Hike to the Opal Creek Pools
Oregon › Opal Creek Trail
Added by Michael Graw
An easy 7-mile loop hike through old-growth forest showcasing tons of river and waterfall views, an emerald pool to jump into, and rocks to sunbathe on.
The Opal Creek pools are a wonderful place to visit year-round, but they’re a true oasis on a hot summer day. With a variety of rock outcroppings and ledges to jump off of, and plenty of room to spread out for a picnic, this is a summertime magnet.
Accessing the pools is a gift in and of itself – it requires an easy 7-mile loop hike through the Opal Creek Wilderness, a low-elevation ancient forest that represents the largest old-growth forest in the western Cascades. Some trees are over 1,000 years old. The forest and all of its flora and fauna are a site to behold. It feels like you’re taking a step back in time.
It's still worth a trip to the pool when the weather turns colder and rainier, though. The river is surrounded by deciduous trees that turn colors in October and November, while the rain amplifies the waterfalls and brings out the emerald color of the water.
The hike begins at the Opal Creek Trailhead, which can be accessed via a long (and scenic) drive in along North Fork Road off of OR-22. The trail is actually a road in itself, providing vehicle access to the off-the-grid town of Jawbone Flats that you'll encounter just before reaching Opal Pool. However, the gate is locked at the trailhead so that anyone who is not a resident of Jawbone Flats has to hike in.
The trail quickly crosses a high bridge over Gold Creek, which can be accessed via a small side-trail on the far side of the bridge. However, this is relatively steep and there is not much to see below the bridge, so just remain on the trail - there's plenty of scenery ahead. The trail meanders along the Little North Santiam River, where there are tons of rock outcroppings to explore among the rapids. Keep an eye out for rusted industrial equipment alongside the trail, remnants of the area's mining history. Continue straight at the trail junction with the Kopetski trail (you'll come back this way later). After about 3 miles, you'll reach the small community fo Jawbone Flats. Feel free to look around, but remember that the buildings are occupied private property and be respectful.
Follow signs to just beyond Jawbone Flats to reach a bridge over Opal Creek, and then turn right to head down to the pool below. This is a perfect spot to grab lunch, jump in the water, or just sit and enjoy the water's color.
When you're ready to head back, continue following the trail that you turned right onto to travel back along the other back of the Little North Santiam River. This is much more of a trail than the gravel road you came in on, so be prepared for slightly slower going. After about 2 miles, you'll reach a bridge over the river and rejoin the gravel road. Turn left to hike the ~1.5 miles back to the parking lot.
- Northwest Forest Pass (required for parking at the trailhead)
- Picnic Supplies
- Hiking gear
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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ReviewsLeave a Review
This is one of the most beautiful places I've been to in the area.The color of the pools of water are incredible.The trail across the creek from jawbone flats is magical.I swear fairies live there.If I were a fairy that's where I would live.
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