Epic cliff diving. Relaxing and fun place to just chill by the river. Amazing (and exhausting) adventure upriver that entails hiking, swimming, scrambling, and bouldering. Great swimming holes. Riverside backcountry camping opportunities.

This off-the-beaten-trail adventure has a little bit of everything for everyone, and is as challenging as you make it. Many just make it about a mile down to the river for a leisurely day of relaxing, swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying a few cold beverages. Others embark on a 7+ mile adventure up the river, which entails hiking, swimming, scrambling, and even some optional bouldering and cliff diving.

The best spots on the river are the colloquially referred to as the "Amphitheater" and "Narrows." The Amphitheater is about 2 miles from the parking lot and is a very deep swimming hole surrounded by steep cliffs (where many cliff dive from).

To reach Arroyo Seco from the San Francisco Bay Area, head south on Highway 101 and take the Arroyo Seco Road exit (just south of Soledad). Follow Arroyo Seco Road for about 35 minutes to reach the Arroyo Seco Gorge Parking Lot. Depending on the season, you will have to pay a $10 vehicle entry fee either at a National Forest ranger booth on the way or at the parking lot.

Pack List

Everything that you bring to Arroyo Seco will get wet. If there is anything that you want to keep dry, you must keep it in a dry bag.

Furthermore, the River Gods demand tribute, usually in the form of car keys, flip-flops, and sunglasses. As such, it's highly recommended that you don't bring anything that you don't want to lose. If you insist on bringing a camera, I recommend a GoPro or similar waterproof camera that is secured to your person.

The only essential items to bring to Arroyo Seco is a bathing suit. The water is relatively warm in the summer, but a wetsuit is highly recommended in the winter, as the water gets quite chilly.

Other optional items:

  • Towel
  • Dry bag
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray (the bugs are more prevalent in the summer)
  • Cold beverages
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Activities Chillin, Camping, Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Features
Adult Beverages
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Some More Directions

Great spot and challenging to get up to the falls. Took me a while to find someone that knew where they were going, and it's not a hike you want to do on your own. Park in the farthest lot, head uphill on the fire road. Three miles in, take a right on Marble Peak Trail. It leads down to the river with a footbridge across Arroyo Seco. Then put on your water shoes, leave any gear that cannot get wet. Head up river. The first quarter mile you can stay out of the water, but then you're swimming. Canyon walls are steep and get narrow at times. About a mile up, there are ropes to help climb up over the falls. Be aware of the temps and time, it can get surprisingly cold when you're in and out of the water trying to make your way up and downstream.

Moms Camp

Two friends and I picked this campground for our annual moms camp -Seven kids, three moms, two nights. It was an incredible experience. We stayed In the primitive site mid week and had the loop basically to ourselves. The yellow jackets were a huge problem. Bring a yellow jacket trap or make your own. It's impossible to cook and eat outside with them all over. We did hike all the way to the gorge with all the kids and the smaller ones in a stroller. It's a large flat old road that is relatively easy. Just bring enough food and water. Bring tubes for swimming and relaxing in the river. The day use swimming was also fantastic, the place does have more litter than you'd like to see - we were told it's a huge party spot on the weekends and gets super packed. Super fun easy drive. Would give it 5 stars if it weren't for the yellow jackets.

Summer Soltice

Epic.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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