Blue Pool Trail, as its known to locals, is an easy hike to one of the most visually stunning secret spots in Oregon.
The well-maintained forest trail meanders over soft duff and carves through lava rock as it guides hikers upstream toward the azure waters of Tamolitch Falls and Tamolitch Pool aka Blue Pool.
The trailhead for Blue Pool is one of many access points to the McKenzie River Trail, a 26-mile long path that follows the banks of the McKenzie River. This trail to Blue Pool is but a segment of the longer McKenzie River Trail.
Trail Details: Blue Pool Trail
|Details||Blue Pool Trail|
|Trail Type||Out and back|
|Starting Elevation||2150 feet|
|Elevation Gain||250 feet|
|Seasons||Spring, summer, fall|
|Dogs||Allowed on leash|
|Trail Map||McKenzie River Trail|
|Nearest Amenities||Springfield, OR|
|Directions to Trailhead||Google Maps|
|Parking||Free. No permit required.|
|Road Conditions||Trip Check|
|Attractions||Waterfall, river, crystal clear pool|
|Activities||Hiking, camping, mountain biking, backpacking|
Beginning as a meandering stroll underneath the towering canopy of a Douglas fir forest, the trail is setting the stage for the tranquility that lies ahead. You’ll follow alongside the McKenzie River for a short while before being lead uphill where the trail overlooks the rushing waters below.
The McKenzie River Trail is one of the most popular mountain biking trails in the state, and as such you will be sharing the trail with cyclists. Be aware of your surroundings, but don’t forget to take in the majesty of the enchanting forest that surrounds you.
The trail temporarily leads away from the river into a drier and dustier landscape. Here, the forest thins as dirt and duff give way to jagged piles of lava rocks, showcasing evidence of the violent origin that spawned the Cascade Range you are now traversing.
Though the terrain may have become more menacing, the heavily-trafficked and well-maintained trail is essentially free of any ankle-twisting rocks. Soon you will be heading downhill toward the river again where the raucous din of the river rapids and Tamolitch Falls increases upon your approach.
And then, as if ripped from the pages of an epic fantasy set in some forgotten realm, Blue Pool appears before you, and you will be left astounded. The crystal clear water is reminiscent Crater Lake, though much smaller in scale. The turquoise water is set off by the moss-covered rocks around its border and the dense, verdant forest that surrounds it.
Accessing the water can be tricky, and swimming is not recommended. It is possible to climb down to the pool if you are willing to scramble back up to the trail. The water is glacial cold, however. That’s because the snowmelt that creates the headwaters of the McKenzie River travels underground for two miles and seeps through the rocks here to form the pool. Tamolitch Falls is only present when water levels are at their highest.
The water is deep, and there are overhanging ledges that invite daring hikers to jump into the clear water, but people have died doing this. Not because of the rocks, but because the water is consistently ice cold at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s safe to dip your toes in, but the sudden shock of diving into the water can be a death sentence.
That said, this is a magical place to spend an afternoon. Neither words nor pictures can do the beauty justice. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
When to Visit
With paved access, the Blue Pool Trail is doable year round, but it tends to be overloaded on summer weekend afternoons. If you want to beat the crowds, show up in the morning or on a weekday if you can.
Directions to the Blue Pool Trailhead
The trailhead for Blue Pool is one of many access points to the 26-mile-long McKenzie River Trail — so the trail to Blue Pool is just a segment of the McKenzie River Trail.
The easiest way to find the Blue Pool Trailhead is to head east from the Eugene/Springfield area on Highway 126 for approximately 75 miles. At around mile 63 you will come across the McKenzie River Ranger Station where you can stop to use the restroom and inquire about the area. The trailhead is 12 more miles eastward up the highway.
A paved parking area resides off to the side of the highway that can accommodate several dozen cars, but is often fills up quickly on summer weekends.
A sign at the trailhead for the McKenzie River Trail points downstream to the left toward Trailbridge Campground, which can be a choice place to stay for the night, and upstream to the right toward Blue Pool, which is officially known as Tamolitch Pool.
Area Tips and Resources
- Camping: There are 14 US Forest Service Campgrounds located along the McKenzie River, several of which we featured in our piece on the Best Camping in the Willamette National Forest. Backcountry camping along the McKenzie River Trail is also a viable option.
- Snacks: The quaint town of McKenzie Bridge resides 15 minutes west of the trailhead on Highway 126. There are a couple of convenience stores in town as well as a highly-regarded pizza and burger joint called Takoda’s.
- Hot springs: If the frigid Blue Pool waters chill you to the bone, head on over to Cougar Hot Springs to warm up. The heated pools and convenient amenities make this a great place to end your day.
- More outdoor recreation: The Mckenzie River Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest is rife with outdoor opportunities. If the Blue Pool parking area is overcrowded, the Sahalie and Koosah Falls Loop is another excellent waterfall hike along the river which you can see. Nearby, the Cougar Reservoir and Blue River Lake are both great for fun activities like swimming, fishing, and hiking.
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