Mckenzie River Trail Backpacking

After finishing my spring term at UO this past Friday, I was eager to get outdoors to start off my summer. With many people headed back home I decided to do some solo backpacking. I wanted to stay close, so I chose to hike the McKenzie River Trail. The full length of the MRT is usually done in a day on mountain bikes, or people day hike many of the short scenic routes along the trail. The full trail however, makes for a great multi-day backpacking trip- especially for beginners or people wanting to take it slow.

I wanted to make this trip simple logistically so I opted to take the bus instead of drive. I planned my bus routes for my departure and return trip on the Lane County transit website. I left my apartment at 3:30am on Monday morning to catch the first route on bus #91. I walked about a mile and a half to Eugene station and got on the bus when it arrived at 4:40am. I took this bus to McKenzie Bridge where I would be taking a shuttle from Horse Creek Lodge to the northern trail head. The bus dropped me off at around 6am but my shuttle didn't leave until 9am so I took a nap outside the shuttle company office.

The shuttle to the top of the trail was pretty fast and I was able to begin my hike at around 9:40 am. The trail begins at Fish Lake and then heads down to Clear Lake where you are given 2 optional route adjustments. You can take the Clear Lake Trail around the lake which is more forested and is a less technical route- the most common route taken by cyclists, or you you can follow the MRT route which goes through some lave flows on the other side of the lake. After Clear Lake there is a series of rapids on the river and many amazing water falls to stop and enjoy.

After these water falls the next big stop was the Tamolich Blue Pool. I arrived at Blue Pool around 1:30pm and cooked myself a big lunch from the rim. It's a beautiful spot but is a very crowded day hike and was very populated around the time I was there.

Blue pool was the last major spectacle on the trail. The next section of the trail traveled along the river (as does the whole trail) and in the forest.

Eventually I realized I was making pretty great time and decided to turn my three day trip into a one day event and see if I could finish the trail before the last bus arrived at the McKenzie River Ranger Station. I picked up my pace a little as I headed toward my next destination which was Deer Creek Hot Springs (also called Bigelow Hot Springs).

This was the last eventful spot along the trail for me. After this I powered to the end and eventually arrived at McKenzie River Ranger Station at 8:30pm. I missed the last bus which left at 7:20pm, so I ended up camping in the forest behind the the ranger station and catching the first bus out the next morning at 6:00am. My feet hurt pretty bad after that long day but it was definitely worth it.

If  your in the Eugene area or anywhere in Oregon for that manor I highly recommend this trip! I would also highly recommend doing the first half of the trail- from Fish Lake to Blue Pool as a day hike if you're not trying to do a multi-day hike. Or if you plan a little better than me and take less weight you could do the whole trail in an awesome long day.

Happy hiking,