Best Hikes in Willamette National Forest (OR)

Willamette National Forest Overview

The Willamette National Forest stretches for 110 miles along the western slopes of the Cascade Range in western Oregon. It shares its border with Mount Hood National Forest to the north, Deschutes National Forest to the east, and Umpqua National Forest to the south! The varied landscape of high mountains, narrow canyons, cascading streams, and wooded slopes offer excellent opportunities for visitors and make the Forest valuable for many purposes. Highlights include the McKenzie River, Mt. Jefferson and Diamond Peak. Willamette National Forest offers a wide variety of recreation opportunities. Its central location makes it accessible to day-trippers and vacationers alike. There are nearly 1,700 miles of hiking trails to be explored as well! Some of the best hikes in Willamette National Forest are described below.

Nearest Metro AreaEugene, OR
Area Size1,678,031 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1933
Hiking Trails1700 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Willamette National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Willamette National Forest)

Abiqua Falls Trail*** – 1.0 miles out and back
Abiqua Falls, Oregon
Abiqua Falls, Photo by Thomas Shahan

Located west of Willamette National Forest just outside its boundary, Abiqua Falls is one of the most beautiful falls in all of Oregon. The trail itself isn’t noteworthy and a bit difficult to traverse being muddy, rocky and unmarked but once you arrive at the falls it will be well worth the visit!

Clear Lake Loop #4341 – 5.8 mile loop
Fall color Clear Lake, Oregon (Linn County)
Fall color Clear Lake, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

Simple loop that is family-friendly around the beautiful Clear Lake near the northern junction of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. Keep your eyes out for nesting bald eagles in the area!

Eagles Rest Trail #3461 – 3.0 miles out and back

Great little trail that doesn’t get as crowded as some of the other best hikes in Willamette National Forest. Challenging but not too difficult for children to attempt. The views from the top of Eagles Rest are great!

Kopetski / Opal Creek Trail #4187*** – 5.2 miles out and back
Opal Creek, Oregon
Opal Creek, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

Within the Opal Creek Wilderness, this trail follows the Little North Santiam River through a large Douglas-Fir and Western Hemlock forest to its tributaries, Opal Creek and Battle Ax Creek, then turns south and follows Opal Creek, crossing Flume Creek at a picturesque waterfall location.

McKenzie River Trail to Tamolitch Blue Pool #3507*** – 4.2 miles out and back
Tamolitch Falls and the Blue Pool, Oregon
Tamolitch Falls and the Blue Pool, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

This is a quick and popular hike from the Trail Bridge Reservoir. A lava flow from 1,600 years ago buried a 3 mile stretch of the McKenzie River between Carmen Reservoir and Tamolitch Falls. The river resurfaces at Tamolitch Pool, seeping up to the surface through the porous lava, creating a pristine turquoise blue colored pool.

Pamelia Lake Trail #3439*** – 4.6 miles out and back
Pamelia Lake, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness
Pamelia Lake, Photo by Andrew Warren

One of the more popular hikes in Mt Jefferson Wilderness within Willamette National Forest; the trail follows along Pamelia Creek through an old-growth forest on its way to Pamelia Lake at the base of Mount Jefferson (10,495′). For those with a little more ‘giddy up’ in their step, strongly consider adding on the Grizzly Peak Trail #3428 to your trek. The trail splits off and climbs over 1,310 feet in the next 2.8 miles providing excellent views of Mount Jefferson, Pamelia Lake, the Three Sisters and Three Fingered Jack. The trail ends at the summit of Grizzly Peak.

Proxy Falls Loop #3532 – 1.6 mile loop
Proxy Falls, Oregon
Proxy Falls, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

Beginning at Proxy Falls Trailhead, Proxy Falls Trail #3532 starts by heading west and immediately entering the Three Sisters Wilderness. The trail continues south over an old lava flow, then entering a mixed conifer forest. This loop trail meets 2 trail junctions before ending back at the Proxy Falls Trailhead. The trail at the western junction follows a short ridge to a viewpoint of Lower Proxy Falls. The trail at the eastern junction follows a creek bed uphill to the Upper Proxy Falls.

Stahlman Point Trail #3449 – 4.5 miles out and back
Stahlman Point Trail, Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture

Quick but challenging hike to an awesome 360 degree vantage point. Trail ends at a former lookout site, overlooking the reservoir and the towns of Detroit and Idanha, and providing a nice view of Mt. Jefferson to the southeast. Note: the last 200′ are steep and rocky!

Waterfalls Loop Trail #3503*** – 2.4 mile loop
Koosah Falls (By Elijah Benedick)
Koosah Falls, Photo by Alejandro Castro Mouzo

Just north of Tamolitch Blue Pool, Waterfalls Loop Trail travels the east side of the McKenzie River bearing south. The trail passes through an old growth conifer forest as it reaches the Sahalie Falls viewpoint, then continues south to the Koosah Falls viewpoint before reaching its southern end where it rejoins the McKenzie River Trail. You can make a loop by connecting with the McKenzie River Trail. 

Featured Image: Blue River Reservoir, Willamette National Forest, Photo by U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

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