The trails less traveled are the ones I cherish most and Oregon has a bounty of places to choose. We’re heading up the McKenzie River Valley into the rugged mountains where a gentle trail lead us to one of the state’s most remarkable sites called Tamolitch or the “Blue Pool.”

The McKenzie River Scenic Byway may leave you spellbound as you explore this timeless transition into Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.

“It is scenic and it is beautiful,” noted Meg Trendler of Travel Lane County. “You are driving along the river and you get these glimpses of an absolutely crystal clear river all along the way and lots of greenery too.”

Nostalgia is alive along this byway; you feel it when you pass through two of Lane County’s 20 covered bridges: Goodpasture – at 165 feet, Oregon’s second longest – and Belknap Bridge, a river cross-over since 1890.

“The bridges were generally made of wood back in the 20s and 30s but if you covered them the timbers would last twice or three times longer in Oregon’s wet weather,” said Trendler.

Wet may be what you’ll get when you reach the plunge pool world of Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls – the trails to each are always open and easily reached along off the highway (the falls are beautiful when surrounded by snowfall during the winter months, but the parking lot is not plowed).

“They’re easy to access so anyone can see them,” said Trendler. “The water just comes shooting out like a giant fire hydrant; a huge wall of water any time of year. And it’s so convenient; not even five minutes from your car to the falls.”

It will take a bit longer to reach Oregon’s one and only “Blue Pool.”

Two hikers – photo pro Steve Terrill and Oregon newcomer Roy Nuesca – brought cameras and tripods to capture the sites along the four-mile out and back trail to reach the Blue Pool. Each agreed that the McKenzie River provides an unmatched canvas to create lasting memories with camera and lens.

“I am looking around all of the time,” said Terrill. “There are literally thousands of photographs – from reflections off the water, the alder trees and white bark, the lichens and moss, the downed wood somewhat discolored from the water! It’s an array of gorgeous subjects here besides the Blue Pool.”

Blue Pool – also known as Tamolitch Pool – is where the McKenzie River seeps to the surface through underground lava fields that flowed across the landscape eons ago.

Nuesca was impressed by the deep turquoise and stunning clarity of the water – the two combine to create something special. “So very clear and clean and it looks so refreshing! I’ve never seen anything like it – even in my home state of Hawaii. I hope that I can return one day and stay longer – maybe even go camping.”

You’ll be astounded by the color of the Blue Pool, so slow down and savor the Oregon outdoors. After a full day exploring, stop by Takoda’s Restaurant in nearby Rainbow to savor freshly baked pizzas or the restaurant’s famous mac ‘n’ cheese.

Directions: From McKenzie Bridge, take Highway 126 east 13 miles to Trailbridge Reservoir. Turn left (west) on Forest Road 732, crossing the McKenzie River. Go straight at the junction, northeast up Forest Road 655 to McKenzie River Trailhead – Tamolitch (Blue Pool). (Note: this trailhead experiences heavy use, particularly during the spring/summer months.)

The McKenzie River Valley is a year round recreation destination and centerpiece for many is the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. The trail is 26 miles long and about half that distance is below the snow line, so you’ve good opportunities for hiking and biking anytime.

If you’re looking for a campsite to call your own, that’s no problem for there are 14 US Forest Service Campgrounds along the McKenzie River. One of my favorites is Delta Campground (Open April 18-October 19) for it boasts a marvelous hiking trail through an ancient forest stand with scores of gigantic Doug fir trees that reach back more than 500 years old.

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

In this Grant’s Getaway

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. Lori says…

    I have been hiking for a few years, this past year was the first I had ever heard of this place! It is beautiful and is for sure on our list of places to go this year! This was a great video….Thanks for sharing!

    Written on March 12th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  2. Michael G. says…

    This looks basically just like Little Crater Lake, further north up near Timothy Lake (just south of Mount Hood)

    Written on March 12th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  3. Paul A. Farm says…

    I grew up in Oregon (Keizer) but have been down here in New Mexico for the last ten years. There are lots of natural wonders and beautiful sites to behold here in the Land of Enchantment….But I brag about the immense scenery,geological splendor and spectacular beauty that IS OREGON!!

    Written on March 13th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  4. Joel Ponce says…

    It’s beautiful, thank you for an amazing job, God bless you guys!

    Written on March 13th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  5. Clyde Sorrell says…

    Map and directions are probably some of the worst I’ve ever seen.

    Written on March 14th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  6. Ignacio Estrada says…

    I want to know if i can visit this place with two chihuahuas< i want to know this place in a few weeks. thanks

    Written on May 12th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  7. Keenan Elmer says…

    Blue Pool is a terrific hike and a wonderful view. So good, I proposed to my wife there!

    Written on October 29th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  8. Jennifer says…

    The directions are incorrect on here. Turn onto Forest Road 730 (not 732). There is a sign for Trail Bridge Campground on Hwy 126. There are no signs for the trail bridge reservoir just the Trailbridge campground.
    Also if you search on Google look for Tamolitch Trailhead not McKenzie River Trailhead for the most accurate driving directions.
    Once we actually found the trail, it’s a beautiful hike!

    Written on April 18th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  9. Dar says…

    How long is the hike

    Written on June 27th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  10. De carey says…

    Would like to know all 7 wonders?

    Written on July 25th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  11. A West says…

    Hello
    Wondering if you can help us? We would appreciate if you would help us share this information on your online post.

    Due to the Blue Top Fire access to Blue Pool is closed, as well as, a section of the McKenzie River Trail.
    Detailed information and maps are online at:
    Inciweb: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4919

    Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/WillametteNF
    Facebook: Willamette National Forest.

    All campgrounds are open and there are many other places to swim, hike,and tour until Blue Pool area is re-opened.

    For more information on recreation sites please call the McKenzie River Ranger District at 541.822.3381.

    If you have further fire info questions I can be reached at
    541.822.7246

    Thank you.
    Alexis West, PIO2,
    Blue Top Fire Information Unit
    McKenzie River Rgr. District

    Written on August 9th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  12. Alice Chin says…

    We are putting this on our vacation list first. I have never visited Oregon but my Husband went to Medical School in Portland Oregon. Can’t wait until We visit. Texas is beautiful bit it is Hot. Thanks
    Alice Chin

    Written on August 10th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  13. Blue Top Fire 2016 says…

    Hello
    Wondering if you can help us? We would appreciate if you would help us share this information on your online post.

    Due to the Blue Top Fire access to Blue Pool is closed, as well as, a section of the McKenzie River Trail.
    Detailed information and maps are online at:
    Inciweb: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4919

    Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/WillametteNF
    Facebook: Willamette National Forest.

    All campgrounds are open and there are many other places to swim, hike,and tour until Blue Pool area is re-opened.

    For more information on recreation sites please call the McKenzie River Ranger District at 541.822.3381.

    Thank you.

    Written on August 15th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  14. Elsie Cha says…

    Planning to visit labor day weekend will it be closed due to the previous forest fire? Also should we be having snow chains. We’ll be coming from California.

    Please update me via email.

    Written on August 16th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  15. Nicole Mattingly says…

    We are planning a trip up to Washington from Utah and want to stop at some of these incredible sites in Oregon. Any you would suggest and is the blue pool accessible in a motor home? Any help or suggestions would be awesome :)

    Written on August 19th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  16. Kevin Cassidy says…

    I plan on driving up in the morning from Salem and would like to know if blue pool is still closed due to fires. I traveled up 2 days ago and had to turn around and come back because I couldn’t find anything stating it was closed befor I left

    Written on August 19th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
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