Cleo’s Bath is a popular hiking destination and swimming hole for locals and tourists looking to escape the heat of the summer months in the Stanislaus National Forest. This picturesque swimming hole lies about 1.25 miles as the crow flies from the east end of Pinecrest Lake along the South Fork Stanislaus River. Getting to Cleo’s Bath is no simple task as it requires about four miles of hiking and a bit of rock scrammbling. One section dubbed “the chimney” is a near vertical climb but don’t be alarmed, most anyone in halfway decent physical shape can make the journey from young to old alike. I’ve seen dog’s, including my own, scrammble the rocks with no issue as well as 70 year old adventurers.
Cleo’s Bath can get pretty busy on weekends and holidays but there is plenty of room for everyone as the area is fairly spread out. There are two main areas to Cleo’s Bath, the main swimming hole which consist of a natural pool about 60 feet across and no more than six or so feet deep. The second section consist of a 15 foot waterfall (depending on water level) with a small swimming hole beneath it. Here you can test your courage jumping off the climb into the chilly waters below. A word of caution, this waterfall is the beginning of a series of cascades that plummet about 800 feet so getting caught in them would mean certain death. There have been incidences where people have drowned at Cleo’s Bath but just like any other natural swimming hole a little common sense and respect for nature can keep you out of trouble.
To reach Cleo’s Bath park at Pinecrest Lake and hike the Pinecrest Lake Loop Trail couterclockwise to the east end. When you reach a small meadow just as the trail begins to climb you will see a sign pointing the way to Cleo’s Bath. Continue on this trail east for another 1.5 miles till you reach your destination. There are also various other smimming holes on the way to Cleo’s Bath if you want to avoid the crowds. For those interested in the history of the Pinecrest area, along the way you will encounter the remnants of an old 1850’s steam donkey used in the logging days with a historical plaque talking about the area.
The best time to visit Cleo’s Bath is early to late summer after the rush of the snow melt has subsided as the waters can be quite treacherous during the spring runoff. Please use caution if you plan to visit this beautiful natural swimming hole and as always pack out what you bring in so others can enjoy it as well.