McKenzie River National Recreational Trail: Clear Lake to Trail Bridge

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Willamette National Forest

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, Oregon that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 12.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1,033 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash




mountain biking





hot springs




wild flowers

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.

Too close to road in parts for dogs

6 months ago

nice trail, Clear Lake is beautiful, but if you are looking for a hike that you don't see a bunch of people for get it. lots of road noise from Hwy 126 even at night when camping. lots of people even in November. We had several Mt. bikers come up on us. I don't get their mentally, like us hikers should get out of their way. I started on this trip to not get out off the trail for them. They are a special kind of jerks. I am so sick of them flying down the trails and just expecting us hikers to jump out of their ways.

10 months ago

Nice ‘n easy. We backpacked the ~7mi from Tamolitch TH (a good mile south of where this map starts) to Clear Lake, but backtracked to a dispersed campsite off the trail. LOTS of people on the 2mi to Blue Pool (which is still fantastic) — thins out after that. Trail follows the river, so no need to carry a lot of water — just pump it! Only bummer: this is a multi-use trail shared with mountain bikers. They’re nice and all, but you have to interrupt your pace constantly to let them pass. It’s pretty much their trail at this point. Bottom line: nice hike, would recommend to first-timers (with mtn bike warning), but no need to do it again.

11 months ago

We had such a great hike here today! We are from Colorado, so we are used to awesome mountain hikes- but this was the pinnacle! So many beautiful waterfalls, crystal clear water that was the most amazing azure Caribbean blue color. The trail was very well maintained and easy with kids. What a day! I highly recommend this hike.

Hiked the entire length of MRT with an overnight at Olallie. While there still some downed trees and a significant washout on the lower portion, the trail is in good shape.

Wed Mar 13 2019

I've hiked this section of the MRNRT 3 times; once in Spring, once in Summer, once in Fall. Spring is gorgeous with high water flow and occasional cloud cover which makes for stellar photographs. Summer is hot, dusty, and crowded, not ideal unless you're a swimmer. Fall is when this trail really shines. The foliage comes ablaze and is a wonderful contrast to the clear, aquamarine water. Best of all most of the summer crowds will have subsided by this point -- it's not unlikely there can be days where you have most of the trail to yourself. Bring bug repellent! The section between Carmen Reservoir and Blue Pool is loaded with MASSIVE mosquitoes!

Thu Sep 20 2018

We were amazed by the clear blue waters of the river not to mention the beauty of Sahalie Falls. We absolutely loved it!! We definitely would hike it again next time we are in the area. :)

Mon Aug 20 2018

We camped at ice cap campground, from there it was a short hike to koosha falls about ten mins, easy to moderate hike to Sahalie Falls about twenty- thirty minutes. The trail is well maintained and the views are picturesque, but only from a distance. It’s not designed to get you right up to the water, but if you’re semi skilled you can scramble down some slick side trails for a closer look. Just use your head. This water is cold. Not swimmable. From there we decided to go to Blue Pool. We turned around and headed down and South along the river. It pops out at a reservoir. Beautiful blue, exposed and you can see the fish it’s so clear. The correct way is to bear right, go across the bridge along the gravel road you’ll pass a trailhead sign on the right, but keep going towards the bathrooms that’s where the trail picks backup and you head back into the woods. If you go left, you end up going around the whole lake and the only way to cross is a water crossing, freezing above knee fast moving water. Then bushwhacking for about ten minutes bearing slightly left, slightly up hill. You’ll hit the trail, but keep a close eye out for it. From there it is shady forest with a few quick views of the river. The trail is downhill mostly for about 2 1/2-3 hours with breaks and no rushing. You pass people but in general it’s quite and beautiful. Five wooden log bridges, single rail. Give space between people crossing you can feel the logs bounce with too many people. When you arrive at blue pool be prepared for people. Lots of people in swimsuits, not swimming. I felt bad for them because it looks so good, you want to, but you’re going to freeze your butt off. Every once in awhile you’ll hear or see a person get in and immediately start to suffer. This water is 37 degrees, it’s hypothermia heart stopping cold. Don’t be a fool. There are better places to swim. This is for looking. And there is no easy way down to the water. Be advised the return trip is uphill somewhat and about 3 hours back. There are other ways to hike to blue pool that are much shorter, that’s why so many people. So our total trip was about 8 miles with the side trips to the falls. I would have given it 5 stars, but the trail signage was extremely lacking. There were a lot of people who gave bad advice on which way to go. So trust the map you bring. Happy trails!

Thu Jul 26 2018

Happy to park a car at both ends without a permit. Not too many hikers between the falls and Blue Pool. Not many bikers either. Love the log bridges along the way. Hiked it again this year. A real treat!

Thu Jun 21 2018

Lots of people at blue pool but it's gorgeous!

Tue Jun 12 2018

Great trail! We did it on a Monday so there weren't any crowds, though after sitting at the Blue Pool for about 20min the crowds started coming from the opposite direction. Like one of the other reviews said, not a hard hike, but it is 12mi round trip so be ready for that. We put our feet in the water at Clear Lake when we got back, had a beer and then hit the road. A great day!

Sun Apr 15 2018

Was an amazing hike. Waterfalls, clear lake, and blue pool all in a day! What more can you ask for. All in all not very hard, but pretty long. Would recommend.

Mon Nov 13 2017

just me and my wife hiked the trail till dark and pulled off the trail and camped for the night awesome time

Mon Aug 07 2017

I give this trail only four stars because of how crowded blue pool was. Even though it was beautiful there it made it seem as if you hadn't hiked all that way. Along the way though I saw no one not a soul !! It was beautiful and green and quite lush. The falls weren't as crowded as I had thought especially since it was a Saturday but I was there pretty early. I decided to make a camping trip out of it and it all worked out well. Oh and if you do go guard your stuff especially at blue pool I had my temper pad and my rain tarp stolen. Quite upset about that.

Sun Jun 18 2017

great day hike, might be busy with people hitting the blue pool and water falls along the way, I got out there early before every started showing up. would definitely do it again.

Sun Nov 20 2016

Did part of this trail after hiking all day would like to go back and finish the whole thing.

Sat Nov 05 2016

This is my favorite day hike in Oregon.

Sat Jun 04 2016

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.

Mon May 30 2016

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.

Mon Mar 28 2016

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!

Wed Jun 17 2015

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.

Mon May 11 2015

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!

Sun Oct 19 2014

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.

Sun Oct 27 2013

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.

Sun May 26 2013

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!

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