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Sierra Swimming Holes

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Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby maverick » Wed May 07, 2014 11:47 am

What is your favorite swimming hole/holes in the Sierra? Ones that are warm in
the Summer, have fantastic views, and are very secluded?
My hands done favorite is Picket Creek Lake! Warm, beautiful views of the Sierra
Crest (Whitney), and very few people visit it because it is very remote.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby sierraholic » Wed May 07, 2014 12:38 pm

On Spiller Creek, just 1/2 mile upstream from the PCT junction (50 yards up the hill from a waterfall) is a great campsite with views of Virginia Canyon and Shepherds Crest and great granite "bathtubs" in the creek. The granite is smooth and has the little carved out tubs here and there in the creek. Even with the snow run off in mid July, the creek was relatively warm from running over the sunlit granite. Made taking a bath to get trail grime off so much nicer! I will try to attach a picture later. Love Spiller Canyon!
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby Tom_H » Wed May 07, 2014 1:23 pm

I will describe mine, but I ain't tellin' where it's at. [-X

This pool of water is about 8 feet wide and 20 feet long. On the left side is a granite wall about 20 feet high, on the right is a vertical granite cliff that goes higher than you can see. I do not know how deep it is because none of the people I've taken there has touched the bottom. At the far end of this pool is a sheer drop waterfall that plunges something like 12 feet straight into the pool.

A couple of miles away is a depression in a flat granite slab. When the snow melts, this depression fills and then the sun heats it into a nice tranquil warm soaking pool.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed May 07, 2014 1:27 pm

Being a cold water wimp I spend very little time swimming in back country lakes. I could probably count the number of lakes I have actually swam in on one hand. The best over all experience I can recall was swimming in 1000 Island Lake in 2009. It's certainly not secluded but the water was beautiful and I spent about an hour swimming around.

If I am going for secluded I spent some time swimming in what I call Island Bird Lake. The water was warm and it was fun to swim out to the island and walk on it knowing that most likely no one else had ever walked on that island.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby markskor » Wed May 07, 2014 3:23 pm

Devil's Bathtub - a Yosemite Valley secret.

Just outside the Ahwahnee, maybe 100 - 200 yards east of the entrance, look up and see where Royal Arches Creek darkens the north-side canyon walls. Above, granite slabs protrude out from the walls, catching the last of the creek. A series of 8 - 10 foot long bathtub/ pools, ~4 feet deep - water, sun-warmed from the 2000 foot drop trickeling off south-facing surfaces. Amazingly, all is found just about 300 feet up - (a hidden trail). Once up, the Valley below, all the structures, are completely hidden as you are sitting just above the top of the Valley tree line - (BTW, most Valley trees are the same height) - a pine-green carpet sits just below you as you soak.

420 friendly - Clothing optional.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby SSSdave » Wed May 07, 2014 3:50 pm

Main issue for "swimming" or even staying more than a short time in Sierra Nevada water is it is usually too cold.

We almost get in the water every day to feel clean and usually get in and out as fast as we can. Yeah as long as the air temperature is not really cold, will always get in regardless of how cold the water is. Unlike the majority of backpackers, I'm not one that wants to feel dirty, oily, smelly, itchy, grubby and especially don't want it inside my very expensive sleeping bags given the amount of nights each year I spend in those bags.

But as for swiming or simply just sitting awhile or playing in water, the primary need is to find water where the temperature isn't too chilly. There are places everywhere that look fantastic especially in streams but nope...cold. One obvious strategy is to wait for later in summer after waters have had more time to warm up. However by time September arrives the shorter days work against even balmy days during that time of year so best days are usually in August. Another strategy is small shallow ponds that can warm up from the sun and don't have inflows. Best to pick those in more sterile rocky areas especially glacial granitoid flats versus forest or seep areas because the latter is likely to be a soup of myriad floating lifeforms. In some forest areas those ponds in fact become a disgusting dark brown with an obvious aroma. Of course one is not going to want to bring their girlfriend, much less wife, or friends to a location where others are since the backcountry is so vast one ought to be able to find some privacy.

Some of the best areas late August are down at mid forest elevations in the large stream canyons of streams that never dry up where there is lots of smooth glacial bedrock, pot holes, plunge pools, and other fun entertainment. Then the low flows have all manner of rock to heat up better and at mid day one can enjoy the warm clean rock beside the waters. A good example is this area of the North Fork of the Kings River that is not far from the trailhead but offtrail way down in the canyon. Have backpacked through there twice. Very nice and pansize rainbow trout too.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.07340,-118.92263&z=15&t=T

Or here on the South Fork of the San Joaquin River a short ways from the ferry drop:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.24140,-118.92679&z=15&t=T

In the high country a good strategy are where small permanent streams have to flow over long lengths of glacial bedrock canyon walls:


http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.52802,-118.54720&z=15&t=T

20 years ago August I camped a couple days in this area and in afternoons the waters from all 3 of the streams from the lakes atop the Great Western Divide would be luke warm. Twas amazing. No swiming really but nice small pools and rock gardens full of flowers.
Last edited by SSSdave on Thu May 08, 2014 1:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby sparky » Wed May 07, 2014 6:06 pm

My favorite is Hamilton Lake. It gets nice and warm in that shallow part on the west? end of the lake.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed May 07, 2014 8:29 pm

What does this word "swimming" mean? I don't understand.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby markskor » Thu May 08, 2014 8:43 am

Sierra swimming? ...not too big on the Michael Phelps' aspect.
Usually our Sierra waters are much too chilly (shrinkage?) to do any serious, lap-type swimming. For many, me included - (only talking about hiking at altitude now - lets say ~8000 feet and up) - maybe a quick afternoon cool-off dip... a quick dunk - out and back. Strip down, dive in, rinse out the hair and parts, and immediately start looking for a sunny slab to bask on. That about defines my typical, high altitude, swim. YMMV.

But, if we include baths (small pools) and showers (waterfalls) into the definition of swimming - then many more options Sierra also open up.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby oldranger » Thu May 08, 2014 11:22 am

My son Matt swam across Woodchuck lake in July of 2010. waited about an hour to warm up then swam back and took another hour to warm up. Probably not the smartest thing to do even though he is a strong swimmer (won inter mural swim meets in college) but at 24 what do you expect?

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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby rlown » Thu May 08, 2014 11:28 am

TehipiteTom wrote:What does this word "swimming" mean? I don't understand.


:) I've been on 2 trips with you and i've never seen your bare legs!

In fact you dress better in the wilderness than anyone i've ever met! You could go right to work with your garb.

OldRanger, i remember Matt swimming in lower chain as well, but the water was warmer.


There are some pools on the Tuolumne above Glen Aulin that the staff at the HSC frequent. Also clothing optional from what i heard. It's across the river from the trail where the trail bends far to the West.
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Re: Sierra Swimming Holes

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu May 08, 2014 12:02 pm

rlown wrote:
TehipiteTom wrote:What does this word "swimming" mean? I don't understand.


:) I've been on 2 trips with you and i've never seen your bare legs!

In fact you dress better in the wilderness than anyone i've ever met! You could go right to work with your garb.

As a matter of fact, what I wear in the wilderness is generally exactly what I wear to work, except a few years later. ;)

ETA: Isn't it 3 trips?
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