Head to these Yuba River swimming holes in Tahoe National Forest for the most gorgeous wild swimming spots in California. You’ll find refreshing emerald green waters and calm pools, perfect for a summer swim.
Lake Tahoe isn’t the only place in Tahoe National Forest to spend the day soaking up the sunshine and splashing in refreshing water in hues of greens and blues. The emerald waters of the Yuba River wind through old growth pine forest and offer some excellent spots for summer swimming.
In many areas, there are deep pools, calm water, and plenty of rocks to lay out or jump off. The Yuba River is fed by snow melt, so the water can be pretty chilly. But, it feels great on a hot day in Tahoe National Forest, where summer temps can reach upwards of 90°F.
We recently spent a weekend camping in Nevada City and went swimming hole hopping along the Yuba River.
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Where to Stay
You may just be coming for a day trip, but I’d recommend making a weekend out of it (or even spend a few days in the middle of the week so you can enjoy it while it’s less busy). We stayed at this awesome campground right in Nevada City.
We walked by a few cute boutique hotels around Nevada City if you’re looking for a stay with more amenities. Two Room Inn, Deer Creek Inn and Broad Street Inn are all reviewed at 9.5 and above on booking.com.
There are also a few great spots on Airbnb. If you’re new to If you’re new to Airbnb, use our referral link here for up to $35 off your first stay or Airbnb Experience. Staying in Nevada City will put you at a centralized spot for most of these swimming holes along the Yuba River.
What to bring
Sunscreen – make it a mineral sunscreen that is better for both you and the environment. One of my favorite brands is Raw Elements, which makes an all-natural reef-safe sunscreen using zinc oxide. You can read all about why using natural mineral sunscreens are so much better for you and the places you swim here.
Towel – Microfiber towels roll up small and dry faster than a standard cotton towel, so they’re convenient to carry around for a day at the river.
Water shoes or sandals – Bring your favorite hiking sandals like Chacos or Tevas. Or opt for something more lightweight and flexible, like my favorite hiking sandals, the Xero Shoes Z Trail sandals. These are great for summer hikes, especially if you’re going in the water because they won’t weigh you down. I’ve shared 7 awesome lightweight hiking sandals here that are great for the water.
A few tips
Watch out for poison oak that grows along many of the trails (leaves of three, let them be).
There are also deer ticks in this area, so make sure to do a thorough check after your day at the river. If you bring a dog, make sure to check them too! If you do find a tick on you, save it after carefully removing it so you can have it tested for Lyme disease by your County’s Public Health Lab.
These swimming spots along the Yuba River are gorgeous and so fun, but the word is out. These Yuba River swimming holes are not a secret and can get very busy during the summer, especially on weekends. Hike along the trails up or down the river from the main access point to find spaces to spread out. Or, go earlier in the morning or late afternoon.
When visiting these Yuba River swimming holes, follow leave no trace principles. Respect the area and others, pack out all your trash, and pack out any that you find along the way.
Best Swimming Holes along the Yuba River
1 Hoyt Trail at South Yuba River State Park
Hoyt Trail in South Yuba River State Park starts at the old Route 49 bridge, which features rocky beaches and shallow water, making it a popular place for families.
This main area surrounding the bridge was busy by midmorning, so we took Hoyt Trail that runs east up the river to find a more secluded spot. There are a number of small trails leading off the main one that lead down to the water, so you can find your own area to hang out. There were large rocks to lay out on and climb around, and the water was pretty calm in this area. There were deep pockets where you could jump in off the rocks. Aaron swam up the river for a while and climbed over a mini waterfall before floating back down.
If you continue along the main trail to the end, you’ll reach Hoyt Crossing, which is a popular area with skinny dippers.
The spot we found about 15 minutes up the Hoyt Trail ended up being my favorite swimming hole along the Yuba River because the water felt great (a little warmer than some of the others) and there was a lot of river bank to spread out on so we weren’t crowded around others.
Location: 7 miles north west of Nevada City, CA
Parking: There is a small parking lot by the walking bridge, as well as marked parking spots along the road. Make sure you’re fulling off the road when you park. You may have to park a way up the road to find a safe parking spot.
2 Emerald Pools
Emerald Pools is one of the most popular swimming spots along the Yuba River. It’s about a quarter mile walk along a wide flat trail before you reach the main pool. This spot is great for jumping off the rocks and swimming. The river is fed by snow melt, and is usually pretty calm in the summer. The water is chilly, but feels great on a hot sunny summer day.
This main area can get busy, so hike up through the river through the mini gorges. The emerald color is especially beautiful in these rocky gorges. We found a little spot in one of the smaller, shallower pools up the river. It was about two feet deep where Hudson could splash, play and spin around on a floatie.
On the way out we spent some time at the main pool diving in and floating around. It had been pretty busy earlier in the day, but started to empty out a bit in the later afternoon.
Location: 25 miles north east of Nevada City, CA
Parking: There is a small dirt parking lot before the bridge, and along the road before the trailhead. Make sure your car is fully off the road. Police do come by the area, especially on busier days, and write parking tickets for cars that are partially on the road.
3 Bridgeport at South Yuba River State Park
Brideport is another swimming popular spot in South Yuba River State Park, a few miles down the river from Hoyt’s Crossing.
The Bridgeport covered bridge is currently undergoing restoration. It was originally built in 1862 and is the longest single-span covered bridge in the country. The water is still accessible during construction, but some of the parking and the areas in and around the bridge may be closed off.
You can access the water at Kneebone Beach and Family Beach.
Location: 14 miles north west of Nevada City, CA
Parking: There are parking lots located north and south of the river. Parking is $10 from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The rate is reduced to $5 the rest of the year. The parking is covered by the California State Park pass. You can also find free parking at the Cemetery parking lot and along Pleasant Valley Road (just make sure you double check the signs).
4 Edwards Crossing Yuba River
We found this spot in the late afternoon, so after hanging around the boulders along the banks, we watched the sunset from the arch-truss Edwards Crossing Bridge.
The river is wide at this spot, and at the end of the day, seemed like some of the warmest water I’d felt yet. That may be because the water had all day to warm up in the sun, and near the end of the day the water and outside temp were closer together.
If the main area around the bridge gets busy, scramble along the rocks or take the trails to find an emptier spot nearby. The South Yuba Campground is just a few miles away from Edwards Crossing if you want to camp close by.
Location: 8 miles north east of Nevada City, CA
Parking: Parking is pretty limited around the bridge, with small dirt lots on both sides. Just a short way from the bridge there are signs that say no parking along the road is allowed. I saw a few cars parked past the signs, and they all had $70 tickets on their windshields.
5 Purdon Crossing
The Trail at Purdon Crossing is a 3.5 mile out and back trail, with the trail running parallel to the Yuba River for the first ¾ mile. There are several spots along the trail that lead down to the river. This is another Yuba River swimming hole that tends to be clothing optional.
Location: 7 miles north of Nevada City
Parking: There is limited parking in a lot just before the bridge. Daytime parking is allowed along the road, unless there is a sign posted saying otherwise.
Let us know if you visit any of these spots, or have a favorite Yuba River swimming hole not on this list!
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