Swimming holes near Portland

Take the plunge at these refreshing rivers, beaches and waterfalls.

Punchbowl-Keith-Ewing-cropSpend a hot summer afternoon in the cool, clear waters of Punchbowl Falls.
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    Keith Ewing via Flickr

    Stay cool all summer long at these serene swimming spots, surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest — and all less than an hour away from Portland.

    Portland and Nearby Towns

    A pastoral farming community only 10 miles (16 km) from downtown Portland, Sauvie Island gives visitors a choice of several public shores. Walton Beach is a popular spot for kite-flying and sand castle-building, while the mellow waters of Sturgeon Lake offer a safe swimming spot for all abilities. Didn’t pack a swimsuit? That’s no problem at Collins Beach, one of the state’s two clothing-optional beaches. Parking passes are available at the Sauvie Island general store at the base of the bridge; a daily pass is $7. Stop by one of the island’s many U-Pick farms on the way back for the freshest, ripest berries around.

    When the summer heat hits, families flock to Glenn Otto Community Park in nearby Troutdale for prime swimming, sunbathing, fishing and floating. Less than 20 miles (32 km) from downtown, the park sits at the mouth of the gentle Sandy River, with lifeguards on hand to keep visitors safe and sound.

    Columbia River Gorge

    Punchbowl Falls, 45 minutes east of Portland, is one of the most popular symbols of Oregon’s natural beauty, and the deep, circular basin beneath the falls provides a perfect natural swimming pool. To find the falls, follow the path from Eagle Creek Trailhead through the verdant Columbia River Gorge for a gorgeous 2-mile (3.2 km) hike; trekkers are rewarded with a refreshing dip in the cool waters of the “punchbowl.” A recreation pass is required at Eagle Creek trailhead; daily passes are $5.

    Dip into the deep blue Columbia River at Rooster Rock State Park, 30 minutes east of Portland. The park stretches over 3 miles (4.8 km) of river access — keep walking east to find Oregon’s other clothing-optional beach, not visible from the main area. Two disc golf courses provide Frisbee fun for all skill levels, and the boat ramp provides access to some of the area’s best bass, walleye and steelhead fishing. A $5 parking pass is required at this state park.

    Washington State

    A quick trip across the Columbia River lands visitors at Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park in Vancouver, Washington. About 30 minutes from downtown Portland, the 120-acre (48.6 ha) destination houses dozens of picnic tables, barbecue grills and sand volleyball courts, as well a children’s playground. Practical amenities like restrooms and disabled parking seal the deal on this family-friendly spot. Cars are required to purchase a $3 parking pass.

    Venture further into Washington to find stunning Dougan Falls, one of six major waterfalls on the Washougal River, 42 miles (67.6 km) from Portland. The wide river cascades into a narrow pool 19 feet (5.8 m) below, creating a cool, idyllic swimming hole for visitors looking to beat the heat. A day-use area with picnic tables and toilets sits conveniently nearby. Visitors must purchase a Washington State Discover Pass; a daily pass is $11.50.


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