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Conquer the McKenzie River Trail - America's #1 Trail

By Elise McClain

The Willamette Valley stretches to the crest of the Cascade Mountains. In the foothills of those mountains, you'll find the renowned McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. An hour east of Eugene, the MRT, as it's known to locals, follows the McKenzie River from its headwaters at Clear Lake to the town of McKenzie Bridge. As it continues west, the pure and pristine McKenzie River pours into the south Willamette Valley, providing an ideal water source for the area's 17 wineries and more than a dozen craft breweries.

It won't take you long to see why the MRT has been called the #1 Best Trail in America. The MRT brings 26.5 miles worth of adventure, natural beauty and a topaz-blue pool that will knock your hiking, running and mountain biking socks off. Venture over lava beds, under 600-year-old Douglas fir forests to thundering Koosah and Sahalie Falls. Traverse handmade log bridges over streams and beds of billowing ferns from Trailbridge Reservoir to Tamolitch Pool, the bluest water you've ever seen. This is where the mineral-rich McKenzie River emerges from a three-mile subterranean craw through basalt lava tubes, the azure water so clear sometimes you can see more than 100 feet to the bottom.

While the Tamolitch tempts with its tantalizing beauty, the water is very cold. Save your swimming cravings for the riverside hot springs at Belknap Hot Springs Resort. Surrounded by the Willamette National Forest, Belknap Resort offers lodge rooms, cabins and tent camping. The secret garden is a must-see!

Share your tails from the trail over a buffalo burger and a glass of Pinot at nearby Takoda's Restaurant.

Discover more of what the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region has to offer at

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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