Rainbow Falls & Rainbow Pools near Groveland

Who hasn't always wanted to find just the perfect swimming hole? The one all the locals know about but seems to always escape the casual passerby. We have one for you conveniently located just off Highway 120 on the way to Yosemite National Park!

Rainbow Pools are natural swimming holes along the south fork of the Tuolumne River, where one can dip their feet, take a plunge or just watch courageous kids jump the rock lined ledges into the largest of the inviting pools. Originally a Toll Stop on the Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite, and later a resort development, the area is now a popular picnic, swimming, hiking and fishing spot.

Rainbow Pools is located 15 miles East of Groveland. Just after you pass the View Point parking area called Rim of the World, which looks down onto the Tuolumne River canyon, watch for a turn on the right just before the big bridge. If you miss the right, just after the bridge is the turnoff to Cherry Lake, you can turn around there.

Read more


Latitude: 37.8224295 Longitude: -120.0140905 Elevation: 2818 ft

Recreational Opportunities

Swimming, Fishing, Hiking, Picnicking, FUN!

Seasons Accessible

The area is accessible all year round. If the gate for the road down to the parking area is closed, you can park on the road and walk in. Swimming is best in summer, July through September, but fishing and hiking is good all year long.


No Access Fee


We went there 7/29/11 and had a lot of fun. See pix at http://www.flickr.com/photos/blumberg/2780068605/

The Nonaka Family, 7/31/2011

In 1953/54 I spent a summer at the Cliff House. Is the building still standing? My uncle managed it at that time.

Richard S. Firman, 1/25/2012

In respose to the comment by Mr. Firman: no, sadly the lodge burned in 1958. I am writing a book about the Cliff House. My father was the manager then. Are we cousins? You may respond to msdayle@earthlink.net.

Dayle Wilson Smidt, 7/3/2012

I’ve never been and I’m just wondering if it's safe for toddlers with life jackets?

principle ortega, 7/16/2012

Yes, it is safe for toddlers. There are smaller wading pools uptop where the little ones can play so long as they remain under CONSTANT eye because this is where the water fall flows from. They can also play in the bigger pool as long as they are good swimmers or in life vests/floatation devices. Its very fun for adults and older kids who wish to jump from the cliff or manage the current from the waterfall to sit behind the falls.

Kellie, 7/16/2012

This place is so awesome!! First time ever been here and I loved it! And everybody was so nice!! Definitely gonna come back here asap!! And some cute ladies! ;)

Chris Massey, 7/25/2012

Beautiful place, but even on a Monday very crowded!!!

Susan Parker, 8/13/2012

Does anyone know the fishing regulations at Rainbow pools? Can you fish with bait or keep the trout?

Richard Moustirats, 9/13/2012

I have swam there on many, many occasions, doing 1-1/2 dives off the one cliff, the other cliff is a dodgy dive with rocks below and I do not recommend it unless you are a super diver and know what you are doing. Down the fire trail on the other side of Highway 120 are Three Pools, but swimming in the pools can be dangerous, access wise and current wise. Best to stay at Rainbow. The Third Pool has a great jump/dive (about 80 feet), right next to the waterfall, but almost leads into a chute that would mangle you. Don't do it unless you are competent. Again, stick to Rainbow Pool.

Patrick Sawyer, 5/14/2013

A place to be shown rather than told. The Pyrite on top of the falls is beautiful to look at. Best to keep this place a secret. It’s that great!

Christian Juenger, 6/17/2013

We heard about this before our trip last year. It is what is is people. Its hidden, waterfalls with rock/cliff jumping. It’s not a Disney ride with life jackets. We are returning to camp near here this year as our teen age kid's loving it. If your family likes adventure, include this in every trip to Yosemite. AWESOME!

Burt Wantlin, 7/4/2013

I heard the water is low this year? Is this true?

chloe , 7/5/2013

Its currently closed due to the Rim Fire.

Sharon Coolidge, 1/12/2014

Is the Rainbow Falls area still closed due to the Rim Fire?

Jennifer Williams, 3/24/2014

Hi. Does anyone know if the area is open again? It is June 20, 2014.

Jennifer, 6/21/2014

From Stanislaus NF website: Area Status: Open Current Conditions: Open. Stay within designated open area. CAUTION - BURNED AREA Please use caution while in the Rim Fire Burned Area. Potential hazards include loose and falling rocks, flash floods, and debris flows. Trees may have been weakened from fire damage and ongoing drought and may fall at any time. Stay on designated roads and trails and within opened areas. Be alert for falling objects and do not linger around large trees. Avoid the area during high winds or heavy rain.

steve, 6/24/2014

Yes, Rainbow Pools is open and has been cleared after the fire.

Dar Brown, 6/24/2014

Is the water level high enough?

Brian, 7/15/2014

I know dog are allowed in this park, but are they allowed in the pools?

Jenny , 7/22/2014

Are the swim areas fairly easy to access? I'm too old to leap off cliffs. ~(:>)

Loretta in Groveland, 8/7/2014

Yes but you have to walk down a hill to the water..

maxxi, 8/17/2014

How is the water flow currently?

df, 9/7/2014

Can dogs go to the swimming spots within the park?

Ali, 7/30/2015

I am from England. I took some wine in a plastic bottle to drink by this pool. As far as I can tell this pool is in California and there are no statutes against consuming alcohol in such a public place. What is the law on this? I WOULD HUGELY APPRECIATE A QUICK RESPONSE TO THIS BY LOCALS OR CALIFORNIANS OR OTHERS IN THE KNOW. THANKS+++++

Philip Shoebridge, 8/17/2015

Thank you for your inquiry Phillip. Your question is an important one and through our research we’ve found that alcohol isn’t allowed in the Rainbow Falls area. This is supported by the posted regulations of the Stanislaus National Forest: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/stanislaus/recarea/?recid=14951. We appreciate when our visitors to the region comply with local regulations and encourage our visitors to check with local authorities with any questions.

Sierra Nevada Geotourism Mapguide Project, 9/2/2015

Is there any water left at Rainbow Falls?

Dana, 9/5/2015

Is there enough water in Rainbow Pools to swim, jump in safely through Sept. 25th?

Kim O., 9/11/2015

Was just there September 27, 2015, and the water was nice and cool. I jumped in from the tall ledge for first time! Climbing up on the rocks though is a bit of a challenge if your knees are weak.

Renay G, 9/29/2015

About how high is the jump from the top of the rock to the pool?

Linda Groh, 10/29/2015

Linda, I measured the jump from the point at 25 feet, but it varies a little with the water level. There are rocks to jump from at a number of lower heights.

Dayle Wilson, 2/3/2016

How's the water right now? Looking to take the dogs.

Dana, 4/1/2016

Is there a good place to camp near by?

Elizabeth M. , 4/3/2016

i need directions... what the easiest way to get there ... coming from modesto ca???

Mary munoz, 6/11/2016

Elizabeth, there are 2 spots to camp 1 being The Pines about 3 miles down the road and the other site is 1/4 Mile away but cannot remember the name.

Steven, 6/14/2016

Is the current very strong right now?

Cherisse, 6/19/2016

We want to go next weekend, my husband, teen kids and dog. Is it open for Summer 2016??

Rosie McConnell , 6/19/2016

does anyone know if the fire road down the canyon open or still closed to hike

j garcia, 7/3/2016

This is not a safe place for toddlers ... Especially at the top My little water crazy schnauzer jumped into the top pool I went in after him and I was swept by the current over the waterfall ... On the way down after my left leg bounced off a rock .. I thought I was a goner I was surprised to hit the water and come back up I made it to shore and dragged myself out ... Obvious broken leg and knee cap .. Emergency services had to carry me out of the rocks in a sack!!! Taken by ambulance to the hospital ... My foot will require surgery with pins I am very grateful ... My left leg was the only injury sustained ...

CC, 7/3/2016

Is this a fun and safe place for a dog? Lots of ticks this time of the year? thx for the advice

David, 7/4/2016

I remember when Rainbow was somewhat a "secret." Times have changed. Please remember to use lifejackets on your little ones as it can be dangerous. I know of several injuries and even a youth drowning, but if you use precautions, check for rocks under the water, ALWAYS watch the kids, avoid alcohol and follow the rules, this is an awesome recreational spot for families. The best kept secret near Groveland.

B. Meyer 7/14/16, 7/14/2016

Worst place ever no one should go swimming there. The rocks are VERY SLIPPERY. Not safe for kids, I witnessed this 11 year old girl that slipped in the waterfall and they found her body 15 feet down

Joanna L., 7/17/2016

An 11 year old girl recently drowned at Rainbow Pool after falling off the top and hitting her head on the way down. So NO, it's not safe for children!!

Valerie Stiles, 7/19/2016

Was there a few days ago with my family, just a couple days after the young girl died. It was terrible hearing about that tragedy... so sad. But we found that this was an amazing place to swim, and like any natural wonder there needs to be caution taken. If you know your (and your children's) limits, stay away from the slippery, wet rocks above the waterfall and be aware of the current near the falls and the continuing creek, then yes... it is a GREAT place for the entire family to enjoy!

Brett, 7/22/2016

Where is the best place to stay over night near to the fall?

Ed, 7/29/2016

Are dogs allowed?

Emily , 8/14/2016

I do not recommend this area for swimming or diving. There are lots of things under the water such as downed trees/logs/snags, fishing wire, hooks, broken bottles (from a, and lots of other things under the water. The rocks are slippery and it is not safe for toddlers, kids or teens. If you go there, do not take your kids and risk their lives. Too many lives taken each year and lots of injuries without the ability to call for help. There is no cell service in this area and it is not Disneyland or the local swimming pool with lifeguards. This place is Mother Nature. The area is beautiful, but I do not recommend for family alcohol use ...which is not allowed)

Yvette, 8/17/2016

“Where is the best place to stay over night near to the fall?” And the closest (walking distance) to Rainbow Pool is to stay at Yosemite San Jose Family Camp. It is about $80 a night per person but that includes all of your food and activities for the entire family.

Yvette, 8/17/2016

I grew up in groveland and spent my summers at rainbow pools in the 80s and early 90s....it is a lovely but dangerous spot..there are deep caverns in the pools some have been explored by divers and did not reach the end before air supply got low ...i know of numerous injury and deaths here ..it was.a hidden gem known by locals and few others..the creeks that are above the falls are incredible and very pristine and worth exploring. ..

M.walker, 6/11/2017

My kids and I stumbled on this after not making it to the lodge one dark night... we stumbled into Groveland around midnight and got a tent with airless at the Groveland motel for $40 a night... its $45 now. After talking with them they told us about the pools... we spent one of the best days of our lives there that day... turned lemons into lemonade... a memory my kids ask about to this day... supervise the kids and be safe not silly and you’ll be fine... awesome creek leaving the pools too...

Darren - Fresno, 7/11/2017

Sounds like it's dangerous on top of fall but safe with proper supervision below the fall(for kids)? How far is the trek from parking to pools?

Richard -Stockton, 7/13/2017

I learned to swim here. My Grandparents had property nearby and we stayed with them every summer while I was growing up. Love it.

Erin (Fielding) Wegznek, 7/21/2017

I went jumping there and was wondering how high the main jumping spot is?

Allie Sullens , 9/9/2019

Leave a Comment