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McKenzie River National Recreation Trail, OR
mini location map2017-06-26
14 by photographer avatarSkyIslandHiker
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McKenzie River National Recreation Trail, OR 
McKenzie River National Recreation Trail, OR
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After Sunday's abbreviated Mt. Hood climb Mitch and I drove over to the Central Oregon High Desert to the outdoor-oriented town of Bend. I discovered Bend when it was a sleepy timber industry town with a population of about 20,000 and affordable housing. Today Bend has 90,000 residents and has been CaliFornicated :( . Following lunch at the Deschutes Brewery I gave Mitch the cook's tour - Mirror Pond/Drake Park, downtown's Wall and Bond Streets, Pilot Butte, Old Mill District, Deschutes River and even Sunriver where I had hoped to retire...but I digress.

Monday morning we drove via Sisters and the Old McKenzie Highway to near Clear Lake where we accessed a scenic segment of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail (MRT). My wife and I hiked all 26.5 miles of the MRT some years ago but my favorite piece, which I've often repeated, is the Waterfalls Loop along the upper McKenzie Wild and Scenic River. The highlight of this hike is viewing Sahalie and Koosah Falls from both sides of the river. The loop is only about 4 miles but can easily take 3 hours due to all the jaw dropping scenery and photo ops. A bonus is mountain air that has the scent of a Christmas tree. Besides hikers, the MRT is also popular with mountain bikers and trail runners.

We parked along highway 126 across from the Coldwater Cove Campground junction, where the MRT crosses the highway, and headed south on the trail. At the upper junction with the Waterfall Trail, we crossed the footbridge over the river and hiked down the west side of the river on the MRT. The raging water of the upper McKenzie is glacial blue in color and there are numerous waterfalls which can be viewed from the trail. After about a mile we came to 100' high Sahalie Falls which is always impressive. Sahalie is a thundering cataract that pounds the river into a rainbowed mist. As we continued down the MRT the river churns through continuous whitewater for half a mile before leaping off another cliff at 70' Koosah Falls. What's so spectacular about these waterfalls is not so much the height as the volume of water.

To complete our loop, we crossed the McKenzie River at Carmen Reservoir and hiked up the east side of the river, now on the Waterfall Trail. We passed by Koosah and Sahalie Falls again and got a different perspective from the other side of the river. Not only is the east side of the loop closer to the river, it is more developed with overlooks due to its proximity to the highway.

Following our hike we drove to the nearby Crockett Lodge at Clear Lake for a post-hike fuel-up including marionberry pie!

A longer hiking option (besides hiking the whole 26.5 miles of the MRT) is to include the trail around Clear Lake which makes a figure-8 with the Waterfalls Loop. The MRT passes though some old growth forest on the west side of the lake and the east side features lots of volcanic rock and the Big Spring which is the headwaters of the McKenzie River.

The McKenzie River Trail just might be my favorite trail, anywhere!
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
Rhododendrons beginning to bloom.
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