We wanted to challenge ourselves, so hubby picked a 7 mile hike to Opal Pool. There's also a waterfal here too. It was supposed to only have 300 feet of elevation though, so we thought it would be fine. We normally walk at about 3 miles an hour, but average 2 miles an hour since we stop and take pics. We gave ourselves 4 hours to do this hike and we had a one hour cushion so we could stop and eat lunch. We figured if the hike took too long, we'd just skip lunch. We picked up some protein bars on the way in case we missed lunch. Keep reading to find out how that went.
Hubby was really excited to see Jawbone Flats. It's a little town that's also some sort of research center. I don't really know much about it, but he really wanted to go. There was a waterfall, so I was willing to do it.
How to get there
If you're heading from Salem to Detroit on HWY 22, take a left at the second flashing light in Mehama. It's Little North Form Road. It's paved and then dirt and then paved again. After about 15 miles, it goes back to dirt. Stay straight (or left) at the "fork". It's not much of a fork in the traditional sense of a fork. Just don't take any right hand turns. After another four miles or so, you'll be at the trail head. Get there super early if you want a close parking spot. When we got there, there weren't many people there. When we left, it was crazy packed! There is a turn around spot, so you can go all the way to the gate and try for a good parking spot, but if you can't get one, you'll have to go back down the long line of cars and park at the end. Good luck! It's a dusty road. I wouldn't want to be walking on it while people are driving on it. The road is decent enough for driving, but I wouldn't take a car that has really low clearance. There are some big bumps. We took a VW Jetta and with hubby's mad driving skills, we were fine.
Just go past the gate and walk until you get to Jawbone Flats. It's about 3.5 miles to get there. The road is pretty wide and has some gentle hills on it. The guide book that we used told us to take a bridge to cross the river and then meander up some "rough" road to get to the pool and then come back through Jawbone Flats. I don't suggest taking that route. Just stay straight until you get to Jawbone Flats and then go through the town and then cross the bridge to get to Opal Pool. It will be a much more pleasant walk. the path on the other side of the river is horrible. It's very narrow and there are a ton of roots all over the place to trip on. The elevation is a bit steeper over there too. Just don't go over there. There aren't even any good scenic views to make the miserable terrain worth it.
At the two mile point from the gate, you'll see some old machinery. Don't mess with it because it's protected. We weren't too gaga over the machinery. There's a building there. Somewhere near the building is an offshoot where you can go see a waterfall. We missed it though. We were going to hit the waterfall on the way back, but then we just ran out of time.
We got to the hike at 8:30 in the morning and we weren't done until about 2:15. We had a 2:00 PM appointment in Albany that we completely missed. Taking that side trail really tuckered us out and our pace just tanked. We ended up taking a ton of breaks to get out. It wasn't pretty. We ran out of water too. We had 6 16 ounce bottles of water or maybe they were 24. I'm not sure, but we ran out. We didn't bring enough snacks either. Well, we had plenty of snacks, but they weren't fast acting energy snacks. We didn't eat enough for breakfast either. It was a pretty miserable day.
There were restrooms at the trailhead. I didn't go into them. I'm assuming they were vault toilets like most of the other trail heads.
We were both very disappointed with this hike, and it's probably partly because of the way that we went. If we had stayed on the main road instead of going off on the other side of the river like the book said, we probably could have made our 2:00 PM appointment. We probably wouldn't have wanted to die after the hike was over. We missed the waterfall and the town was a major disappointment. Hubby was thinking there was going to be a general store that sold T-shirts and stuff, but if they had one of those, we couldn't find it. The book seemed to make him think it would be there. I didn't read the book.
This is not a place to just go for a hike. If you want to visit the pool to go for a dip in the heat, it's a great place for that. There are other places along the river that you can swim too. We saw people with rafts walking up. There were also several people who were carrying coolers back there. I'm not sure how far they went with them, but I wouldn't want to carry a cooler all the way back there that's for sure! So the overall verdict on this one is.........we have no intention of going back even though it's a missed waterfall for us, but if you're looking for a place to cool off in the summer, go for it!
If you stay on the main path, the walk isn't challenging. We saw a lot of people of various sizes doing the hike. We were the only people who looked like we wanted to die, but we were probably the only people who went on the other side of the river.