People flock to Kirkwood’s Silver Lake, a quiet beauty set against the backdrop of the Sierras. But few know about the easy 2-mile out-and-back (round-trip) hike that follows one of the lake’s cascading streams to a series of natural granite swimming holes known as The Potholes. The gentle trail makes it pretty easy to bring along coolers, inflatable floaties in the shape of a unicorn, or any other essentials you might want to have on hand.
Follow the unofficial trail (marked on a rock spray-painted with “PH –>”) down, paralleling the bridge into the forest. The trail turns to dirt and follows a peaceful stream. After a mile, the trees fade and granite slabs appear, sloping downward and creating a path of wade-worthy pockets along the stream.
Natural rock formations create deep hollows filled with crystal-clear water, and natural water slides flow from pothole to pothole. Follow the stream further down to find massive boulders interlocking to form mesmerizing geometric patterns.
Head to Silver Lake on Hwy. 88, 5 miles southwest of Kirkwood. Park at the Kit Carson Lodge at the north end of Silver Lake and cross the street. Head west, and just past the bridge you will see a private road. Turn right at the road, and you will see the spray-painted rock leading you to The Potholes. It’s 1 mile one-way. Dog-friendly!