The Tamolitch Blue Pool hike is a must while you’re exploring the McKenzie River and the surrounding area. The short hike takes you to an enchanting pool with shades of blue you didn’t know existed. It is hardly surprising this spot is one of the most visited places in Oregon.
If you don’t know much about the state, you may be surprised at just how much volcanic activity took place in the area around 1,500 years ago. In the Willamette National Forest, the Belnap Crater produced a vast lava flow buried a 3 mile stretch of the McKenzie River, moving that portion deep underground.
The Tamolitch Blue Pool has been created from where river seeps from under the lava back above ground resulting in a simply stunning crystal clear lake, with water at 37 degrees. In the spring, when the runoff is at its strongest, Tamolitch Falls flows over the lava, which can be pretty impressive to see.
Although the Blue Pool hike is worth the trip alone, many people combine it with the McKenzie River Trail. This is a hugely popular, longer hike at 27 miles that follows the McKenzie River in the Cascade Mountains, with the Blue Pool hike being just a small segment of this much longer trail.
Tamolitch Blue Pool Hike Overview
Distance: 3.7 miles
Type of Trail: Out and back
It is easy to see why people fall in love with this spot as soon as they set eyes on it. You’ll doubtfully see water this blue anywhere else!
The blue is hard to describe, and photos hardly do it justice. If you’re here in season, the beautiful small waterfall surging above the Blue Pool adds to the beautiful nature of the area.
The Blue Pool trail itself is gorgeous, strolling through Douglas Firs, lava rocks, and mossy canopies, all alongside the rushing McKenzie River, makes for quite the hike! The air is crisp and if the weather is right, feel free to relax around the sparkling waters. However, be aware that jumping in the pool can be very dangerous.
The trail is mostly flat, with a 300 feet elevation gain overall. This well-maintained forest trail gently meanders through lava rock and woodland, guiding you steadily upstream.
The trailhead sets the scene for the rest of the hike, as you’ll begin a gentle stroll through towering Douglas-fir. For a while, you’ll be walking alongside the rushing McKenzie River before you start heading uphill. From here, you’ll be able to see the rushing waters from above as it tumbles over the rocks.
For a short while, the trail leads away from the river and into a landscape of lava rocks. The trees thin slightly here, and you will get a real sense of the volcanic activity that once took place here. Although you will be heading through the lava rocks, the trail itself is mainly clear and is well-maintained.
After meandering through the rocks for a while, the path will begin to head downhill again towards the river, and you will begin to hear the rush of water and rapids before you see it.
Suddenly, the beautiful Tamolitch Blue Pool will appear before you, with a color so blue it is hard to believe it is completely natural. The color is complemented by the rich mosses and dense forest that surrounds it.
The Blue Pool
Many people enjoy picnics at the tops of the rocks, too, so feel free to bring up some snacks. It is a magical place to spend the day, and it truly is somewhere that has to be experienced, as words or photos will not do it justice.
There are a few different ways you can get down to the water’s edge if you fancy dipping your toes in the freezing waters. As soon as your feet touch the water, you will realize why not many people are swimming in it. The water is cold; we are talking glacial cold at around 37 degrees year-round.
The water here is so clear that you may assume that it is only about 5ft deep, but in some places, it is over 30ft deep. Accessing the water’s edge is no easy feat, as it involves bouldering over large rocks and a steep trail.
Best Time To Visit the Tamolitch Blue Pool
The hike can be completed all year round, another reason it is such a popular hike. Each season comes with its perks. During the summer, you’ll have the best chance of good weather, but this is also when the hike is the most crowded.
Fall is arguably the most beautiful as the orange and golds of the trees look incredible against the turquoise blue of the water. The spring is when you may be able able to see the waterfall in action. In the winter, the trail can be a little slippery, but you are also the most likely to have it to yourself, and if there is snow, the pool can look almost black.
Add On Trails Near Tamolitch Blue Pool
These other highlights are actually all along the McKenzie River Trail, which means you can hike to all these spots using the same trail from Blue Pool.
Add on Koosah and Sahlie Falls
Luckily, if you’re short on time, you can likely still squeeze in seeing some of the other beauty spots in the area. Sahalie and Koosah Falls are two of the most stunning waterfalls on the McKenzie River and are very close to the Blue Pool, plus both have their parking lots.
Therefore, you can hop out, admire their powerful beauty, and then head on to the Blue Pool hike if you can’t hike the whole loop.
Add on Clear Lake
One of the coolest lakes in Oregon, Clear Lake, is just down the road and would be another stunning spot to add on to your hike.
If you enjoy the Blue Pool, you’ll fall in love with Clear Lake, which can be just as clear! After all, the name kind of gives it away, right?
Other Things Nearby Tamolitch Blue Pool
While you’re here, it would be a shame to miss out on some of these other spots we love!
Proxy Falls – Incredible cascading waterfall, an easy 1.6-mile hike.
Hot Springs – There are quite a few just down the road, including Bigelow and Belknap. Here are some great Oregon hot springs to visit in the area.
Bend – All of these spots are day trippable (is that a word? I’m sticking with it…) from Bend, and there’s plenty more to do around this adventurous town. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Bend.
Things to Know About the Tamolitch Blue Pool Hike
- The terrain warrants decent hiking shoes or at least runners. It’s a mix of dirt and lava rock. A few wooden bridges and walkways can be expected as well.
- The parking situation isn’t the best—It’s a long line of parallel parking on a gravel road. You may be walking a bit to get to the trailhead. The other two parking lots for the falls are also small, and in peak season, it can get crowded.
- Unfortunately, portions of the hiking paths are close to the road, which ruins the nature vibes a bit at certain points.
- Weekdays will be less crowded, but this is not a secret place, so—expect people!
- Don’t feel weird bringing a swimsuit; plenty of people are
crazycourageous enough to hop in the Blue Pool’s freezing waters (37/3 degrees F/C on average)
- If you do get in, be careful! There have been rescues from people jumping from the cliffs and rocks. Don’t jump or do anything else risky when getting in. The water is also icy, and this can also be very dangerous. People have died here.
- Bring enough water for whatever hike you decide to take on; there’s nowhere to fill up.
- There isn’t always going to be a waterfall at the Tamolitch Blue Pool! During dry season, the smaller falls at the bottom will be flowing.
- You will be sharing the Blue Pool hike with bikers.
Where to Camp Near Tamolitch Blue Pool
You can camp right alongside Clear Lake at the Coldwater Cove Campground. Vault toilets, fire pits, and tent sites available. The lake has a loop trail around it as well.
Just down the road is Ice Cap Creek Camp, which could not be any closer; it’s right next to Koosah Falls. Here you’ll find toilets and primitive campsites.
Just south of the Blue Pool is Olallie On Mckenzie Highway. This is another campsite with 16 sites, vault toilets, and is set along the rushing Mckenzie river.
And if you’re heading west, we have some great campsites near Eugene to check out too.
How To Get To the Blue Pool Hike
Another thing that makes the Blue Pool Hike so popular is its accessibility. The drive from Bend or Eugene will take around 1.25 hours, or just a little longer from Salem. Everything is well signed, and you can’t miss it while driving down the McKenize highway from either direction.
The trailhead for the hike is one of the access points to the McKenzie River Trail, as the hike is actually just a section of this long hike. There is a paved parking area just off of Highway 126; although the parking lot can accommodate over 20 cars, it can fill up, especially on summer weekends.