Alder Flat

No Fee | Average August Water Temperature 61°

Whether the “flat” in Alder Flat refers to the 40-foot-long stone and sand beach or the quality of the blue-green Clackamas River stretching slowly around a bend, we don’t know. What’s more certain is that you’ll rarely have to share. Thanks to a ¾-mile hike to the water’s edge, only the adventurous frequent this idyllic swimming spot. (Fitting, since there is a slight but very manageable current.) Fir, ferns, and alder trees line the lush riverbanks, where just a few swim strokes away a trio of basalt boulders beckons from the middle of the river, gently, insistently, singing their siren song: Cannon-ball!


Turn this swimming hole into star-gazing ground by packing in a tent. Camping is permitted here, but there’s no potable water or toilets.


buck lake
Photo: Courtesy Anna Verlet Shelton

This could be you savoring Buck Lake’s 72 -degree water.

Buck Lake

No Fee | Average August Water Temperature 72°

Pristine Buck Lake sits 70 miles from downtown Portland—15 of them corkscrewing Forest Service roads. But the crucial last half-mile is what keeps this stream-fed swimming hole relatively secluded and unspoiled: it’s traversable only by foot. Hike through gorgeous stands of old-growth fir, serenaded by a chorus of croaking frogs and willow flycatchers to the edge of the lake’s spectacular emerald waters—waters so clear you’ll be able to see every rock and log (and sometimes fish) beneath the placid surface. A rocky section to the left of where the trail meets the lake offers the best perch for the day—besides a raft in the middle of the lake, of course.


To discover more hidden gems like Buck Lake, get your hands on a copy of the out-of-print Oregon Swimming Holes. It might cost you $60, but it’s worth it.


opal pool

Photo: Courtesy Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center

Opal Pool

Fee $5 | Average August Water Temperature 43°

One of the Northwest’s greatest ecological controversies—the fight for and against the endangered species listing of the spotted owl—detonated here in the 1990s, with conservationists eventually triumphing over timber interests. But the establishment of the near 23,000-acre Opal Creek Wilderness Area in 1996 preserved more than just habitat for our feathered friends. It also protected one of Oregon’s most scenic swimming holes—a 25-foot-deep turquoise pool at the base of a frothy Opal Creek torrent. There’s only one path into these breath-stealing jewel-hued waters, though: a 3.5-mile hike down an old rocky logging road and a final leap of faith from a 25-foot cliff.




The cabins at Jawbone Flats—an old mining camp less than a half mile from the pool—sleep between 2 and 16. From $195; meals start at an additional $10 per meal

Portland summers are short; make the memories last all year with Plywerk. The five-year-old Portland company prints and mounts your best shoreline snapshots onto bamboo frames for as little as $18. Upload that awesome Instagram shot of pops or your BFF falling out of his inner tube and—bam!—instant wall art to warm you all year through.