Chasing Waterfalls: Finding the Perfect Summer Swimming Hole

Does Labor Day mean the last weekend of summer? We hope not. Just in case, we put together a quick list of weekend water escapes to motivate you to pack up and get out the door! These are a few of our favorites from the Northwest, but we’d love to hear about the best swimming hole in your neck of the woods.

Palouse Falls (Palouse Falls State Park)

Called the “jewel” of southeastern Washington, Palouse Falls is tucked away along the Palouse River, about four miles upstream from the Snake River. If you start to feel a little lost on your way out, don’t be concerned: the falls appear practically out of nowhere.  Admire the view of these impressive falls, which reach nearly 200 feet (30 feet higher  than Niagara Falls) from the surrounding basalt rocks. Wander up river to explore the refreshing swimming holes.

Coming from Portland? Make a weekend trip out of it. The drive along the Columbia River Gorge takes about five hours, but it’s absolutely stunning. Spend an afternoon at the falls and then stay in the small town of Walla Walla, known for its rolling hills and charming wine country.

Buck Lake (Mt. Hood National Forest)

Ancient old-growth forest, unspoiled views, and crystal-clear water. Did we mention the average water temperature is 72 degrees? An afternoon at Buck Lake sounds just about right. Located about two hours from Portland, this is an ideal escape from the city. The hike to the lake can only be accessed by foot so pack light. On the way up the hill you’ll get a beautiful view of Timothy Lake before heading down to Buck Lake.

The most serene lake in Oregon? We think so.

Opal Pool (Opal Creek Valley)

Admittedly, the temperature in Opal Pool is quite a bit cooler than Buck Lake; on average during the summer it’s about 45 degrees. But, please, don’t let that deter you from visiting this pristine spot. Opal Pool is part of the Opal Creek Valley, which boasts more than fifty waterfalls, five lakes and nearly forty miles of hiking trails. On your way to the pool take a good, long look at Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar, and Western Hemlock. Most of these old growth trees are more than 800 years old.

What are your favorite summer water destinations? Where will you be spending Labor Day weekend?

Photo Credits:
Palouse Falls: Matt Rowett
Buck Lake: Zack Skyles Owens
Opal Pool: Lupine