Distance: 6.6 miles
Elevation gain: 900 ft.
Location: Willamette National Forest, Opal Creek Scenic Area, Oregon
This hike is along the same river as the Opal Creek trail – the Little North Santiam River – but without the mining or sawmill relics or crowds. The trail meanders along the picturesque Little North Santiam River through young and older Douglas-fir forest. After a short distance along the river, the trail climbs steeply to several rocky ledge viewpoints of the surrounding mountains, with the river fall below and not visible. Several cascading waterfalls, deep emerald pools and a spectacular gorge with towering rock walls can be seen along the trail. Three Pools Scenic Area is a day use area across the river from this trail. Popular in the hot days of summer, people gather here to swim in three pools along the river, separated by small cascading waterfalls.
From the south trailhead, the trail goes for 4.5 miles to the Shady Cove campground and another trailhead. We stopped at the Three Pools area and explored the river’s edge along a section of large rocks. This trail is not heavily used, and we only saw five other hikers the whole day.