Myrtle Beach: Superb Smith River Swimming Hole

Here are all the details on Myrtle Beach, a primo swimming hole on the Smith River just outside Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

Swimmers just off Myrtle Beach. They all just watched the guy closest to the cliff jump in the river.
Swimmers just off Myrtle Beach. They just watched the guy closest to the cliff jump in the river.

Myrtle Beach is the most popular spot on the Smith River for summer swimmers. Visitors love it because it’s near the campground and hiking trails of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Crescent City and other Del Norte County locals love it because the air is often warm in summer, a stark contrast to the cool fog on the coast.

I lived in Crescent City and nearby for five years, and this was my go-to place for summer swimming, and I always brought my two golden retrievers, Hana and Molly (long may they run).

Author John Soares swimming at Myrtle Beach, Middle Fork Smith River: coming out of the cold water.
Author John Soares coming out of the water at Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach Swimming Hole Key Data

Distance: half-mile round-trip hiking trail
Difficulty: mostly easy, but a bit rocky and slippery in a couple of places
Type: Day hike
Total elevation gain: 100 feet descent to Myrtle Beach from the Highway 199 parking area
High point: 215 feet
Season: best in summer for swimming, but beautiful year-round to watch the flow of the Middle Fork Smith River
Contact: Smith River National Recreation Area Visitor Center in Gasquet, California
Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 41 48.131 W 124 03.253
Notes: dogs allowed; pit-toilet bathroom halfway down the trail on the left

Driving Directions to the Myrtle Beach Parking Area Above the Middle Fork Smith River

Park in the big lot at the junction of US Highway 199 and South Fork Road, 7.1 miles east of the junction of Highway 101 and Highway 199 north of Crescent City, and 7.3 miles west of the Smith River National Recreation Area visitor center in Gasquet.

Before You Head Down to the Swimming Hole…

Take a minute to walk just off the parking lot toward the Middle Fork Smith River and bit toward the South Fork Road bridge: you’ll thank me once you see the beautiful view.

Middle Fork of the Smith River just upstream of Myrtle Beach: it's easy to swim here.
Middle Fork of the Smith River just upstream of Myrtle Beach: it’s easy to swim here.
Swimmers jumping off the cliff into the Smith River, opposite Myrtle Beach
Swimmers jumping off the cliff into the Smith River, opposite Myrtle Beach

Hiking the Trail Down to Myrtle Beach

Look for the beginning of the trail on the right side of the parking area as you face the river with Highway 199 at your back. It’s an old dirt road that drops down gently 400 yards to Myrtle Beach. There’s a pit-toilet bathroom on the left about halfway down, should you have the need.

Look for a short side trail on the left just past the pit-toilet bathroom. It quickly brings you to another beautiful vantage point of the Middle Fork Smith River, with the South Fork Bridge looming high above.

The last section of the trail brings you to Myrtle Beach just upstream from where Myrtle Creek empties into the Middle Fork Smith River. Yes, the beach does have a bit of sand, although it’s mostly rock, but you came to see…

The Myrtle Beach Swimming Hole

Ready to go swimming in the broad expanse of that cold, super-clear, green-tinted cold water? Slip on in… On the far side of the pool, you’ll see a rocky cliff, a favorite of those who like to jump into the deep water below. Watch others to see the routes they use to climb to the various jumping-off spots and, of course, always check where you plan to jump to make sure it’s deep enough.

The South Fork Road bridge over the Middle Fork Smith River, as viewed from Myrtle Beach. I've seen people jump from this bridge. Don't try it: it's very dangerous and also illegal.
The South Fork Road bridge over the Middle Fork Smith River, as viewed from Myrtle Beach. I’ve seen people jump from this bridge. Don’t try it: it’s very dangerous and also illegal.

There’s lots of beautiful scenery here to capture your eye. Just upstream, the Middle Fork Smith River passes through a steep-walled rock gorge and under the South Fork Road Bridge (and you can swim up there). Downstream it tumbles over small rapids on its way to meet the South Fork Smith River.

My Guidebook to Redwood National & State Parks…

My all-color book Hike the Parks: Redwood National & State Parks covers not only all the best hiking trails in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the other redwoods state parks, and Redwood National Park, it also includes lots of other cool things to do — like swimming at Myrtle Beach — plus whale watching, beach walks, tidepool exploration, details of all the campgrounds, and much more.

My Youtube Video…

Here’s a short video I shot about both the trail and the beach itself. It’s part of my Northern California Hiking Trails Youtube channel.

COMING SOON!

More Pictures of Myrtle Beach and the Middle Fork Smith River

Myrtle Beach Swimming Hole on the Smith River: a swimmer enjoys the cold, clear water
The green-tinted, clear and cold water at the Myrtle Beach swimming hole.
Stand-up paddlers on the Middle Fork Smith River
Stand-up paddlers on the Middle Fork Smith River

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