The mountains, lakes, and rivers surrounding Bend in Central Oregon all combine to mean one thing: Excellent waterfall hikes throughout the area! There are so many local waterfall options that there’s one for almost any kind of hike, from a relaxing outing with your dog to a family trip for an outdoor picnic. If you love the outdoors, these are great places to be.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, we’re going to share our favorite waterfall hikes, where they’re at, and why they are worth planning a visit to.
1. Tumalo Falls
Tumalo Falls is one of the most accessible waterfall hikes in the area, and hands-down the most common recommendation for newcomers looking for a waterfall hike to start with. It’s also the most family-friendly waterfall hike you’ll find, with trailheads that are only a few minutes away from the falls themselves.
There are picnic spots, restrooms, and a variety of trails designed for hiking and mountain biking (another popular local pastime). The falls themselves are a 97-foot scenic scene of Tumalo Creek, surrounded by trees and cliffs in a perfect snapshot of the beauty of this Cascade area. The river itself also offers plenty of views – make sure you stop by in the fall to catch local changing colors! Oh, and don’t forget Middle Tumalo Falls, a smaller waterfall located further out for those who would like to hike out a bit more.
2. McKay Crossing Falls
McKay Crossing Falls are famous for their rocky landscape, part of the incredible Newberry National Volcanic Park trails. It’s a beautiful spot for enjoying the craggy volcanic cliffs, swimming, birdwatching, and hikes of all kinds. That makes it a very popular spot in the summer, but you’re sure to be in good company.
3. Peter Skene Ogden Trail
Is a popular 22-mile trail near La Pine that exchanges some of the steeper Cascade hikes for a more level trail that’s popular for camping and backpacking. There are multiple small waterfalls to enjoy along the trail, but the falls near the McKay campground is probably the most popular, a low, rocky dual waterfall that’s perfect for inventive photography.
4. Steelhead Falls
Steelhead Falls may not be as tall as some of the others on our list, but it’s particularly beautiful, a cascade of rapids along a scenic portion of the Deschutes River. It’s also particularly easy to reach, located just off the trailhead, and suitable for picnics – or even a little fishing below on the quieter parts of the Deschutes. Try to visit when the summer wildflowers are blooming and you won’t regret it.
5. Proxy Falls
Proxy Falls is located over the Mackenzie Pass, where the high desert of Central Oregon is replaced by verdant forests filled with hidden landmarks. Well, Proxy Falls isn’t that hidden these days, as it’s become a particularly popular spot for snapping photos. With the surrounding trees and moss-covered stones, even an amateur photographer can find beautiful images of these falls. While it’s a bit of a drive, the hike itself is fair easy, and family-friendly, and there are a few other stops, like the Dee Wright Observatory, that make this an excellent pick for a day-long vacation.
6. Linton Falls
Popular falls are easy to find, but they can get a little crowded in the popular months and sometimes lack that wilderness feel that outdoor aficionados seek. In that case, we highly recommend Linton Falls in the Three Sisters Wilderness. These towering falls are off the beaten path – quite literally, at the end of a two-mile hike off of Mackenzie Pass toward Linton Lake. It’s defined enough that you can find your way, especially with an experienced hiker, but you’ll want to bring your good boots and have shoes to change into afterward. The downside is that this isn’t a family-friendly hike and is best done with someone who has been there before – but the views are certainly worth it.
7. Marion Falls
Marion Falls is a multi-level cascade of water falling toward Marion Lake, featuring gorgeous views. While some waterfalls can feel a little confined in the Oregon forests, these falls lend themselves to amazing vistas of the surrounding landscape. It’s a perfect hike, around five miles round trip, if you are looking for some solitude and love the views of Oregon lakes. This isn’t a particularly family-friendly hike for the young ones, but older kids can certainly enjoy it if you want to make it a family event.
8. Chush Falls
Another location in the Three Sisters Wilderness, Chush Falls is almost perfectly located for Bend residents, only around an hour’s drive away, with gorgeous views of the South Sister above the trail that will have you stopping repeatedly. This is another hike where waiting for the wildflowers to bloom is a great idea, and at around five miles round trip, it can make for an excellent getaway day. There’s a good reason that many Bendites will recommend it for first-timers looking for local waterfalls!
9. Sahalie and Koosah Falls
These dual waterfalls, separated by a brief hike, aren’t exactly near Bend, but they are part of the Cascades and we’re including them for a few reasons. First, they make a great option for a short road trip that also allows you to see more of Oregon. Second, they are very accessible and don’t require long hikes to reach. Third, they’re incredibly beautiful waterfalls surrounded by greenery and have been featured in movies due to their spectacular location.
10. Salt Creek Falls
Since we’re already talking about venturing over the mountains to find some of Oregon’s best waterfalls, we’ll also mention Salt Creek Falls, one of the highest single-drop waterfalls in Oregon, and one of the most beautiful on the West Coast. One of the reasons it’s so popular is the observation platform at the top of the falls (accessible to everyone, including those in wheelchairs), and the easy one-mile gravel path circling the falls with multiple vantage points so you can find exactly which view you like most. The only issue is that these falls can get seriously crowded during the more popular months, so it’s best to visit on an off day if possible.
11. Diamond Creek Falls
If you’re going to be heading toward the Eugene area and prefer falls that are a little more off the road than Salt Creek, make a note about Diamond Creek falls. It includes a several-mile hike through the forest that begins at Salt Creek Falls but quickly ventures off past the Salt Creek Canyon. The falls themselves are beautiful, but this is also a popular snowshoeing hike in the fall and one of the best options if you’re seeking falls with a bit of snow as a backdrop – just make sure you time it right!
Waterfall Hiking Tips
- Not all hikes are available all the time: Those new to Central Oregon should always pay attention to when trails are open or closed due to the season and snowfall. Look up individual trail information to find elevation and dates when the trails officially open. When it doubt, as an outdoor-savvy local for more information. Waterfall hikes in particular are inadvisable for newcomers until the weather really warms in later spring, as icy conditions can make them dangerous.
- Get your pass: Trails around Bend require having a Northwest Forest pass or similar pass that allows you to access. Otherwise, you are asked to pay a small fee for using the trail. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking, the pass is absolutely worth it
- Don’t venture beyond barriers: This can be a tough one because you see people doing it frequently. However, it’s a bad idea to hop the barriers to get closer to waterfalls. Mist and water make the nearby rocks slippery, and moss or algae even more so. A slip and fall is the last thing you want, especially in dangerous conditions like a roaring waterfall.
- Bring extra clothes: You will definitely get wet playing near a waterfall. Some hikes keep waterfalls at a distance, but others let you get very close and may have designated swimming areas nearby. If there’s a chance of playing in or near the water, bring along a change of clothes. This is a good idea even if you aren’t swimming or trying to get near the waterfall because many waterfall hikes can get muddy even in good weather.
- Bring a trekking pole and hiking shoes: If you haven’t been on many hikes in areas similar to Central Oregon, remember that traction is important. Some spots a gravelly, while others navigate through many rocks, tree roots, and other obstacles. Also, as we mentioned, areas nearby waterfalls can be slippery! Bring a trekking pole if you can, and wear shoes for hiking. Don’t wear flip-flops or sandals.
- Keep your pets on a leash: Waterfalls can be both exciting and frightening for pets, which can lead to unpredictable behavior. You don’t want them to have any accidents, so always keep them on a leash. As long as a leash is included, most trails around Bend allow dogs.
- Don’t drop your phone: The perfect pic isn’t worth losing your phone or camera over.
Want to learn more about Bend? Take a look at our site and you’ll find a whole lot more than just waterfall guides. Moving To Bend can help you find the best places to eat, visit – and live. We offer a variety of relocations services for finding a home or rental, offering advice on new schools, and even relocating business teams to the area. Let us know how we can help!