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Metolius River Trail

Hike the Metolius River Trail

 The magical, mystical Metolius River is one of the many reasons we loved visiting Central Oregon during our spring break road trip. This short river springs from the side of a mountain, has lush forested banks and surreal blue water. Our friend Kolby (aka The Hike Guy) had recommended this trail over dinner in Bend the night before. It was even better than we imagined.

Trail Details
Distance: 4.6 miles
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation gain: 250 ft
Dogs: No
When to go: Spring-Fall
This trail begins at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery (directions), where they raise fish to reintroduce native fish to the local rivers. The Metolius River used to connect to the Columbia River, but decades ago it was dammed to create a reservoir — effectively cutting off several strains of fish that would migrate upstream to spawn.

The fish hatchery is working to restore the natural balance, and is itself an interesting destination. Parking is free, and you can wander around the hatchery to see how they transfer fish from tank to tank. Don’t miss the “escapee” pond, where some unusually large fish are enjoying their retirement. The spot is also a favorite hangout for the fish-loving local bald eagles, often seen flying nearby.

Hiker Trail along the Metolius River

From the parking lot at Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, face south and you’ll see the trailhead for the Metolius River Trail. This trail winds along the western bank of the Metolius, sometimes climbing  the hills where the incline is too steep; other times running right next the river’s edge.

Blue water of the Metolius River

One of the first and most striking features of the Metolius River is the brilliant blue water. It’s crystal clear with an iridescence that is captivating.

We hiked along the trail, sometimes tracking further inland and higher up the hills. The river is flanked by towering pine trees, and lush micro-landscapes along the way.

Mossy log

The real surprise of this out-and-back trail were the falls. These were our destination, and are astounding. Across the fast-moving Metolius springs a waterfall right out of the side of the mountain. There is no stream feeding it — it just appears and cascades into the the river.

Falls that spring from the side of the mountain

Geologists used to believe this water came from an underground spring at nearby Black Butte, but current thinking is that it actually follows underground lava tubes from miles away. Either way, it is remarkable to see a waterfall streaming from the side of a mountain.

Metolius River Trail Map

Download file: Metolius River Trail.gpx

Photo Gallery

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Metolius River Trail Tips

  • Spend some time exploring the fish hatchery. It’s pretty interesting in itself. Don’t miss the “escapee pond.”
  • Layer for unexpected changes in weather, and bring the ten essentials.

More Metolius River Resources

Book Recommendation
One of the hiking books that I really liked for the Bend area is Bend, Overall by Scott Cook. This book is written in a fun, casual style but has a lot of trails with some great details.

Highly recommended.

Metolius River Weather Forecast

[forecast width=”100%” location=”97730″]

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