Hike to Oregon's Tamolitch Blue Pool
Oregon's Willamette National Forest is no stranger to stunning scenery. It's home to some of the most impressive waterfalls, pristine lakes and streams, natural hot springs, and mountain views found anywhere in the state. From the massive spray of Proxy Falls to the tranquil shores of Clear Lake, the perfectly framed view of Mount Jefferson from Boca Cave to the roar of Sahalie Falls, and everything in between, Willamette National Forest is truly an outdoor paradise. One place that stands out above all others however, is the Tamolitch Blue Pool, a jaw-dropping, almost have to see it to believe it sapphire blue pool of water along the McKenzie River. Getting there is easy.
Trailhead elevation 2,188'
Don't miss Walking to the far side to dip your feet in the pool, McKenzie River overlook
Hiking to Tamolitch Blue Pool
The two shortest routes to get there are from the McKenzie River Trailhead near Trail Bridge Reservoir and Carmen Reservoir, and for this article we'll discuss the former. If you're using the AllTrails app you'll want to use the Tamolitch Blue Pool via McKenzie River Trail, but download it prior to venturing out. The trailhead parking area near Trail Bridge Reservoir is huge, but often fills to capacity by noon on weekends, if not before. Unfortunately, vehicle break ins aren't terribly uncommon, so bring valuables with you. Pick up the trail at the far end of the parking area to the left of the bathrooms and head north/right along the world renowned McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. For the next two miles or so the well defined trail navigates an old growth forest of mixed conifers while hugging the McKenzie River, heading upstream.
The scenery is exceptional. Brilliant moss blankets the forest floor, near constant views of one of Oregon's most beloved streams, and Douglas fir and western red cedar fill the air with smells tough to forget. Having hiked every mile of the McKenzie River Trail several times over, this section is undoubtedly one of its most spectacular.
The trail gently gains elevation on its way to the Blue Pool, not steepening at any point to warrant the moniker strenuous. This is a very popular mountain biking trail as well, so don't be surprised if you find a few cyclists along the way. As you trek closer to the pool, around where the trail cuts through large patches of ancient lava flow, you'll encounter cliffs to your right that offer outstanding views of the McKenzie River. From here, one of mother nature's great creations isn't very far.
At roughly two miles you'll find yourself standing along the cliffs nearly sixty feet above the western edge of the pool. Its sapphire blue, almost iridescent water can be overwhelming to first time visitors. The wow factor is immense. The adjectives are endless. Some of the best, if not the best, views can be seen from this side of the Blue Pool.
A well established trail wraps around the northern end of the pool and eventually down a steep grade to the water's edge where you can test your clams or cajones with a dip in its year round 38-degree water. There's some minor scrambling involved, but nothing that most can't handle. The cliffs above the northern edge of the Blue Pool, pictured below, present a great opportunity for legal cliff jumping if you so choose. The USFS highly discourages people from cliff jumping here, but it is legal. Just be aware of the dangers involved, including plunging your body into ridiculously cold water and the risk of not jumping far enough out. The pool looks shallow, but it's in the neighborhood of thirty feet in places.
How Tamolitch Blue Pool was created is pretty fascinating. Nearly two millennia ago, lava from an eruption of the nearby Belknap Crater filled in three miles of the McKenzie River upstream of where Blue Pool sits today. This forced the McKenzie underground where it traveled through a collapsed lava tube before resurfacing and forming the Blue Pool. The pool's color is attributed to a number of factors, most notably its high clarity, the result of impurities being filtered away while traveling underground, as well as its unique mineral composition. During periods of heavy rainfall and after snowmelt, the normally dry Tamolitch Falls gushes over the ledge and through the wall on the northside of Blue Pool. We've been out to the Blue Pool eight or nine times, but have never seen the falls in person.
It's helpful to know that the area in general has little to no cell coverage, so downloading offline Google Maps can help you find your way around. The first time we were out here we were trying to find a place to get gas and had to drive more than thirty miles away to get cell service and find the closest gas station. Of course we went the wrong way and later found out that there was one just a couple miles from where we were. A decent place to grab a bite to eat in the area is McKenzie Station Restaurant, Bar, & Espresso, about fifteen miles south of Trail Bridge Reservoir.
Looking for more to do in the area? The trailhead for Koosah & Sahalie Falls is just six miles north of Trail Bridge Reservoir. That's a beautiful hike along the river to two picturesque waterfalls. Even if you're done hiking for the day it's worth a stop to see Sahalie Falls, which is only a few hundred feet from the parking area.
Koosah & Sahalie Falls and the Tamolitch Blue Pool are all stops on our Eight Days in Oregon: Waterfalls & Redwoods. Super fun road trip to some of the most beautiful spots in Oregon.
Bigelow Hot Springs, Proxy Falls, Three Finger Jack, Clear Lake, Three Sisters, Boca Cave, and a ton more are all nearby and amazing spots to get out to. The Paradise Campground is ten miles south of Tamolitch Blue Pool in Blue Pool, Oregon and one of the best campgrounds in the state in our opinion. Harbick's Country Inn is a decent stay for those looking for four walls and a roof.