Right outside Yosemite National Park is probably one of the best swimming holes in all of California.
After spending a few hours splashing around at Rainbow Falls, I knew this would be my new favorite California waterfall to visit every summer. It’s easy to find and totally free to visit, but, there are some important information you need to know before you go. In this post, I’m sharing those helpful tips so you plan the perfect Yosemite vacation!
Rainbow Pools: Helpful Tips For Visiting The Best Yosemite Swimming Hole
Parking: Yes, but limited spaces
Yosemite Rainbow Pools At A Glance
Rainbow Pools, sometimes called Rainbow Falls, is a waterfall outside Yosemite National Park that has a large and deep pool at the base which is open to the public to swim. It’s located right to a parking lot and doesn’t require a hike.
It’s a popular spot for families, as it’s easy for children to access. Visitors usually swing by before or after driving into the park. There are no official rainbow pools hours, it’s open 24/7! It makes such a fun and easy spot to swim on a hot summer day.
Important! Cliff Jumping Is Dangerous!
I need to start this post out with this warning and reminder that hurling yourself off a slippery rock 20 feet up into a waterfall basin is dangerous. It also happens to be a super popular activity to do at Rainbow Falls and when you go, you’ll see people jumping off the tall rocks constantly.
I do not recommend that. Without fail, every summer someone dies at this exact waterfall by jumping off. They usually hit their head on the way down and die literally right in front of their family cheering them on below. Sometimes there are drowning at Rainbow Pools. Yes, you can make your own decisions, but I would strongly advise sticking to the large pool below where it’s safe! Don’t add yourself to the Rainbow Pools death list.
How To Find Rainbow Polls Waterfall
Start by inputting Rainbow Falls Yosemite into your Google Maps. It will take you right there but it’s super easy to miss the turn-off (I’ve totally driven by it before without realizing it’s there!) The sign for the waterfall is small and brown, and on the right-hand side of the road if you are coming from Groveland. If you miss it, you will have to turn around and try again.
Best Time To Visit Rainbow Pools California
Water levels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains vary from year to year (remember nature is on her own schedule) so the area may or may not have high water for the waterfall. That being said, Late May-August is usually a safe bet that the waterfall will be flowing and the pool below will have tons of water in it to swim in.
The summer is also the best time of year for weather. The days will be hot, but the water at the basin of Rainbow Pools will be cold and perfect to jump into!
Parking Is Limited – Get There Before 9am
Additionally, you need to plan and get your butt moving early if you want to enjoy Rainbow Falls Yosemite. Remember, this is one of the most popular national parks in the United States, there WILL be crowds on a hot day at this place.
Get to the parking lot no later than 9am. If you are visiting on a weekday, you can probably extend to this 10am. If you come later, you’ll end up searching forever for a parking spot since they are limited. If the lot is full, you must park on the side of the road past the parking lot, but that requires a hike down and up.
- Do not park in no-parking zones (keep an eye on the signs!)
- Do not block the road, as it is narrow and vehicles won’t be able to safely drive past you.
- If you are walking on the road, please move aside for cars passing.
How Far Is The Rainbow Falls Hike?
There is no hike to this Yosemite California swimming hole! That’s what makes this really special. You access the basin of the waterfall by taking a paved ramp that turns into stairs. If you want to get to the other side of Rainbow Pools, you will have to scramble over rocks and tree branches, but it’s not too hard.
5 Things To Do & Bring Before Coming To The Waterfall
- Download Maps offline, as there is no cell service
- Contact someone to let them know where you are in case of emergencies.
- Bring tons of water as you risk getting dehydrated on a hot day. There are NO water pumps here to fill up.
- Make sure you have gas as the nearest gas station is about 10 miles away in Groveland.
- Bring your own trash bags and pack out ALL your trash. Do not leave it for Mother Nature to handle.
If you have floaties, bring them! I also recommend you bring hiking water sandals like Tevas so you can grip to wet rocks while getting in and out a little bit better. Lastly, don’t forget some reef-safe sunscreen to protect your skin and keep the water clean for everyone.
Important! Do Not Come If You Can’t Pick Up Your Trash
Seriously. Mother Nature isn’t your trash can. If you can’t handle packing out your beer cans or candy wrappers and putting them in the trash bins in the parking lot, you shouldn’t be visiting this swimming hole. Or anywhere outside, this rule doesn’t just apply to swimming holes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rainbow Pools
- When is Rainbow Pools Open? There is no gate so it’s open 24/7, but hours could be enforced to 6am-8pm.
- How Deep Is Rainbow Pools? About 58 feet
- Is There Rainbow Pools Camping? No camping or overnight parking is allowed.
- Where Is Rainow Pools Located? Right outside Groveland, California
- Is Rainbow Pools Dog Friendly? Yes! Make sure they are strong swimmers.
Other Waterfalls & Swimming Spots In Yosemite To Visit
Rainbow Pools is outside the park, but if you are looking for swimming in Yosemite there are some Yosemite swimming holes in the valley!
- Vernal Falls: This hike is one of my favorites in the world. You end up at the base of Vernal Falls overlooking the valley with the mist splashing all over you. Magic!
- Lower Yosemite Falls: I love this one. You can usually catch a Yosemite Falls rainbow in the water during the morning. In the summer, you can hike up the trail and swim in the waterfall basin it’s super cool.
- Bridal Veil Falls: Ok, not actually sure if you can swim at the basin of this as I’ve only visited this waterfall in the fall, but regardless, it’s a cool spot to visit in the valley!
- Merced River Swimming: Lastly, you can always pop down to Yosemite Valley’s Merced river to take a swim in the water! Sometimes the water level isn’t very high but it’s a great way to cool off in the heat.
Curry Village and Wawona Hotel also have traditional swimming pools but natural ones are so much better in my opinion! Bass Lake is outside the Oakhurst entrance and is fun to swim during the summer. There is also nearby Tenaya Lake swimming and the Tuolumne River but I haven’t visited those so I can’t verify them.
But again, I think Rainbow Pools is the best Yosemite swimming holes that I’ve been to so far. There are a still I need to check out so I’ll update this post with new holes if I discover them!
Got tips to add? Drop a comment below so everyone can see. Have tips to add? Comment so everyone can see! I hope this helps you plan a safe and fun swim to Rainbow Pools before your after your adventures to Yosemite National Park. It’s my favorite park in California so I know you’ll fall in love, too!
I love Rainbow pool. The creek the feeds it is a great place to learn to fly fish. Even if you are not good at fishing you will probably catch one there. To locate it I tell people to go to the bridge just before the Cherry Lake turnoff. Just before the bridge is a turnoff that takes you down below the bridge. That is Rainbow Pool. If you go over the bridge you went to far. BTW, Cherry lake is another great day trip, but you will go down a very steep drive , then back up, to get there. This lake is literally in the middle of nowhere but you will be shocked at all the power boats there.