Hiking middle of McKenzie River Trail

In an attempt to finish the entire McKenzie River trail (USFS, AllTrails) both directions (upriver and downriver), Tuesday, June 27, I hiked the middle section of the trail (upper section earlier this year). This hike started at Blue Pool trailhead around 5:30am, and there were three sections. First, from the trailhead (where the Civic was the first and only car), hiked upriver to Sahalie Falls, of course stopping by Blue Pool for the first time; then downriver back to the car for supplies. Second, from same trailhead, downriver to the trail closure, and back upriver to the car / trailhead. With some time left, third was back to Blue Pool during the highest hiker congestion I’ve experienced this year outside of Smith Rock.

Trail conditions were great – fast, flat, soft and not busy until after 10am. I hiked until almost 9:30 before seeing another human. The closure and detour were disappointing – due to fire damage – as one had to detour on dusty, dry, and hot, gravel forest roads. This section also had one of the most alarming signs I’ve seen on the trail. (recorded track). This leaves ~9miles on the lower (least interesting) section of the trail to cover with both directions now hiked from upper trailhead to closure – not a high priority to hike lower section as something that may / may not be that interesting. – the trail got less interesting as the hiker went downriver imho.

Recommendation: If you have limited time, I suggest upper trailhead to Sahalie Falls. With a bit more time, take same section but go downriver to Koosah Falls. Blue Pool is cool, but you’ll be there with a hundred other people.


This section of the trail covered three waterfalls. Koosah and Sahalie Falls were quite dramatic with the high water levels at the early hour.

The river’s water level has declined dramatically as the rock moss shows, but the waterfalls no less worth the walk.

Blue Pool

By the traffic level and the full trailhead parking lot at noon, Blue Pool is everybody’s destination, even with the 2.25 mile walk car to pool. That section of the trail is like a 6-lane super highway, but the pool seems worth that concentration of humanity. Here are three views by light of the day – early am, middle am, noon.

If you go to Blue Pool, ask, “where did that water come from?” Up river from Blue Pool to the other falls is not that interesting and the trail leaves the river for a couple of miles. That section is important to answer that question though. Except, of course humans had to swim in the pool and leave all their body pollution in the river – yuk! The lower right photo is the river exiting the pool.

Mixed Use Trail

McKenzie River trail is a mixed use trail. Mountain bikes will be on the trail. The Forest Service did some good things like the bike specific route around Blue Pool to make it easier, but they are there. Over the corse of the 20 miles yesterday, I only saw 1 mtb, however. The route has its challenges for them, too. How easy is it to cross these? (I crossed at least 5 of them).

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