Salem, OR: Little North Santiam Trail

Grab your hiking boots and a swimsuit for this 7.4-mile hike along the Little North Santiam River that tours a string of crystal clear swimming holes.
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Grab your hiking boots and a swimsuit for this 7.4-mile hike along the Little North Santiam River that tours a string of crystal clear swimming holes.

Hikers looking for a refreshing escape from the summer heat should explore this 7.4-mile out-and-back along the Little North Santiam River. Roughly an hour from Salem, the riverside hike tours a natural water park with deep emerald pools linked by chutes, cascades, and waterfalls. From the trailhead near Elkhorn, follow Little North Santiam Trail along the river, passing several spurs to rocky beaches and cascading waterfalls. Less than half a mile in, the trail bears right and climbs steadily away from the river to a vantage point overlooking the gorge, Henline Mountain, and Triple Falls.
From here, the route descends back to the river and passes a roomy campsite with access to a secluded beach. After 2.5 miles, the trail travels past the Three Pools area, a popular swimming hole marked by a rock pinnacle and a series of chutes and pools. (For more solitude, continue 1,000 feet to a quiet, pebbly beach east of Three Pools.) At mile 3.7, the trail meets Forest Road 2207 and a small parking area (good place to park a shuttle car). Turn around and follow the same route back to the trailhead.
INFO: Little North Santiam Trail #3338
-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, Bosco Mountain Photo

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 11.9



Location: 44.833938, -122.3509169

From the trailhead just east of Elkhorn, hike north on the Little North Santiam Trail.


Location: 44.8353455, -122.3493183

Cross the first of many rustic log bridges.


Location: 44.8358096, -122.3468882

Continue straight, heading southeast. Optional: Turn left to follow the short, steep spur that leads down to a rocky beach.


Location: 44.8356137, -122.3459494

Pass a short spur that leads down to a rocky beach and a deep pool.


Location: 44.8352618, -122.3447263

Cross a log bridge. Look for trillium alongside the trail.


Location: 44.8368519, -122.3434496

The trail passes a short, overgrown spur to the river (nice views, but poor access).


Location: 44.8370269, -122.3432028

A short spur leads to rocky outcrops. You'll find views of a wide waterfall pouring over a basalt bench.


Location: 44.8370726, -122.3428488

The trail turns right (east) and starts to climb. Recommended: Take the spur trail straight ahead for views of a waterfall.


Location: 44.837491, -122.342881

This rocky platform offers views above the waterfall. You can access the pool upriver by following the spur and scrambling over rocks.


Location: 44.8387996, -122.337302

Cross a creek.


Location: 44.8391039, -122.3360896

Look through the trees and across the gorge for views of a large waterfall. There is no access to the pools below this point.


Location: 44.839081, -122.3356497

Pass a small campground with a fire ring. There's a faint and very steep trail that descends toward water.


Location: 44.8389897, -122.3345876

The route passes a short spur that leads to views of the river gorge and Henline Mountain.


Location: 44.8387311, -122.3316371

Enjoy the views from this vantage point; avalanche lily flourish in sunny spots.


Location: 44.8381757, -122.3258972

Cross a bridge.


Location: 44.8383659, -122.3199964

Cross two more log bridges.


Location: 44.8396212, -122.3175073

A roomy campground with a fire ring is located between the trail and the river. Look for the short spur that links the campsite to a private pebbly beach and deep pool.


Location: 44.8398974, -122.3182335

Relax at this little beach with a deep emerald pool.


Location: 44.838267, -122.3131299

Cross a wooden bridge.


Location: 44.838317, -122.3100547

Look down onto the popular Three Pools area, an often-crowded swimming hole with deep pools and chutes (no river access here).


Location: 44.8387971, -122.3075711

The spur trail on the left leads to a rocky beach at the top of the Three Pools area.


Location: 44.8388531, -122.3078261

Lucky hikers may find solitude at this pebbly beach with a deep green pool.


Location: 44.8389974, -122.3046005

Pass a small campground with a fire ring and easy access to the river.


Location: 44.8388376, -122.3030233

A short spur trail descends to the river; look for a small natural arch in the basalt bedrock.


Location: 44.8389167, -122.3019167

Cross Little Cedar Creek on a rustic bridge.


Location: 44.841409, -122.3022938

A steep spur on the left descends to a large rock outcrop near a small pool.


Location: 44.8457298, -122.2979486

Turn around at FR 2207 and retrace the route back to the trailhead (Shady Cove Campground is located across the bridge).

Cascade Pool

Location: 44.8358248, -122.3459226

Deep green pool beneath a small cascade. © Eli Boschetto


Location: 44.8372171, -122.3431277

Wide waterfall pouring over a basalt bench. Look for deep pools above and below. © Eli Boschetto

Cool Green

Location: 44.8376812, -122.3427844

Large pool above bench waterfall. © Eli Boschetto

Hidden Falls

Location: 44.8391191, -122.3359609

Tall waterfall across the gorge. © Eli Boschetto

Little North Santiam River Gorge

Location: 44.8387843, -122.3314869

Views of the Little North Santiam River gorge and Henline Mountain. © Eli Boschetto

Private Pool

Location: 44.8399255, -122.3181081

This gorgeous pool has its own private pebbly beach and is attached to a nice campsite. © Eli Boschetto

Three Pools

Location: 44.8383203, -122.3099327

This popular swimming hole has a series of deep green pools connected by small chutes and cascades. © Eli Boschetto

Pebble Beach

Location: 44.8388985, -122.307744

This deep, quiet pool with small beach is at the top of the Three Pools area. © Eli Boschetto

Wooden Bridge

Location: 44.8389289, -122.3018003

This length of trail crossed numerous creeks and streams on rustic wooden bridges. © Eli Boschetto

Shady Forest

Location: 44.8439726, -122.3010278

Cool and shady old-growth forest. © Eli Boschetto

FR 2207

Location: 44.8457298, -122.2978306

The bridge on FR 2207. © Eli Boschetto

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