McKenzie River Trail
site title graphic


McKenzie River National Recreation Trail

Length: 26.5 miles 11 trailheads
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain: 1,750 feet 1,450 - 3,200 feet
Forest Service Trail #3507 Site: McKenzie River National Recreation Trail

This trail is occasionally crowded and may bring you face to face with a mountain biker, but segments of it are can't miss experiences.
To start with, there are wonderful miles of old growth forest, containing Douglas-Fir, cedar, and hemlock of all ages.
McKenzie trailhead graphic woodpecker snag graphic

The star of the trail is the river itself. The trail starts north of Clear Lake along a small tributary. This flows south into Clear Lake where the Giant Spring is the official start of the McKenzie River. Around Clear Lake, the McKenzie River trail is also a part of the Clear Lake Loop trail.
A key component of the McKenzie River trail is the interaction between the river and recent (less than 10,000 years) lava flows. Clear Lake itself was formed by a lava flow blocking the river. The river overcomes that blockage and flows south. Most of the river is probably flowing through the lava here, but there is a nice small river above the surface for a while.
old growth hill small grqphic mckensie river view graphic

The trail follows the river as it crosses highway 126, and keeps growing. When the river plunges over Sahalie and then Koosah (shown here) falls, it provides a spectacular sight at multiple points along the trail.
The trail here also forms a segment of the short Falls loop trail, and can be accessed from the Falls trailhead and parking area. Be careful, though, because the parking area for the Sahalie Falls parking area is often full.
Below the falls the trail continues past the Carmen Reservoir and campground (from which you can also hike up to Koosah falls and the falls loop trail).
A few miles down river the trail continues but the River just disappears. The trail continues through the forest for three miles where it eventually reaches Tamolich Falls, which, except in spring high flows, is not a waterfall at all. But what the Tamolich Falls marks is the Blue Pool. This pool is full all year as the river flows out of the lava to form a wonderful sight. It serves as one of the major attractants of the whole McKenzie River Trail.
lower falls small graphic
Koosah Falls
blue pool graphic
Blue Pool

The trail to Tamolitch Blue Pool can be accessed from Carmen Smith Reservoir (3.3 miles north) or from McKenzie River Trailhead: Tamolitch Blue Pool (2.1 miles south). The Trail continues down the river.
The wonder of the McKenzie River National Scenic Trail is that it offers scenes of a beautiful river in all its appearances. It also offers more insights into the importance of the Douglas-Fir. At many places along the trail you can see one iteration of the Douglas-Fir as it provides in-stream insertions that provide shelter for young fish.
blue Mckenzie River graphic driftwood graphic

Directions: There are multiple trailheads that access the McKenzie River trail. The lower end of the trail is just outside the proposed National Monument.
McKenzie River Trail upper trailhead directions: From McKenzie Bridge, OR, take Highway 126 east 17 miles to the north side of Clear Lake Resort. Turn right (east) on Forest Road 777 to find Upper McKenzie River Trailhead at the end of the road.
Tamolich Blue Pool trailhead: From the McKenzie River Ranger Station, take Highway 126 east 10 miles to Trail Bridge Reservoir. Turn left on FS Road 730 (at the sign to Trail Bridge Reservoir). Cross the river and turn right on FS Road 2672-655, travel ½ mile to parking area. Walk slightly uphill to trailhead sign, begin walking upstream. Upstream will take to the Blue Pool. Downstream will take you along the beautiful McKenzie River. All miles are approximate, yours may vary.

McKenzie upper trail map
lower mckensie trail map

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