the loop you take.

Throughout the hike, you’ll get views of Mount Hood and if you get to a high enough elevation, you’ll be able to see the forest from above.

This lake is for those who like to be near water, but not actually go in it. You can’t swim in the water (it’s too cold anyway), but there are opportunities to walk through creeks during the hike, so pack your water shoes! Leashed dogs are welcome here too!


OxBow Regional Park

3010 SE Oxbow Pkwy, Gresham, OR 97080

OxBow has everything from river tubing, swimming, kayaking, camping and boating. The park is around a 1,000 acres and is located along the Sandy River. Debatabley one of the best parts about this park is the opportunity to spot wildlife from minks and deer to songbirds and elks. However, there have been the occasional black bear and cougar sighting.

There are also drive-up camping spots available throughout the year, featuring picnic tables, fire pits and a barbecue grill. The majority of the park is accessible and four of the campsites are ADA accessible as well.

Firewood is provided for $5 per bundle. There’s a $5 parking fee and it’s approximately $22 per night stay on the campsite. Dogs, however, are not allowed.


Rooster Rock

Corbett, OR

Rooster Rock is one of the more populated swimming holes in the Northwest, but for good reason. With two disc golf courses, fishing, swimming, boating and more, it’s an ideal place to spend a summer day. It’s also an ideal space for Windsurfers!

It’s the best of both worlds scenario. There’s a short 2-mile hike for the nature lovers and plenty of lounge in the sun spaces by the water. Dogs are not allowed on site since there are vulnerable vegetation around.

Not too far from Rooster Rock is the clothing optional beach. In fact, it’s walking distance. Even though they are relatively close to one another, don’t worry,  you can’t see into the nudest beach from Rooster Rock and vice versa.

The best part is that beginning 2019, there’s a direct shuttle that takes you from Portland to Rooster Rock!