The Pacific Northwest Swimming Hole Hall of Fame

The one caveat: everyone else knows about these 10 spots, too.

By Benjamin Tepler July 12, 2016 Published in the August 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Three Pools in the Opal Creek Wilderness

Collins Beach
On Sauvie Island’s northeastern shores, the sandy, 1-mile stretch along the Columbia River makes for a quick, refreshing dip. Be forewarned: a segment of Collins Beach is well-known for its clothing-optional policy.

Henry Hagg Lake
Despite (invalidated) rumors of ghostly underwater cemeteries at Forest Grove’s 1,113-acre dammed lake, it’s one of Portland’s best spots for recreational water sports, with picnic areas, 13 miles of hiking trails, and two boat launches.

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Moulton Falls

Moulton Falls
The utility player of swimming holes, Washington’s 387-acre Moulton Falls Regional Park has craggy, white water–laced cascades surrounded by plentiful flat rocks for playing lizard in the sun, 2.5 miles of trails, and a three-story-plus arch bridge from which daredevils (illegally) leap.

Dougan Falls
At the end of winding Washougal River, Road, you’ll find this Washington river’s most picturesque landing: 19-foot-tall cascades tumbling into a giant, blue-green pool and a rocky beach for lying out below the adjacent bridge. 

Alder Flat
Just under an hour and a half from Portland and a short, three-quarter-mile hike to the Clackamas River, a trio of basalt boulders and a 40-foot-long stone-and-sand beach beckon sweat-drenched urban escapees.

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Opal Creek Wilderness

Opal Creek Wilderness
Perhaps the Willamette National Forest’s most coveted stretch in summer, the breath-stealing 43-degree water at Opal Pool is a deeper turquoise than most spots on the Caribbean; down the road, picturesque Three Pools waits with aquamarine baths that squeeze into a kind of natural waterslide.

Lost Lake
Lost Lake’s 167-foot-deep waters sit high on Hood’s slopes, at a heat-dispelling elevation of 3,100 feet. You’ll need a person-powered craft to gain the best view of the mountain’s larger-than-life peak—from the middle of the lake.

Punchbowl Falls
A little over two miles into the iconic Eagle Creek trail, hikers find refuge by scrambling down to the oft-photographed, bowl-shaped pool, fed by a powerful, 36-foot waterfall.

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Punchbowl Falls in Eagle Creek

Lower Oneonta Falls
Descend into Oneonta Gorge’s mossy, magical slot canyon, wading through chilly waters and clambering over log jams for .6 miles until you reach the source: the slender Lower Oneonta Falls.

Rooster Rock State Park
Oregon’s only other designated nude beach, the three-mile long stretch of Rooster Rock sits just 30 minutes away from downtown Portland on the South side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Want more? Check out this map to find all our favorite spots within a three-hour drive of Portland.

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