10 Swimming Lakes near Los Angeles You Need To Discover

Take a  swim at Malibu Creek State Park. Photo by Meghan Rose
Take a swim at Malibu Creek State Park. Photo by Meghan Rose

Los Angeles kids grow up swimming at some of the country's most iconic beaches, not to mention an array of flat-out awesome public swimming pools. But wait—there's more! Did you know that there are some wonderful swimming lakes within spitting distance of LA? And if you're willing to drive a little farther, lake options get even more plentiful. 

Whether you want to take a dip in a secluded swimming hole or join the masses at a lavish lake resort, here are some of the best spots to take a swim out in nature.

Since Los Angeles is a city, there aren't a lot of swimming lakes in the heart of town. So, we have listed these swimming lakes in order of distance from Hollywood, which is geographically the middle(ish) of the city. The list starts with easy half-day trips and moves all the way to well worth it drives to weekend getaways at cabins or campgrounds by beautiful swimming lakes.

Swimming Lakes That Are an Easy Day Trip from LA

1. Malibu Creek Rock Pool—Agoura Hills​

​Distance: 30 miles from Hollywood
Cost: $12 per car, per day
Bathrooms: No
Parking: At the entrance, in a lot. It's a 3 miles hike from trailhead to swimming hole
Situated under a canopy of sycamore trees, this peaceful watering hole is the perfect place to cool off after enjoying the hiking trails with the family. Whether you want to have a picnic or take a dip, the kids will surely love the adventure of discovering this hidden gem. There’s even a steep gorge with porous rock walls just upstream but be warned that park rangers are known to give tickets out to overenthusiastic climbers. For the less adventurous, be sure to take a picture in front of the Planet of the Apes Wall along the trail—so named because the movie was filmed there. The creek winds through the park and there are several swim spots, so if a spot seems too crowded, keep hiking until you find a less crowded place to cool down.

2. Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area—Irwindale

Distance: 30 miles from Hollywood
Cost: $12 per car
Bathrooms: Yes
Parking: on-site
This 70-acre lake is perfect for the family that wants to pull up, unpack, and hit the water. With lifeguards monitoring the five-acre chlorinated swimming beach (and a separate Water Play Area), you can be sure the family is safe and satisfied. Expect crowds, though, because this favorite swimming lake draws them on hot summer days for boating, swimming, and its gargantuan picnic area. The earlier you start your day, the better. The swim beach opens Memorial Day weekend and will be open weekends only through June 21, when it opens for the summer on weekdays as well. Social distancing is required and masks must be worn when not in the water. The Water Play Area is open this summer (same dates as the swim beach) and costs $2 per 90-minute session (there are four a day).

3. Frank G Bonelli Regional Park—San Dimas

Distance: 33 miles from Hollywood
Cost: $10 per car
Bathrooms: Yes
Parking: on-site
This is another spot that takes the fuss out of your swim-cation. Clean, with a full complement of lifeguards and miles of public beaches, this regional park ensures the only thing you have to do is enjoy the water. And unlike some other SoCal swimming lakes, this beach is open Thursday-Sunday from mid-July through Labor Day. If you have a boat, bring it along, because you can motor it right up to the swimming area and take a dip.

4. Silverwood Lake—San Bernardino

Distance: 82 miles from Hollywood
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: Yes
Parking: on-site
This modest beach offers a healthy mix of everything you want from a lake outing. From wildlife to lifeguards, clean bathrooms to sandy beaches, you can enjoy nature here without having to rough it. With camping nearby, you can even take the whole weekend to enjoy all this lake has to offer. Note: There have been issues with some toxic algae in the past, so be sure to check that the beach is open before you pack up the whole family.

Lake Gregory even has a water park. Photo courtesy of Lake Gregory

5. Lake Gregory—Crestline

Distance: 86 miles from Hollywood
Cost: $10 parking, $10 per person for beach area (kids under 5 are free and seniors are $6), additional fees for water park
Bathrooms: Yes
Parking: on-site
Lake Gregory is where you go to mix all the fun of a raucous water park with the natural beauty of lake life. The big draw is an inflated water park, plus float-a-boats by the hour, and a full beach, there's something for everyone here. But be warned, with separate fees for most of the activities, it's not cheap. Still, for the family that wants a little taste of theme park in their lake excursion, this is the place for you. Note that kids must be 48" to ride the water slides.

The natural beauty of Big Bear Lake. Photo courtesy of Big Bear

Swimming Lakes That Are a Weekend Getaway from LA

6. Big Bear Lake—San Bernardino National Forest

Distance: 108 miles from Hollywood
Cost: Varies
Bathrooms: Varies 
Parking: Varies 
A vacation destination for families statewide, this 7-mile long lake offers an endless supply of water sports that'll keep the whole family busy. With a variety of beaches to choose from, chances are you’ll be able to find a stretch of sand to call your own. If you tire of wading in the water, there’s everything from paddle boarding and kayaking to boating and fishing. With top-notch cabins and hotels nearby, this is an ideal large swimming lake to take some time visiting. Local officials ask that we remind everyone that there is only one small beach (Swim Beach which is adjacent to Meadow Park on the South Shoreline) where lifeguards are on duty. Also, remember that the lake is very cold, and hypothermia is very real, so don't stay in the lake for too long and have lots of towels on hand to dry off and warm up!

7. Cedar Creek Falls—Ramona

Distance: 161 miles from Hollywood
Cost: Permit - $10.00
Bathrooms: No 
Parking: A dozen spots, or street parking at entrance to 5-mile hike
This former San Diego party spot has thankfully been tamed by a newly-instituted demand for permits before you can enter, leaving it less crowded and more tranquil. (It also means weekend permits are reserved early, so you may have to plan ahead a bit for a visit.) A 5-mile hike, round trip, will connect you to the flowing waterfall of Cedar Creek with a crystal clear pool at its base. If you're hiking in summer, be sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen, as it can get hot. This is a great excursion for a little adventure, combining a solid workout, beautiful nature, and a pristine spot for a dip. It's not exactly shocking that this is such a popular spot.

8. Sandy Cove at Hume Lake—Kings Canyon National Park

Distance: 250 miles from Hollywood
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: Pit toilet 
Parking: Parking lot
No motorized boats are allowed on this popular swimming lake, leaving it clean and serene for some family fun. With various sandy beaches and coves, there’s sure to be a spot to enjoy some lounging, a picnic, or a dip in the water. And if swimming isn’t your thing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and camping are also available in the area.

9. Bass Lake—Sierra National Forest

Distance: 270 miles from Hollywood
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
A short drive from Yosemite National Park, Bass Lake is teeming with activities​ for the fam. From local markets to boat rentals, popular restaurants to water skiing, you could spend a week on its sandy shores and still not do everything this swimming lake has to offer. Still, for the swimming inclined, park at The Pines Resort and enjoy the public beach in the back. And when you get hungry, there’s a whole town mere steps away to explore. 

And One Swimming Lake That Is Currently Closed

10. Aztec Falls Swimming Hole—San Bernardino National Forest

Distance: 98 miles from Hollywood
Cost: $5 per car
Bathrooms: No
Parking: 1.3 miles hike from swimming hole
This scenic swimming hole, with a 40-foot cliff dive, can be too much of a good thing because it tends to draw a crowd. Still, if you want to wade in some cool water, take in a beautiful waterfall, or just get in a good hike, you can't do better than this oasis tucked into the San Bernardino Mountains. There's a $5 parking fee at Splinter's Cabin Trailhead unless you have a California Adventure Pass or Interagency Pass.

Sadly, in May of 2020, Aztec Falls swimming hole was closed due to overcrowding. The crowds, the traffic, and the overflow of parked cars made it impossible for emergency vehicles to respond to 911 calls. The area has also suffered from illegal campfires and graffiti. The closure was intended for one year and has not yet reopened. We continue to monitor the area for reopening, but remind everyone to be kind and respectful of Mother Nature at all our natural swim spots, so everyone can continue to enjoy them.

This post was first published on August 8, 2018 and is updated annually.

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