Get back to nature with a dip in one of Portland’s many swimming holes—no crowded splash pad necessary
No offense to Portland’s many splash playgrounds, but when it comes to chill vibes on a sunny day, it’s hard to beat dipping your toes in a scenic Portland lake or lazy river. Lucky for parents, the Portland area has tons of awesome swim spots that are just a short drive from the city and offer welcoming water and amazing views you’ll want to enjoy again and again before school starts in the fall. So grab your swimsuits, sand shovels and sunscreen, it’s time to hit one of our favorite nearby swimming holes. And for the littlest toe-dippers, don’t forget those water wings!
High Rocks Park
While jumping off rocks might not be a parent’s idea of wholesome summer fun, you can rest assured because this spot has lifeguards posted from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Consider it the perfect spot for kids to be a little daring. On the Clackamas River in Gladstone, right off Highway 205, High Rocks Park a popular spot and is often busy during the hottest parts of the day. While the lifeguard makes it a safer swimming hole, please make sure your kids are strong swimmers and stay close by, as the river's currents and rocky terrain has risks.
E. Arlington St.
Hood River Waterfront Park
For a change of scenery, take your swimsuits to the Gorge. This swimming spot on the Columbia in Hood River is not only great for dipping, but kids will love the playground when they dry off. It’s beautifully landscaped and maintained, full of unique play structures. Plus it’s right across the street from some of the best dining Hood River has to offer.
650 Portway Ave.
Hood River, OR
Glen Otto Community Park
These sandy stretches along the appropriately-named Sandy River make excellent summer destinations. The wide river banks offer slow moving and shallow water, and further back you’ll find picnic grounds, barbecue pits and a playground. The easy access from Portland means that this spot is popular (read: gets really busy), but the water’s always fine.
1102 E. Historic Columbia River Hwy.
Battle Ground Lake State Park
This beautiful forested lake holds the promise of an escape from the city, even while being super easy to get to. With miles of hiking trails to explore you can make the kids earn that swim. They’ll splash and dip in the sapphire water while surrounded by the pines and firs. Just remember, kids under age 4 are not allowed to swim here.
18002 N.E. 249th St.
Battle Ground, WA
A perfect view of Mt. Hood graces your every splash at this lake deep in the woods. Grab a campsite for the night or come on a weekday to beat the crowds. Trust us, the jewel-tone water is irresistible. Rent a paddle boat or canoe (with life jackets) and get out on the water. When you dry off, an easy hike around the lake is a fun way to see it from another point of view.
Insider tip: While families can access Lost Lake for day use, spending time at the Lost Lake Resort turns this day trip destination into a full-blown weekend getaway.
Hood River, OR
Moulton Falls Regional Park
This collection of deep pools is more than just a picturesque spot—it’s one of the best local swimming holes around. The falls itself are beautiful, and they’re surrounded by big flat rocks that make it a perfect spot to soak up the sun in between dips. With an easy hike, a two-story bridge, picnic spots and that deep blue water, you can see why it’s so popular with Portland families. Our advice? Arrive early to claim your rock.
27781 N.E. Lucia Falls Rd.
Silver Falls State Park
Home to some of Oregon’s most majestic waterfalls, you can find plenty of opportunities to get wet at this park. Dip in the lazy river, wade in the deep pools or just put your arm in the splash-zone of the tumbling falls. For a whole day of fun, explore the hiking trails, then grill up a delicious dinner on the picnic grounds.
20024 Silver Falls Hwy. S.E.
For a classic beach day without the drive to the coast, Walton Beach on Sauvie Island is the ticket. Spend a day on the river watching for eagles, counting cargo ships and splashing the sand away. It’s a popular spot that doesn’t usually feel too crowded—there’s still plenty of room to fly a kite. Keep in mind that it’s still 9 miles once you get to the island, and roads can be busy on sunny weekends. A $10 daily parking pass is available at the Cracker Barrel Store right off the bridge to the island. Psst...if you’ve heard rumors of a clothing-optional beach, they’re true. Collins Beach is also at the north end of the island, but it’s much further north, so there’s no risk of accidentally ending up there if you don’t want to.
38378-38798 N.W. Reeder Rd.
Make sure to fit in an end-of-summer trip to this awesome swimming spot. Decades ago you might never have thought to swim in the Willamette, but it’s been cleaned up a lot and is now just fine for water play. One of the closest access points is the Sellwood Riverfront. The beach is more of a pebble-sand thing, and you might have to share it with some pooches, but for a quick afternoon dip’n’splash, it can’t be beat.
S.E. Spokane St. at Oaks Pkwy.
Oxbow Regional Park
On the banks of the Sandy River, Oxbow has plenty of sandy areas to enjoy. Because of the wide swaths of beach and the calm, shallow river, it’s a great choice for kids who want to play and splash. Combine a trip with some of the trails through the nearby forest, or cast off your kayak for a float. But please leave your pups at home (this is a no dogs park), and remember the day use fee is $5.
3010 S.E. Oxbow Pkwy.
George Rogers Park
This wide Lake Oswego beach on the Willamette River keeps very popular with families on the hottest days of the year. While it’s not huge, there’s plenty of space to fit in, and the nearby park with amenities like a playground, restrooms, picnic areas and sports fields means there’s something for everyone.
611 S. State St.
Lake Oswego, OR
Dabney State Park
Downriver from Oxbow, Dabney makes a fun day trip with kids. Sand dunes, clean water and a small river offshoot practically beg kids to come explore. Because it’s such a calm spot on the river, it’s very popular to launch inner tubes from and can get crowded when the weather is pitch perfect. But you can always escape to the rest of the park, with an old orchard, ponds, disc golf and forest hikes waiting. There is a $5 day use fee.
30174 E. Historic Columbia River Hwy.
Henry Hagg Lake at Scoggins Valley Park
A human-made lake with lots of beaches to choose from, Henry Hagg is surprisingly big, and the water is pleasantly warm. Tucked outside of town on the west side, it’s a beautiful area. The beaches are well-used and offer grills and boat ramps, as the lake is a popular boating destination. If your first beach choice is too crowded, you can drive around the lake until you locate your perfect spot. There is a $7 entrance fee.
50250 S.W. Scoggins Valley Rd.
Located off Marine Drive in the north end of Portland, this popular beach offers unparalleled access to the Columbia River as jets fly by overhead. The beach may fill up with families on hot days, but as it stretches 1.3 miles, there’s plenty of space to share. It makes an excellent option for a no-plan day at the beach. There is $5 day use fee.
4356 N.E. Marine Dr.
Blue Lake Regional Park
This beautiful vibrant swimming lake near Portland is popular with the whole family. Explore the wetlands, reserve a picnic shelter, rent a paddleboat or play on the sports fields. While the littlest kids can’t swim in the lake, they can enjoy the nature discovery garden or play in the gushing, dumping, spraying splash pad. There is a $5 day use fee.
21224 N.E. Blue Lake Rd.