Tamolitch Falls and Pool

Mileage (Roundtrip): 4.2 Trail Conditions: Rocky trail. Light hikers recommended.
Hike #: 26 Scenery (1 "Meh" to 10 "Amazing, Wow"): 8
Sullivan Hike #: 65 Difficulty (1 "Easy" to 5 "Difficult"): 2
Hike Name: Tamolitch Pool Region: McKenzie Foothills

Driving Directions: From Sisters, head west on Highway 20 about 25 miles to the Santiam “Y” junction and turn left to stay on Highway 20. Continue on Highway 20 for 3.3 miles to Highway 126. Continue on Highway 126 for 8 miles and turn right (west) at the sign “Trailbridge Campground”, cross a bridge, and then turn right on gravel Road 655. The trailhead is about .3 miles down the road. Parking is allowed along the shoulder of the road on the right side.

Bring: Bug repellant (in July and August), sunblock, hiking boots.

Other Things to Know: The McKenzie River Trail is very popular with mountain bikers.

This rugged section of the McKenzie River trail is extremely popular with hikers and bikers alike. While we chose a weekday morning for the hike, we had to share the trail with two large school groups, a large contingent of mountain bikers, and a few solitary day hikers who, like us, were a bit dismayed by the hordes of people milling around the parking lot. Despite the crowds, we enjoyed this hike and will likely return for another visit this Fall.

The trail begins in a shady old growth forest of Douglas Fir

Douglas fir

Old growth

and Cedar west of and slightly above the McKenzie River. In less than .25 miles the trail descends to the river’s edge and passes by several impressive sections of whitewater before curving away from the river to follow a small creek. The dense forest for the first mile or so of the hike is enchanting and we stopped and took loads of photos of Zoe next to the huge trees. After 1.2 miles the trail begins to climb through a lava field which, thankfully, has a well-worn path through it. While we saw loads of hikers with sandals and tennis shoes I recommend light hikers since twisting an ankle or stubbing a toe on the way to the Tamolitch Pool would be a huge bummer.

As the trail climbs there are a few nice lookouts with views

river, forest

McKenzie River

of the river crashing through a narrow canyon. After 15 to 20 minutes of climbing gently the trail levels out. Soon the lovely blue-green waters of the Tamolitch Pool appear. The “official” trail climbs up and away from the Tamolitch Pool but it is easy enough to walk out onto the wide ledge that juts out above the pool. Following the departure of an enormous group of school children we found a quiet spot on the ledge and had a small picnic. Sullivan’s guidebook states that their is a dry waterfall above the pool (evidently the river disappears into the lava rock upstream of Tamolitch Pool); however, on the day we visited there was a powerful cascade plunging into the pool. A great lunch spot and, on a less busy day, perhaps a great spot for quiet reflection/meditation.

waterfall, pool

Tamolitch Pool

After an uneventful hike back to the car we drove up the highway a few miles to Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls for a quick walk along the east side of the McKenzie River. Satisfied with our outing we headed home with a quick stop to grab donuts at Sisters Bakery.

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