Categories: CampingDestinations

The Best Swimming Holes in the Bay Area…period.

You may not know this, but the Bay Area has some pretty cool swim holes. Granted they may not match the natural splendor of Tahoe or Yosemite, but for a short drive, they can be an awesome time! There’s also some great campgrounds near these holes. Trust us, there’s nothing better than warming your bones by the campfire after a long day of cannonballs! Here are our top picks.

Photo courtesy of Lena Zentall of Point Reyes Nature

1. Bass Lake, Point Reyes National Seashore

This midsize lake is just over the Golden Gate and up the Point Reyes Coast. You’ll have to earn the swim with a 2.7-mile hike in, but then you can frolic like a Greek god. You may want to consider a raft or a noodle, but we just usually stick with the rope swing! Camping? There are so many awesome spots to camp in the area. Check them out below.

Where to Camp Nearby

Blackberry Farm, Bolinas

Blackberry Farm, California. Photo uploaded by Host.

The Olive Farm, Novato

The Olive Farm, California. Photo taken by Hipcamp Photographer J Ciccarelli.


Bay View Tree House, San Rafael

Bay View “Tree House”, California. Photo taken by Hipcamp Photographer Christine Yoo.


2. Memorial County Park, San Mateo County

This is a small swimming hole, but it’s a top car-camping experience if you’re up for it. You won’t find Memorial Park on many maps, but it is a beautiful spot (especially if you can get one of the creekside sites, C20-C22) where you can camp right on a beautiful creek among the redwoods. It’s also only a 30-minute drive from Big Basin Redwoods.

Where to Camp Nearby

Audrey Edna Cabin at Alpine Ranch, Loma Mar

Audrey Edna Cabin at Alpine Ranch, California. Photo taken by Hipcamp Photographer Madison Kotack.

SkyWanda Sanctuary, Woodside

Photo by Hipcamper Justin A.

Pescadero Creekside Garden, Pescadero

Pescadero Creekside Garden, California. Photo uploaded by the Host.


3. Sunset Beach River Park, Forestville

Sunset is very well known swimming hole in the Russian River in Sonoma County Sunset Park near Guerneville and attracts a diverse crowd. Like most swimming holes in the Bay Area, clothing is optional, although we hear people have been wearing a bit less of their birthday suits lately. However, you can change that! Looking to camp nearby? It’s hard to go wrong at Austin Creek State Recreation Area, where you can find quick ‘n easy redwood car camping at its finest.

Where to Camp Nearby

Rancho Laslendini, Occidental

Rancho Laslendini, California. Photo uploaded by Host.


Coyote Camp Scout Tents, Guerneville

Coyote Camp Scout Tents, California. Photo taken by Hipcamp Photographer Rosalie Yu.


Finley Camp, Bodega Bay

Finley Camp, California. Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Phatsimo Lucky Wenzel


4. Garden of Eden Swimming Hole, Henry Cowell Redwood State Park

The Garden of Eden is a top beach on the San Lorenzo River in Felton. It’s just south of Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is about as majestic as they come in the “outer Bay Area.” Not to mention there are insanely beautiful hikes all around, as well as perfect campgrounds where you can stay. There are two deep pools, big rocks, and even a waterfall. It’s an adventure just to get there, but one that is well worth it.

Where to Camp Nearby

Organic Farm with Multiple Choices, Felton

Photos by Hipcamper Rob S.

Fern Ridge Flats Private Camping, Aptos

Fern Ridge Flats – Private Camping, California. Photo uploaded by Host.


Redwood Retreat: Camping & Cooking, Watsonville

Redwood Retreat: Camping & Cooking, California. Photo uploaded by Host.



Photo by Hipcamp Host Mackenzie O.

5. Mendocino Magic, Laytonville

Alright, this spot sits about two hours from the Bay Area by road—but it’s worth the drive and still within reach for an easy weekend camping trip. That’s because Mendocino Magic was made for cannonballs…and swimming, stargazing, SUPing, s’more-ing, and all of the other awesome things you can think of while camping. Campsites sit on the edge of this privately owned lake in Mendocino County. Lose the crowds, and lose the…clothes? Did someone say skinny dipping?


Looking for more Bay Area camping with water access?

We’ve got you covered. See all of our top spots below.

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