Voted the best trail in America by Bike Magazine, the McKenzie River Trail is a pawfect trek for a backpacking trip with your buddy! Widely held to be one of the of the true gems of the Willamette National Forest, the McKenzie River Trail has many trailheads along the route -- the upper one is one mile east of the town of McKenzie Bridge, but eleven other trailheads come off Hwy 126.
Several of the trailheads have parking lots, and capacity varies. There are also shuttle buses from Clear Lake Resort and McKenzie River Resort -- both of which allow pets to bunk with their people! If you’re on a budget or just prefer to "ruff" it, you and your pooch can pitch your tent at Paradise Campground, or several others along the route. It almost goes without saying that the trail is extremely popular with both hikers and mountain bikers, so those searching for solitude should probably look elsewhere.
In a state chock full of spectacularly scenic trails, the McKenzie River Trail still manages to stand out. The route winds through stately, 300-year-old forest along the river, and if you’re looking for fabulous water features, look no fur-ther! The path passes the majestic Sahalie and Koosah Falls as well as several beautiful, serene lakes. The most famous of these is the Tamolitch Pool, also known simply as the "Blue Pool" after its striking azure color. The river actually disappears underground for several miles before this point, reappearing just after Tamolith. That’s not all, though -- you’ll pass countless streams along the route, and even hot springs!
Amazing as the surrounding area is, this trail is not for the unfit of heart or unsure of foot. There are several steep inclines along the route, and the terrain can be quite rocky and unstable, particularly by the lakes and lava beds. In terms of facilities, though, McKenzie River has a lot more to offer than a lot of other wilderness trails. Water and restrooms are available. The forest does have a small bear population, though no grizzlies have been spotted in the area since the 1930s. You’re more likely to see a blonde black bear, if you see any at all -- by all accounts, the population is rapidly dwindling. Bug spray is a must in the summer, of course!