Get your cool on: Ranking the UC Berkeley campus’s pools

Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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As the sun gets brighter and hotter, people are prone to seek out bodies of water to exercise or chill in. While the beach may be a hour drive away, you don’t have to look far to swim in one of UC Berkeley’s pools or another body of water on campus.

If you want to take a dip in any of the pools below, most are open to anyone with a Recreational Sports Facility, or RSF, membership, or have day passes that can be bought on-site.

Hearst Pool: 9/10

Located on the roof of Hearst Gymnasium, and with a beautiful view of the campus’s treetops and the Campanile, the Hearst Pool is a clear winner. The pool is divided into four wide lanes, based on speed. Hearst Pool is typically not very crowded in comparison to the full lanes of Spieker Pool. 

The only true downfall is the pool’s hours. On a normal weekday, the pool is open intermittently between 6:15 a.m. and 7 p.m., but on the weekend, it’s only open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

If you can manage to wake up early in the summer, though, Hearst Pool is definitely the No. 1 option for you.

Strawberry Canyon Pool: 8/10

Maybe you’re just looking to cool off with your friends. That’s where Strawberry Canyon comes in.

Tucked away in the Berkeley Hills, Strawberry Canyon Pool is open only in the summer and boasts both three lap swim lanes as well as an open recreational area. The pool is frequented by families and kids and also has an on-site rope course.

The pool’s popularity has its downfalls, however — the slew of people hanging out at Strawberry Canyon and the lack of actual workout space make the premises similar to those of a community pool. Its distance from campus also makes it less accessible to those just looking for a regular swim spot.

Spieker Pool: 7.5/10

As the most well-known lap pool on UC Berkeley’s campus, it’s a wonder Spieker Pool isn’t more crowded. Because of its location right beside the RSF’s main building and the many swimmers who regularly use the pool’s facilities, it’s easy to say Spieker is the most “mainstream” pool on campus.

Though Spieker Pool has the most lanes for lap swimming, its popularity makes it difficult to find an open lane to swim in alone. On top of that, the pool’s facilities are very focused on it being a workout zone. There isn’t much space for simply hanging out.

Golden Bear Pool: 5.5/10

Spieker Pool’s focus on exercise is echoed at the Golden Bear Pool, which is part of the Clark Kerr Campus’ sports facilities. The pool is not as big but is much less popular, giving it a lower person-to-lane ratio.

Golden Bear Pool is also distinctly only for working out — people 13 years old and above can use the facilities, but only if they swim laps. If you’re looking for a place to soak in the cool water on a hot day, Golden Bear Pool isn’t the pool for you.

Ludwig’s Fountain on Upper Sproul Plaza: 3/10

If you’re really desperate for a dip, the fountain on Upper Sproul Plaza might look appealing to you. This fountain, officially known as Ludwig’s Fountain, has about a foot of water in it on the days it actually has water — as part of the campus’s drought response initiative, all decorative fountains on campus use only reclaimed water.

There are many downfalls of taking a swim in the same pool Ludwig the dog used to, including the fact that the water is reclaimed and that it is extremely public, but if the weather’s really hot …

Legends Aquatic Center: 0/10

While Legends Aquatic Center’s facilities are by far the best — construction finished in 2016, and it is the only pool to feature a full diving block — this pool is not open to the public. Funded by private donors, the pool is only used by student athletes, leaving the rest of us who want to swim in the pool’s beautifully clear water staring longingly from outside its glass walls.

Sakura Cannestra is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.