Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
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
- 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).
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
Location: 44.8376812, -122.3427844
Large pool above bench waterfall. © Eli Boschetto
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
Location: 44.8399255, -122.3181081
This gorgeous pool has its own private pebbly beach and is attached to a nice campsite. © Eli Boschetto
Location: 44.8383203, -122.3099327
This popular swimming hole has a series of deep green pools connected by small chutes and cascades. © Eli Boschetto
Location: 44.8388985, -122.307744
This deep, quiet pool with small beach is at the top of the Three Pools area. © Eli Boschetto
Location: 44.8389289, -122.3018003
This length of trail crossed numerous creeks and streams on rustic wooden bridges. © Eli Boschetto
Location: 44.8439726, -122.3010278
Cool and shady old-growth forest. © Eli Boschetto
Location: 44.8457298, -122.2978306
The bridge on FR 2207. © Eli Boschetto