If you’re looking to go for a swim anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, just go stand outside for awhile. It’s rainy enough that you’ll get your fill pretty quickly.
For some reason, it wasn’t enough for my kids and they still wanted to go “real swimming.”
Which left me looking for free places in the area to swim, meaning lakes.
Luckily, Oregon is full of lakes that are great for swimming (exciting for the kids) and cliffdiving (exciting for me).
So, if you’re looking for the best lakes for swimming in Oregon here the list that my wife and I came up with after trying most of these. Enjoy!
Oh but I do have to say before giving you the list…you might need to temper your expectations. Nearly all of the lakes in Oregon are some level of glacier-fed and they’re all freezing cold.
Even in the middle of the summer the warmest the lakes get is “refreshing” instead of downright frigid.
Best Lakes For A Refreshing Swim
Crane Prairie Reservoir
Located near Sunriver, Crane Prairie Reservoir is one of the state’s most popular spots for swimming in Central Oregon. Boasting crystal clear blue waters and plenty of room to explore, this lake is ideal for families or groups who want to enjoy a day out on the water. You can also fish here if you’d like (just make sure to get a fishing permit first).
Swimming conditions range from sheltered bays to large open areas and plentiful natural elements like fallen trees and rocky islands provide ideal spots for jumping, diving, and basking in the sun.
How much you’ll enjoy your swim will be heavily dependant on the time of year you visit, however, as the water temperature dips as low as 34 degrees in the winter before rocketing up to 70-72 in July and August.
If you’re tired of swimming, Crane Prairie also has a boat rental facility where visitors can get out on the water in kayaks, paddle boats, canoes, and motorboats.
Located within Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Paulina Lake is one of Oregon’s most stunning lakes. With its turquoise waters surrounded by towering volcanoes, this lake is great for a swim or even just a picnic.
The caveat here is that swimming isn’t allowed within 50 feet of the shoreline or boat docks. However, if you have (or rent) a boat, kayaks, paddle board, etc. you can easily get out onto the water and take a dip.
If you’re a strong swimmer (or rower) and feel adventurous there are several rocky islands in the lake that you can visit and explore before heading back to shore.
If you’re looking for mountain views, Echo Lake (in Central Oregon) offers beautiful views of Mt Bachelor and Broken Top Mountain in the distance. This lake has plenty of room for swimmers who want to take a dip – just make sure that you keep an eye out for boats as they come and go from the boat ramp nearby.
While the lake is relatively small the water is incredibly clear which offers a unique experience.
Just be aware that we’re talking about an alpine lake here so your dip will probably be extremely “refreshing”.
Lost Creek Reservoir
Since we’ve been talking about small lakes, let’s move to a larger one that has some potential for being warm enough for the kiddos. Lost Creek Reservoir has over 500 acres of water with depths up to 25 feet which makes it great for swimming as well as boating and fishing.
There are several popular swimming areas here including South Cove Beach where the sandy shores and gentle waves were perfect for our young children.
If you’re near Bend you might be under the impression that Oregon has nothing to offer but snobby coffee shops and mountain bike trails. Well, if you add swimming and camping on the coast to the list you’ve pretty much summed up the state. But anyway.
Near Bend you’ve got Blue Lake which offers some incredible views along with plenty of opportunities for swimming fun! You can also fish here if you so desire – just remember that there are no motorized boats allowed for a good chunk of the year (and small crafts such as paddleboards are never allowed).
You do have to pay for parking here but you’ll at least get access to amenities such a disc golf course, bathrooms, etc.
Best Spots For Cliff Jumping In Oregon
If you’re big on adventure (or short on brains as I am…) then cliff jumping might be just what you need to get your blood pumping. Luckily for us there are a ton of places in Oregon that are suitable for cliff-jumping, both on the coast and into lakes.
Here are a few of my favorite that are relatively well-known (I can’t be giving away the secrets, ya know?)
Best Lake Cliff Jumping Spots
Crater Lake National Park
One of the most popular places to cliff jump in Oregon is Crater Lake National Park. You’ve probably seen a million pictures of the lake so I won’t bore you with mine. Instead, go jump off some cliffs and take the same amazing pictures for yourself!
Crater Lake is located in southern Oregon and has some of the best cliffs in the state. The cliffs range from 10 feet to 30 feet high and are surrounded by lush forests, providing a breathtaking backdrop. It’s important to check with park rangers before jumping off any cliffs because they can provide safety information and impose regulations that must be followed.
Swimming in Crater Lake comes with several rules that you have to understand first (such a location specific files) so do be sure to ask before going. Or, just do as I do and follow the crowds.
The Owyhee Reservoir is another great spot for climbing and diving off of cliffs. Located near Adrian, Oregon, this reservoir features spectacular rocky cliffs lining its shoreline. There are plenty of areas where you can find small ledges to jump from but there are also higher points if you’re looking for a bigger challenge.
The water at Owyhee Reservoir is deep enough to accommodate even experienced divers so it’s perfect for those who want to take their cliff-jumping skills up a notch. Just remember to do some thorough checks beforehand to avoid diving onto a rock.
Located near Roseburg, Diamond Lake is another strong option for cliff jumping. The lake boasts numerous ledges ranging from 10 feet to over 50 feet high—perfect for both beginners and experienced divers alike. The lake’s crystal clear blue water makes it especially attractive, as does its scenic surroundings which include towering pine trees and snowcapped mountains in the distance.
Plus, there’s even an island nearby where you can relax after the frigid water takes it toll!
Ocean Cliff-Jumping In Oregon
For some reason, cliff diving into the ocean has always struck me as being much more dangerous than the lake variety. Probably because it is.
The addition of currents, water you can’t see through, and tides all take the danger level of simply jumping into water up several notches. So, in short, I won’t be giving you any specific spots.
The best cliff spots are also the roughest water spots so you’ll want to find some experienced cliff-diving friends to go with who will fill you in on the exact spots.
No matter what type of lake experience you’re looking for – whether it’s peaceful relaxation or an adrenaline rush – there’s no shortage of amazing spots waiting to be explored in Oregon.
From Crane Prairie Reservoir near Sunriver to Blue Lake near Bend, these lakes offer some incredible views as well as plenty opportunities for swimming fun that will help make any trip unforgettable.
So grab your swimsuit and hit the road!