Enjoy stunning views of cascading waterfalls with our picks of the best waterfall hikes in Central Oregon.
A hike to a waterfall is one of the best ways to escape the Central Oregon heat in the summer. With a handful of hikes to pick from, enjoy astonishing views at the top of these falls or venture to their bases to get splashed and swim around in picturesque pools. Hike through dense forests or along rushing creeks to reach these essential summer destinations.
Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls
Along the McKenzie River Highway, this moderately trafficked waterfall hike begins at Sahalie Falls, a 100-foot-tall waterfall that cascades over a natural lava dam. From here, the gravel trail descends down to seventy-foot-tall Koosah Falls, providing astonishing viewpoints in close proximity to the falls. For a shorter hike, you can head back to Sahalie Falls from here or do the full 2.6-mile loop that returns on the river’s far shore through a thick forest of Douglas firs. This short, yet rewarding, hike can be a great day-trip destination or a nice break from a long car ride.
Distance: 2.6 miles roundtrip
Hiking level: Easy
Parking: Both Sahalie and Koosah Falls have parking areas, but expect Sahalie to be more crowded, free at both parking areas
Open: Year-round but best used March until October
Paulina Creek Falls
Paulina Creek Falls is located in the the Newberry National Volcanic Monument just west of Paulina Lake. These falls, which spill from several parts of the volcanic cliffs, drop approximately eighty feet onto the rocky creek below. If hiking is not in the day plan, park at Paulina Creek Falls day use area, where the viewpoint of the falls are mere steps away from the parking area. Here, you can view the falls from above or hike down to the bottom for exceptional views. If looking for a more challenging hike to these falls, start at the Peter Ogden trailhead, which is accessible even in the winter, for a 5.1-mile moderately trafficked out and back hike.
Distance: Up to 5.1 miles out and back
Hiking level: Easy-Moderate
Parking: Paulina Creek Falls day use area for short hike or Peter Ogden trailhead, $5 day pass or NW Forest Pass required, day passes are not available at parking areas but can be purchased from Forest Service offices or vendors
Open: Peter Ogden trailhead open year-round, Paulina Creek Falls day use area open in summer months
Just outside of Sisters, Chush Falls is a seventy-foot-high, eighty-foot-wide waterfall on the Upper Whychus Creek. Fed by snowmelt and glaciers from Broken Top, Middle Sister and North Sister, this creek has high water levels all year long and breathtaking views of the mountains. Due to the Pole Creek Fire, which burned the area several years ago, the trail is rarely crowded. The fire drastically changed the landscape and changed what used to be a two-mile round trip hike to Chush Falls into a five-mile round trip hike, or six miles to access the upper falls. In order to access the trailhead, you’ll have to drive six miles on a gravel forest road, so make sure to take a car with high clearance. Once arriving at the falls, hike down to its base and enjoy an up close view of the rushing water from a lush meadow.
Distance: 5 miles out and back, 6 if you head to the upper falls
Hiking level: Moderate
Parking: Immediately before crossing Whychus Creek on a large concrete bridge, turn left and continue on a gravel road for one mile. Park once reaching a pile of rocks that block the road. Parking is free.
Open: Year-round, but snowshoes are recommended in the winter
White River Falls and Celestial Falls
Whitewater rafting on the Deschutes River is not the only water-related activity popular near Maupin; White River Falls, a ninety-foot-tall waterfall tucked in a canyon, is located just out of this small Central Oregon town and can be reached by a 1.4-mile round trip hike. It is a two-tiered waterfall, the lower of which is called Celestial Falls, a forty-five-foot-tall falls frequently run by kayakers. Starting at the White River Falls Trailhead quickly brings you to a viewpoint of White River Falls, which roars in the spring but becomes a series of trickles as the summer goes on. A steep scramble trail leads down from here for a view of the lower Celestial Falls. Then, continue downstream to explore the fifteen-foot Lower White River Falls. The pool below is a great place to take a dip on a hot summer day. While short, this hike is said to be moderate for its uneven ground and steep slopes.
Distance: 1.4 miles out and back
Hiking level: Moderate
Parking: White River Falls Trailhead, free
Salt Creek Falls and Diamond Creek Falls
Near Oakridge, approximately 1.5 hours outside of Bend, a 3.2 lightly trafficked loop trail weaves through the Salt Creek and Diamond Creek Canyons. Salt Creek Falls, Oregon’s second tallest waterfall (behind Multnomah Falls), is a short walk from the parking lot and cascades 286 feet. Most visitors stop here and enjoy the stunning views. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, however, continue past these falls to Diamond Falls, a ninety-foot-tall falls with a series of tiers below that drop an additional 500 feet. A lower viewpoint provides an opportunity to sit at the base of the falls and get splashed. Either loop back to the trailhead from here or continue on a more strenuous hike for several miles to reach Vivian Lake.
Distance: 3.2 mile loop trail
Hiking level: Easy
Parking: Trailhead at Salt Creek Falls Observation Site, $5 day pass or NW Forest Pass required
Open: Year-round but best used from June until October