McKenzie River National Recreational Trail: Clear Lake to Trail Bridge is a 12.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Blue River, OR that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until November.
Single track trail through old growth forests, waterfalls, and McKenzie River This hike can be done in either direction (downhill or uphill). This is the downhill version (2 of 4 parts making up the 26 mile McKenzie Trail). This is a single track trail so hiking boots are recommend, if on a bike, the first half is moderate to advanced in skill level, and the last half is advanced as you weave through the lava fields. There are lots of roots & rocks to step over and narrow ridges, so young children need to be watched. From the Clear Lake parking lot follow the marked trail signs heading south (South Jct) across HWY 126. Your first stopping point will be Sahalie Falls, then a mile further down the trail will be Koosah Falls. About 5 miles into the hike you will come to the "Blue Pool" which where the river comes out through an underground lava tube (my reason for the hike). Several of the bridge crossings are hewn logs with rails on one side, again watch young kids. End at Trailbridge camp ground where this is a pay phone, toilets and water.
I hiked the trail as an out-and-back, parking at Trail Bridge (trailhead for Tamolitch blue pool) walking up to Clear Lake before turning back.
It was a beautiful day in late May and it wasn't too hard for me to give the trail 5 stars. In eight miles (one way) the trails passes by 4 amazing sites: Tamolitch blue pool, Koosah falls, Sahalie Falls and Clear Lake. Not to mention the McKenzie river itself.
The relative short hike to the "main attractions" means, of course, that traffic is moderate to heavily depending on day of the week and time of day. I started early (7:45 am) to enjoy the "out" part of the hike almost all by myself.
At Trail Bridge (ample parking along the road), the trail starts with a short descent to the west bank of the McKenzie that it then follows closely over relatively flat ground for about half a mile. This section ends after crossing a side stream over a wooden bridge,
After that, the trail becomes a bit more "technical" as the following mile or so weaves through lava rocks and gains elevation over the McKenzie, offering some nice views of the river from a series of cliff-top overlooks. If you look upstream, you will start seeing the bend in the river that indicates the location of the blue pool. This section ends at the blue pool that obviously deserve a few minutes to take this unique feature in.
The next section goes from the Blue Pool to the Carmen reservoir and it is the only section were the river is "missing" (as it works its way underground via lava tubes). Towering cliffs to the East, across the dried up river bed trace the curved edge of the ancient river bend. The disappearance of the lava makes for easier footing and a thicker canopy with even some old growth as the trail gets closer to the reservoir. The trail goes over a few (4?) log bridges before reaching the edge of the Carmen Reservoir that it follows for a quarter mile.
Past the reservoir, the trail climbs more noticeably as it approaches first Koosah falls and then Sahalie. A side use trail drops to the edge of the McKenzie to provide frontal views of the Sahalie falls amphitheater. The view of the falls are not a "open" as from the East bank but they have the advantage of being a bit less crowded.
Past Sahalie, the trail levels to follow the side of the McKenzie before crossing the river over a large wooden bridge. A short distance after, the trail crosses OR126 and the turn-off to ColdWater Cove on NF770.
The last leg of the journey climbs to the edge of Clear Water Lake where it merges with the Clear Lake trail (4341) at an intersection. I took the right branch to the ColdWater Cove Camping and Boat Ramp (after crossing a last lava flow on a paved section). A few good spots along the lake for a bit of rest, lunch and a soak of sore feet in the startlingly cold water before the 8 miles journey back.
Three thousand year old trees stand preserved at the bottom of this lake. Melted snow from Mt. Jefferson takes twenty years to filter through lava beds as it makes its way to the lake. You can rent row boats and kayaks to go out on the water and for a full day of fun. Nice camps sites also.
The lake is so beautiful! The trail that goes around the lake gives you great views of the lake and you walk through some cool lava fields. The water in this lake looks like the tropics, as long as you do not touch it as it is freezing mountain water!
Enjoyed this trail a lot. Trails are well maintained, and well marked, making them easy to navigate. We found the waterfalls were crazy busy as was Tamolitch Pool, it's to be expected with easy access and a pretty easy hike to the pool. Looking forward to exploring more of the this beautiful trail.
Fun Hike! Just very long. We felt the pain going through rocky lava beds at points, but some parts were paved. lots of birds, beautiful water. friendly people everywhere too!
We hiked this area today and it was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day for mid-October in western Oregon. We hiked from the Clear Lake lodge north around the lake, down the east side and the waterfalls trail to the south, and then back up along the west side of the lake for a long loop. I had never been up there before, but I definitely want to go again. The lake was beautiful and the trails well maintained. The scenery was really nice and there were a handful of huge old-growth trees along the trail. Not a real difficult hike, even though it was fairly long, but there weren't huge numbers of people either. Quite a few more people were parked at the main trailhead for the waterfalls than were out hiking at the lake. Definitely recommend.
one of my favorite paces on earth! I have been camping at Clear Lake for all my life, and take my kids there every summer. we love to hike this trail. the most beautiful water, and falls in Oregon.
Awesome hike! Lots to see! Blue pool is amazing, looks like you are in hawaii! 4 miles in and 4 miles out crossing cool bridges and lots of places to stop and take photos! Highly recommend this one!