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Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

McKenzie River Trail (Blue Pool TH south to NF-610) – 11/21/2020

A combination of a day off, a favorable forecast and a need to drive to Bend to pick up some Christmas items provided the perfect excuse to check out a section of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. This would be our third hike on this 26.4 mile long trail, all on different sections (Tamolitch Pool and Clear Lake).

We started our hike at the popular Tamolitch Blue Pool Trailhead where we had also started our hike to the Blue Pool.
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This time though we headed south (left) on the McKenzie River Trail away from the Blue Pool and the crowds that would surely be arriving later in the day (we were the 2nd car at the TH on this morning).
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The Sun wasn’t quite up yet, and it was still under 30 degrees, as we set off on the trail.
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The trail climbed a forested hillside and crossed a forest road above Trail Bridge Reservoir (2 miles from the TH).
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IMG_8455Forest road crossing.

The trail then descended to Forest Road 730 and a crossing of Smith River which feeds into the reservoir.
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Another brief climb followed before dropping down to the Trail Bridge Dam.
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IMG_8495The top of Three Fingered Jack is visible in the distance.

We continued on the trail which now began to follow the McKenzie River more closely.
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IMG_8499Fall means mushrooms.

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There were a couple of opportunities to get down to the river bank which we took advantage of and just over a mile and a half from the dam we stopped to admire Olallie Creek joining the river.
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IMG_8533Anderson Creek joining the McKenzie.

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IMG_8541Olallie Creek across from the trail.

A half mile beyond Olallie Creek the river split leaving a large forested island briefly in its center.
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Beyond the island the trail passed some rocky cliffs where icicles dripped before dropping to a crossing of Deer Creek at the 5.5 mile mark of our hike.
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IMG_8572Turning up Deer Creek to reach the footbridge.

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Shortly after crossing the creek the trail arrived at Deer Creek Road (NF 782) where there is parking for the trail and Deer Creek (aka Bigelow) Hot Springs. We knew the hot springs were somewhere along our route but we didn’t know for sure where until we got home after the hike. There was no sign for the small hot spring that sits along the river bank but we did see an obvious trail heading south down to the river here. Not knowing that the hot springs were down there we visited the bridge over the McKenzie and then continued on the McKenzie River Trail.
IMG_8586Up river from Deer Creek Road.

IMG_8588Deer Creek Hot Springs would be somewhere along the right hand side of the river.

The trail briefly climbed above the river before switchbacking down and arriving at Frissel Creek just over a mile from Deer Creek Road.
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IMG_8592We had to go around this bridge due to frost and it being at an angle.

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IMG_8606Footbridge over Frissel Creek.

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We had planned to turn around between 10 and 10:30 at either the hot springs or Forest Road 610 which the trail briefly follows. Since we didn’t realize we’d passed the hot springs we wound up making FR 610 the turnaround which was approximately three quarters of a mile beyond Frissel Creek. We arrived at the road just after 10:30.
IMG_8610Sun over the McKenzie River

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We turned around at the road and headed back keeping our eyes open for any sign of the hot springs and any other things we missed on the first pass. We still didn’t realize that the hot springs were where they were but we did spot a lot more mushrooms and the tops of the Middle and North Sister on the way back.
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IMG_8624We missed this sign for slough creek the first time by.

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IMG_8633Missed this survey marker too.

IMG_8631We also completely missed this sign at Deer Creek.

IMG_8638Still cold

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IMG_8679Without the use of the zoom on the camera they are hard to make out but the tops of the North and Middle Sister are visible over the hills.

The Garmin showed 14.6 miles for this out and back (Google maps had indicated it would be 13.4 miles) and there was between 800 and 1000′ of cumulative elevation gain. What climbs there were weren’t ever steep and didn’t last long. We encountered a half dozen other trail users but when we arrived back at the trailhead it was full and cars were stretched all they way down the road with people heading for the Blue Pool. It has become one of “those” hikes and is getting loved to death. After changing we drove to Bend for a quick visit with Heather’s parents and then headed back over the pass to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: McKenzie River Trail

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Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Tamolitch Pool

Amazing! That is a good start in describing Tamolitch Pool which was the highlight of our most recent hike. Beautiful, gorgeous, and spectacular would also be fitting. We were looking for a good rainy day hike and decided on a section of the McKenzie River Trail in the Willamette National Forest. We had hiked a different section of the trail in September that passed Sahalie & Koosah Falls. This time we would start further down the McKenzie River with Koosah Falls being our turn around point.

We arrived armed with our rain gear and set off through a lush, damp forest. The trail quickly descended to the river, crossed two creeks on bridges, and traveled next to the McKenzie for awhile. It then climbed above the river as it crossed an old lava flow with moss covered rocks and numerous views to the roaring river below.
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Our first view of Tamolitch Pool came just after the 2 mile mark. It was one of those “take your breath away” moments. The pool sits in a small bowl below a dry waterfall. The crystal clear water offers a view to the bottom and is a blue that is truly stunning.
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We spent some time exploring the rim of the bowl watching the McKenzie River flow full speed ahead from this still pool’s outlet.
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After a snack we continued up the trail following the now dry riverbed toward Koosah Falls. Somewhere below us the McKenzie River flowed underground, buried by a lava flow, on it’s way to Tamolitch Pool. The forest along this portion of the trail changed often as we crossed the old riverbed on a series of log bridges. After another 3 miles we reached Carmen Reservoir (and most importantly bathrooms) where the McKenzie was once again visible above ground. Another 0.4 mile stretch brought us to Koosah Falls and our turn around point.

On our way back we stopped again at the pool which was just as stunning now as it was in the morning. Round trip to the pool from the trail head at Trailbridge is only 4.2 miles. Koosah Falls is a little over 11 but can be visited from the nearby Sahalie Falls parking area on a 2 mile loop. The McKenzie River Trail runs a total distance of 26.5 miles with numerous access points making it easy to do the entire trail in shorter sections. Until next time – Happy Trails 🙂

Photos from the hike on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201255605619366.1073741832.1448521051&type=3
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633751250296/