The Best Swimming Holes in California: Candy Rock

Justin Briggs | Cliff JumpingCliff Jumping
Candy Rock, CA.
Candy Rock, CA.

Candy Rock – Murphys, CA

The meteorological summer started on Monday, and cliff jumping season couldn’t come sooner, so 12 of my buddies and I went down to a hot local spot called “Candy Rock” located in the Stanislaus National Forest. At a scorching 70 degrees, it was a mystery why there weren’t too many people here. Actually, we were the only group of people that were there for the greater part of the day.

Candy Rock, CA.
Candy Rock, CA.

After turning down the three miles of potholes and gravel known as Candy Rock Road, you arrive at a roundabout where you park anywhere. Then .25 miles of stairs leads you to the first swimming hole. This is a beautiful place where you can test the water and warm up your jumps and flips at the 12-foot cliffs. Once you’ve gained some confidence, time to head down to the big boy. After rock crawling downstream a tenth of a mile, you arrive at a small waterfall that is adjacent to “Candy Rock.” Trust me, you won’t miss it.

Candy Rock, CA.
Candy Rock, CA.

Once you get to the rock, you have two adventurous options. One, you can jump off the rock, 30′ into the waterfall tailings. Two, you can put a little water on the face of the rock slabs and slide down 25′ into the waterfall tailings. Both options are amazing, it’s just a wonder how nature could create two glorious things directly next to each other. Bring water, the canyon can get hot and the hike back up the stairs is always brutal.

Candy Rock, CA.
Candy Rock, CA.
candy rock, california
Candy Rock swimming hole, CA

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34 thoughts on “The Best Swimming Holes in California: Candy Rock

  1. You are spot on, Kristen. I grew up here and know people who drowned in the river. There should be major warning signs around the trail to alert people to the dangers.

  2. August 2022 Update: This blog post has outdated information and vastly underrepresents the difficulty of the journey to the swimming hole. The last section of the road leading down to the river has been closed for several years due to boulders blocking the path and making it inaccessible for anything bigger than a golf cart or dirtbike. This results in a ~2 mile hike down to the river which then must be made again, uphill, on the trek back to the middle/new roundabout parking area. The path faces south with full sun exposure for the better part of the day.

    I vistited Candy Rock with a group this past Saturday (8/27/22) and we used this article for reference, operating on the assumption that once we parked it was a quarter mile walk downhill. Instead, we found ourselves not yet halfway down the trail after walking almost a mile in 98° weather with the sun beating down on us and nowhere near enough water to safely complete the round trip, so we opted to turn back.

    Some of our party did make it down to the river, at which point one of my friends began experiencing heat exhaustion. Nearby them was woman, child, and dog also in severe distress from the heat with Search & Rescue, Sheriff‘s department, and EMS on the way (all passed by us heading down to the river while we were making our way back up to the lot). EMS was able to treat my friend while Search & Rescue gave them a ride back up and she fortunately made a full recovery. The first responders said that this happens all the time, and they frequently respond to distress calls at Candy Rock due to heat exhaustion as well as injuries and strandings from the rocks and powerful waters.

    After googling Candy Rock today, it appears that this Snow Brains article is being used as a primary source for listicles and blogs about swimming holes all over. They really need to update this post or take it down and repost with warnings.

    The trek can still be done safely but people need to be informed. I would recommend renting small motor vehicles like golf carts, dirtbikes, or mopeds in order to safely make the trail down and back again, plenty of water (at minimum 2 gallons per person) and snacks for energy, as well as life vests for the swimming portion. I would also recommend going early in the morning or closer to dusk to avoid the sun and temperature peak.

  3. July 2021 update: the last 1.7m before the parking circle is still only accessible via foot or car you don’t mind getting scratched. It’s possible to drive it, but you absolutely, unequivocally need high wheel base 4WD and a very narrow vehicle to make it. Otherwise, you have a 1.7m hike w/no shade, followed by a 1/3mi decent to the river that is >50 degrees vertical in most places (i.e. steeper than stairs). Once there, rocks are slippery, water is fast, and it’s hot. Then you have to come back up. Also, the “driveable” portion is passable, but very tough to do it without bottoming out if you have a low wheel base vehicle, just FYI.

    Would strongly suggest 1 gallon of H2O per person minimum, food, hiking shoes, plenty of sunscreen, and life vests for anyone who is planning to go anywhere near rapids (there are more than a few pools that are safe w/o a vest, but still).

    The description in this blog post is going to get someone killed. It totally misrepresents the physical demands of this hike and should be pulled down.

  4. So many people have drowned in the undercut channels at Candy Rock over the years. If you decide to go, be very aware of where you swim – even the strongest swimmers have been sucked under and trapped by the currents.

  5. We did the hike to Candy Rock on Sunday, September 7th, 2020. We went early mid-morning, returning around 2:00 P.M. but the temp was already 105. If you’re reasonably fit and have adequate water, you’ll be fine. If not, you’re potentially placing yourself at risk of heat stroke. The hike from the parking area down to the “round-about” is around 1.5 miles downhill, then there is another .25 miles down a steep embankment with railroad tie stairs to the river. The trail leads to a relatively broad pool that is pleasant enough to splash around in. The action, however, is either upriver to a deep pool with a rock ledge varying from 5-15 feet above the water, which is great fun to jump from. Candy Rock itself is downriver from the first pool and it rises about 30 feet above a remarkably small-diameter pool that brave souls drop into from above. Our party ranged in age from 10-61 and had great fun in the upper pool, although a fifty some year old out of shape female had difficulty with the hot, uphill hike back to the car and required considerable assistance.

  6. They forgot to mention there is a 3 mile hike from parking spot to the steps. The steps are about 3 feet high at some points and not easy going up or down. The rocks are extremely slippery. I recommend wearing hiking boots even in water. My water shoes did not have enough tread. I was there July 23, 2020 and the water is pretty strong. While there three young people had to be rescued due to heat exhaustion. This truly is not a place for having out and drinking or for people who are not physically fit. It’s a long hot hike both ways. Be prepared!!!!!

  7. 2020 The road is open and is In good shape. I drive a smaller vehicle and made it down the road just fine. All my friends went today. We are from this area and know the dangers of the rivers here. As long as you use caution (like you should always do) you’ll be fine. It beautiful and worth the trip if your from the city. Again use your own common sense and keep a look out at your surroundings, its mountain lion territory and the terrain CAN be difficult. Have fun adventuring:D

    1. Hi C., Is the road open all the way to the roundabout? Or just to the gate with a 2 mile walk in? We want to go with our kids but I do not think they will be able to make the 2 mile hike back to the vehicle. Thanks!

  8. Hi! any 2019 updates?

    Hoping to go this weekend, think the water will be too cold? thanks for any tips

    1. CR is currently accessible. The new road closure is at the Adit. No motorized vehicles beyond that point. The parking area is large, I counted 31 cars parked on Sat. EMS clocked distance at just shy of 2 miles one way to the old lower parking lot.

      1. Curious to what the CFS rate is. Is it slow enough to be able to do the slide that leads into the pool below the Candy rock? Many years ago there was a 6 ft deep 4′ wide hole that was all bubbles that you would go in just before pushing out to this small slide. Is it still there?

  9. When I went to Candy Rock I also tried going to Blue Streak. It’s downstream from Candy Rock. However, I have no clue how people got to Blue Streak because there is no trail leading to it. I tried swimming down but it’s impossible. I didn’t make it. Also, I doubt Blue Streak has more to offer than Candy Rock.

  10. I hear Blue streak is near by, I never been here but plan on going this weekend. I plan on going to Blue streak any tips?

    1. I plan on heading out this way this weekend. I hear blue streak is near by, Any tips for getting to blue streak?

  11. I went there on August 5th. The road is closed. But it is nice hiking about 1 hour there. I jumped 3 times off the Candy Rock. It was awesome. Deep and cool water for outside temperature about 90F. I also slide down about 25′ waterfall tailings. There was a group of students with camping. They enjoyed weather and danced with music. It was wonderfull weekend. Thank you, Nature.

  12. Ok everyone, so I just went to Candy Rock this past weekend (7/22/2017). Drive into Hunter Dam Road and you will reach a wooden sign that says “Candy Rock Closed. Do Not Enter.” Pay no attention to it, just keep on driving. It’s a narrow, extremely rocky road. Do not attempt to drive on this road in a normal car. You will need a large truck or SUV. The road is destroyed and the potholes are deep. You’ve been warned. After driving on it for about 10 or 15 minutes you will reach a closed gate with barriers. Other cars might be parked there as well. There were about seven other cars when I went. Park your car there then hike the rest of the road. It’s all down hill and will take you an hour. You will know you’re at the swim hole when your reach the end of the road, at a roundabout, and see lots of empty beer cans and garbage (really not cool.) Pack enough water and food for yourself to last you several hours. The hike back is the devil. You will be exhausted, that I can promise. The flow of the water is strong and it feels great in hot weather. Don’t do anything stupid and you will be fine.

  13. the road is still closed at the point where you turn up to go to the Quarry. You can park and walk in, it is roughly 1.5-2 miles each way and then you have the walk down the hill to the river. We didn’t do the trek down as it was too hot. At the Ranger Station they did say its pretty dangerous right now due to fast flow of the river, but still useable, you just need to use common sense.

    1. Hello HooKooEHoo! Thank you for your update. I want to be sure I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying as of July 2017, the first half of Candy Rock Road is open? In other words, I can drive the first half of Candy Rock Road but then it is closed at the point where the quarry on the road is located? (That’s where the un-paved, very rocky road begins.) I can then park my car when I reach the closed part of the road and walk the rest of the way until I reach the main Candy Rock swimming area. Do I have this right? Please respond, I’m hoping to drive many hours there this weekend and I want to be sure. Thank you so much. If anyone else knows, please reply and let me know.

        1. I’d love to hear about the road too, and about rate of flow and if folks are able to swim safely with common sense there. Thanks!

          1. From the gate at the quarry, the hike is 2.5 miles to trail head. The road is a Southern aspect and receives direct sun all day long. No cell service at the river. Temps have been ranging from 95 to 106 during the day. EMS access is limited. Fire restrictions are currently in place. No BBQs, Campfires, or smoking. Suggestions, carry at least a gallon of water or a water filter, (river and spring water are not drinkable) and high energy snacks. Expect extended response from medics.

  14. I used to frequent in the mid 70’s (good times!) and you could easily hop into a jacuzzi/bubbly pit below the waterfall and then push yourself out and slide into the main pool. After many years, my son and I visited twice over the past two summers and the water flow was a little stronger than what I remembered. Is the hole still there? Curious how to get cfm information and if people still play as much around the waterfall area besides jumping from the rock or creating a slide. Thanks, Rob

  15. Has anyone been here in the last couple of weeks? Are there any road closures on the way to Candy Rock? How’s the water levels? I’ve heard other swimming holes aren’t currently safe. Your info would be greatly appreciated.

    1. The road is closed.
      We went there 3 weeks ago and the note (that the road is closed) was pushed away by some other guys. But on the way up we met a ranger who told us that the road is closed until the end of the year and they take care that nobody will go down from that day on.
      And I understand why, the road is totaly broken, you don’t have any services on your mobile phone and the rocks are so dangerous because they are slippery.
      But I have never seen such a beautiful place and have never had that great fun I had in this place 🙂
      Hope they will repair the road and open this place again

        1. Not safe!!!!

          Beauty is not worth it …..

          My friend almost died. Today…
          Her life has changed dramaticly… and for ever.

  16. DO NOT GO SWIMMING HERE AFTER THE 2016/17 winter. The river is raging far too intense for any safe swimming. Memorial Day weekend 2017 we were at this spot and had to rescue someone from another group from drowning.

  17. In addition to Candy Rock, Stanislaus has so many great spots. Truly underrated. Maybe let’s keep it on the down-low? 😉

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