If you’re the type of person that sees something beautiful and NEEDS to experience it in real life, then the Tamolitch Blue Pool hike should be on your Oregon bucket list. This hike is great for all levels of hikers and has a killer payoff. But before you head out, there are some mistakes you can make that will potentially ruin your experience. If you follow this Tamolitch Falls Blue Pool guide, you are guaranteed to be prepared and have an awesome time!
What is the Tamolitch Blue Pool?
Before visiting Oregon, I had no idea how much volcanic activity took place in the Pacific Northwest. 1,500 years ago, in the Willamette National Forest in Central Oregon, the Belnap Crater produced a lava flow between the Carmen Reservoir and the Tamolitch Blue Pool that buried a 3 mile portion of the McKenzie River.
The river that used to move normally and had a waterfall at the Tamolitch area, moved underground. It sounds complicated but water now seeps into the Tamolitch Pool from the underground lava field.
The result is a crystal clear lake filled with strikingly beautiful turquoise 37 degree water. During Spring, when the water runoff is strong enough, there is still an actual waterfall, but for the most part, Tamolitch Falls is a dry falls.
Best Time to Visit the Tamolitch Falls Blue Pool
You can do the Blue Pool hike year round but the most popular time is in the summer. It’s also the most crowded during summer.
The prettiest time may be autumn because the color of the fall leaves against the turquoise blue of the water makes it even more picturesque.
You can even visit in winter but the trail will be slippery. If you want to look up the Tamolitch Blue Pool Oregon weather, the area is called McKenzie Bridge, Oregon.
The Blue Pool Hike
The Tamolitch Blue Pool hike on the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail is 4.2 miles round trip. It’s an out and back hike that is mostly flat with 300 feet of elevation gain overall.
The McKenzie River trail is heavily trafficked, open to hikers, mountain biking and pets on a leash. The trailhead is located just south of the Trail Bridge Reservoir.
9 Mistakes to Avoid at the Tamolitch Blue Pool Hike
1. Arrive Early – The Blue Pool Hike Gets Crowded
There are 3 big reasons why you don’t want to make the mistake of getting there late, basically any time after noon.
- The crowds can be crazy. We arrived at 9:30 am on a Thursday and the hike was peaceful and beautiful. On our way back down at 1:00 pm it was packed with people.
- The big crowds arrive with a ton of cars. The hike can get a whole lot longer when you have to walk an extra 20 minutes with your distant parking place. Maybe you don’t care about the extra walking time but you might not like all the cars that go speeding down the road sending massive plumes of dust into the air.
- Depending on the time of year that you visit, it can get REALLY hot midday. The morning temperature was around 70 degrees and the way back was 98 degrees! Way too hot!
2. Wearing the Wrong Shoes can be Dangerous
The first mile of the hike is on soft ground through the forest but the second half is over a mixture of dirt, lava rock and tree roots. You need some decent hiking shoes or trail runners.
You will encounter parts of the hike where you have to climb over rocks too. Don’t wear flip flops like you’re going to the pool.
3. Passing the Blue Pool by Accident
I’m embarrassed to say we actually passed the Blue Pool and would have gone further off the path had we not run into other people that did it too. Thankfully they told us they messed up as they were heading back.
If you stop hearing the noise of the McKenzie River and you don’t have the Blue Pool in your view, you went too far. As soon as you don’t hear the river, that’s where you will find the Blue Pool.
4. Cliff Diving at the Blue Pool Has Lead to Death and Injuries
It looks beautiful and refreshing. The Tamolitch Falls area may be the bluest, most beautiful water you will ever see in your life. You might be temped to jump off the cliff into the Blue Pool but you should know that the water you are jumping into is 37 degrees year round and will most likely knock the wind out of you.
Sadly Alex Rovello, the 21 year old University of Oregon tennis star hit the rocks and was killed jumping off. Another man fell off the cliff and died, taking a photo. Be careful!
Rescues here take a long time because there is no staff onsite. That said, there have been 10 rescues in the last 2 months alone. If you are really dying to test the water, hike down to the bottom and go in from there so you can get out quickly and warm up.
5. Some Dogs Can’t Do the Whole Blue Pool Hike
If you happen to do the Blue Pool hike on a hot day, and you have a little dog, chances are it will be too much for them. We ended up having to carry our dogs for about 1/4 of the hike. Tons of people were carrying smaller dogs.
The heat that is uncomfortable for us is much harder for them. Bring water and a collapsable dog water bowl that you can just clip to your day pack.
You might also consider this dog carrier that we bought for our dog. Then if they want to be carried, it’ll be easier for both of you. Also, please don’t forget poop bags. It’s so sad to see people leave their dog’s waste on the trail.
6. Don’t Forget to Bring Water
This hike is not a hard hike in terms of distance or elevation but at least half the terrain is pretty rugged. Add in the heat which can be above 90 degrees and you absolutely need water. We were fine without snacks but water was essential for us and even more so for our dogs.
7. Set up Your Directions Ahead of Time Because There’s No Cell Service
The directions on Google Maps are correct but the Apple Maps app had completely different directions and they were wrong. So set up your google directions so the map is working when you’re offline.
8. The Trail is Not Great for Mountain Biking
This trail is listed as mountain bike friendly but it’s really not. The first half of the blue pool hike is a mostly flat trail with no obstacles. BUT, the second half of the trail is where mountain bikers will have obstacle after obstacle including tons of hikers. Many people end up walking their bikes murmuring under their breath, “It said this was bike friendly.”
9. Think Twice Before Taking Little Kids on the Blue Pool Hike
First and foremost, this isn’t the safest hike for kids. There’s a huge 50 foot drop off the cliff to the Blue Pool. Someone has died falling off the trail before.
The second problem is the trail down to the water is very steep and challenging. If your kid is at an age where they would need assistance getting down a steep trail, this is not the hike for them.
We saw some really unhappy kids. We also saw kids that were happily walking towards the blue pool with their bathing suit on that were about to be seriously disappointed. Age wise, it’s probably best for 10+ unless the kids hike regularly.
FAQs About the Tamolitch Blue Pool
- Is the Blue Pool open? Yes, but you can and should check the Forest Service website for any closures..
- Where is the Tamolitch Blue Pool located? It is on the McKenzie River in the Willamette National Forest.
- Can you swim in the Tamolitch Blue Pool? You can but not for very long because it’s so cold.
- How cold is the Tamolitch Blue Pool temperature? It is consistent 37 degrees year round.
- Was there a Blue Pool Oregon death? Sadly, yes there have been a few. One was a college student who was attempting to cliff dive and the other was a man that fell off the cliff taking a photo.
- How long is the the Tamolitch Blue Pool Oregon hike? The 4.2 mile hike will take you approximately 90 minutes. Then add in extra time if you plan to swim or picnic.
- Can you do the Blue Pool hike in winter? Yes, but wear good hiking shoes so you don’t slip.
- Can you go to the Blue Pool as a day trip from Eugene, Bend or Salem? Definitely. The drive will take approximately 1.25 hours from Bend or Eugene and 1.75 hours from Salem. You can also stay closer in Finn Rock, Vida or Sisters. See recommended places to stay below. There’s a ton to do in the area like hikes to Sahalie Falls, Koosah Falls and Proxy Falls.
Where to Stay Near the Tamolitch Blue Pool
We stopped at the Blue Pool on our way from Silver Falls State Park to Bend. Oregon. There are so many places to stay and things to do along the McKenzie River Scenic Byway.
Here are some places to stay that are close by if you want to spend a few days in the area. You can also visit the Blue Pool on a day trip from Salem, Eugene or Bend.
- FivePine Lodge – 5 star, super clean property with beautiful rooms in the main lodge or spacious 1-2 bedroom cabins. Walking distance to restaurants and shops in the cutest town of Sisters and 45 minutes to the Blue Pool.
- Eagle Rock Lodge – Bordering the McKenzie River, enjoy peaceful downtime in a gorgeous setting close to all the activities in the Willamette National Forest.
- 10 Best Boutique Hotels in Bend – Even though it’s a little more than an hour drive, staying in Bend will put you close to so many other activities.
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