Oregon Wild Hikes: McKenzie River and Sahalie Falls
Hikes that offer a chance to get off the beaten track and explore the McKenzie River area, near Eugene
McKenzie River Sahalie Falls
Willamette National Forest
Difficulty: Varies, Sahalie hike is easy to moderate
Distance: Varies, 1.5 to 6 miles depending on trail
Elevation Gain: Moderate
Season: Spring, summer, fall.
Maps: See Willamette National Forest web site for more info
About the Hike
There are two or three good hiking options from the Sahalie Falls parking lot area. The best one is to set up a shuttle with one car at Sahalie Falls, and one a few miles downstream at the Trailbridge Reservoir road/trailhead. Hike from Sahalie Falls downhill past Koosah Falls, past Carmen Reservoir (when you come to the road here, take a right over the bridge, turn right again to get back into the woods, and then take a left on the McKenzie River trail), and along the “dewatered” McKenzie River channel. A few miles downstream you reach Tamolitch Pool – the place where the McKenzie River naturally reappears from its underground channel into a crystal blue pool. Downstream from the pool the trail passes through old growth cedars growing on a lava flow. If you can’t set up a shuttle, the Sahalie to Koosah Falls section is a nice short option. Or, start at the bottom and hike up to Tamolitch Pool and back. The one-way trip from Sahalie to Trailbridge is about 6 miles, easy to moderate. Sahalie to Koosah Falls round trip is a pretty easy 1.5 miles. Trailbridge to Tamolitch Pool round trip is 4.2 miles easy to moderate.
The beautiful forest along the Upper
McKenzie provides high quality drinking water for Eugene and unforgettable
hiking, biking, fishing, and boating to many visitors. Though much of the
public land in the watershed is roadless and wild in nature, it does not have
many protections and logging threats are still plentiful. In 2004 and 2005, Oregon Wild and conservation partners in the Eugene area launched a campaign aimed at
getting the Forest Service to drop thousands of acres of planned mature and
old-growth logging in the McKenzie watershed. Numerous organizational and
business partners signed on, thousands of citizens signed petitions, and the
Eugene City Council passed a resolution asking the Forest Service to end this
type of logging in the city’s drinking watershed. The Forest Service is,
however, still considering new logging sales in the watershed. One, the Two Bee
sale, is planned within a stone’s throw of the McKenzie Trail portion described
From Eugene, follow Highway 126 east. To get to the parking lot at the downstream end of the hike, turn left into the Trailbridge Campground area (about 14 miles past McKenzie Bridge), across a bridge, and right on Forest Road 655. Park about 1/3 mile up on the curve – the trailhead is on the right just past the curve. To park at Sahalie Falls, continue east to the well-signed parking lot near milepost 5.