If you’ve been to Bend, Oregon, you know its trails are an adventurer’s playground. As a regular visitor, I’ve hiked them all. Well, not actually, but I pretty much hike every one that I can find.
However, nothing beat the thrill of hiking to a waterfall. It’s one of the remain reasons that I moved to the PNW in the first place.
If you’re in Bend and want to go chasing waterfalls, there are a few great options within 20 minutes and a few a bit farther out if you have a Saturday to dedicate to your hike.
So let’s take a look at some of the best waterfalls near Bend so you can pencil them into your calendar!
Table of Contents
5 Epic Waterfall Hikes Near Bend, Oregon
Benham Falls (~17 mins from Bend)
Oregon’s Benham Falls is a natural spectacle that is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and lovers of outdoor adventures. These falls, located between Sunriver and Bend, Oregon, are not the typical cascading waterfalls one might envision, but rather an impressive stretch of rapids on the Deschutes River. With a pitch of 22.5 degrees, they are rated Class 5 for watercraft, marking them as the largest falls on the upper Deschutes River.
Location & Directions
Benham Falls is located in the Deschutes National Forest and within the boundaries of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. They lie between the towns of Sunriver and Bend, easily accessible via forest roads that also lead to attractions like Lava Butte, Lava River Cave, and Sunriver Resort.
For those planning to visit, the Benham Falls Recreation Site and Benham Falls West Recreation Site are conveniently situated nearby.
To reach Benham Falls from Bend, Oregon, you’ll need to travel south on Highway 97 for approximately 8 miles. You should then take the Lava Lands Visitor Center exit to the right. Continue past the Lava Lands Visitor Center on Forest Road 9702 for approximately 4 miles. This will lead you directly to Benham Falls.
Description of the Hike
The hike to Benham Falls is a delightful experience through a well-preserved natural area. A footbridge connects the forest road to an easy-to-navigate trail near the river and falls. The area is replete with wildlife and flowers, providing a vibrant backdrop for your outdoor adventure. However, be prepared for the presence of mosquitoes, which are attracted to the area due to the dense vegetation.
The United States Forest Service has established a few lookouts over the gorge, allowing hikers and mountain bikers to take in the mesmerizing view of the falls. The trail along the river also leads to other attractions such as Dillon Falls and Lava Island Falls, eventually ending in the city of Bend. Interestingly, Benham Falls is easier to see compared to the falls downstream because it is surrounded by a lush forest, unlike the others that are surrounded by lava flow from Lava Butte. This makes Benham Falls a more popular destination among visitors.
Benham Falls has a rich history, being created around 6,000 years ago by the eruption of nearby Lava Butte. The lava flow dammed the Deschutes River, forming Lake Benham. Over time, the river flowed over the dam, draining the lake and forming Benham Falls. The falls got their name from J. R. Benham, who attempted to file a land claim near the falls around 1885 but was unsuccessful.
Tumalo Falls (~18 mins from Bend)
Tumalo Falls is a stunning natural feature in the Cascade Range, located west of Bend and is probably the most popular waterfall hike in the area.
With a height of 97 feet, Tumalo Falls creates an impressive spectacle as it cascades down Tumalo Creek. Beyond the main falls, a series of additional waterfalls can be found upstream along Tumalo Creek and its tributary, Bridge Creek.
The Tumalo Falls Day Use Area, managed by the United States Forest Service, is located about 14 miles from Bend and offers a variety of amenities including picnic sites, a toilet, and access to trails for hiking and mountain biking. The use of this area requires a Northwest Forest Pass or payment of a fee.
Location & Directions
Tumalo Falls is located at a latitude of 44.03191 and a longitude of -121.56619, with an elevation of 5000 feet (just in case you’re one of those weirdos who cares about coordinates).
To reach Tumalo Falls from Bend, Oregon, travel 11.6 miles west on Skyliner’s Road (4601), then continue for another 2.6 miles west on Forest Road 4603.
Please note that there is no water available at the site, but a vault toilet is provided for visitor use.
Description of the Hike
The Tumalo Falls Trail leads from the picnic area to a viewing platform above Tumalo Falls and continues beyond. About 1.25 miles further upstream, it reaches a second waterfall, Middle Tumalo Falls, a two-tiered cascade totaling 65 feet in height. The trail then loops back to the trailhead, offering a scenic hike of 7.0 miles with an elevation gain of 1460 feet.
The hike is considered moderate in difficulty and is typically undertaken from summer into fall. It can get crowded, particularly on the first leg of the loop which is very family-friendly.
The trail offers not only the beauty of the waterfalls but also the charm of various types of forests and native plants. Hikers will pass through areas of sweet-smelling snow brush under ponderosa pines, a dense wood of mountain hemlock, Engelmann spruce, and lodgepole pine, and sections with views of Tumalo Creek and a series of cascades.
The loop trail offers an alternative return route that passes through the City of Bend Watershed, an area free from the crowds and where dogs and cyclists are not permitted. This part of the trail is less scenic, but it takes you down Bridge Creek and past another waterfall, Bridge Creek Falls. The trail then begins a gradual descent and follows Spring Creek for a short distance before crossing it. Continue to descend until the path levels in a series of small glades, and reach the first Swampy Lakes-Bridge Creek Trail Junction.
Sahalie and Koosah Falls (~1 hour from Bend)
In the heart of Oregon’s lush, verdant landscapes, tucked away in the Willamette National Forest, lie two stunning natural spectacles that captivate and inspire: Sahalie and Koosah Falls. These majestic waterfalls, defined by their raw power and breathtaking beauty, are cherished gems of the Pacific Northwest. Both falls are part of the scenic McKenzie River, each offering a unique blend of cascading water, vibrant greenery, and serene tranquility. In this section, we will delve into the enchanting world of Sahalie and Koosah Falls, exploring their history, ecological significance, and the awe-inspiring experiences they offer to visitors. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a casual nature lover, the captivating charm of these waterfalls is bound to leave a lasting impression.
Location and Directions:
Sahalie and Koosah Falls are located in the Willamette National Forest, near the town of McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. To get there from Eugene or Springfield, take Highway 126 east for about 40 miles until you reach the junction with Highway 242. Turn right onto 242 and follow it for another 10 miles to its end at a parking lot just past the bridge over the McKenzie River.
Description of Hike:
The hike to Sahalie and Koosah Falls is an easy one-mile loop that takes you through old growth forest along both sides of the river. The trailhead begins at a small bridge crossing over the McKenzie River where you can see both falls in front of you. From here, follow signs for either Sahalie or Koosah Falls as they split off into two separate trails on opposite sides of the river. Both trails will eventually lead back around to each other so no matter which way you go first, you’ll be able to see them both.
At Sahalie Falls expect a 70 foot tall cascade that plunges down into a pool below surrounded by lush green foliage while at Koosah expect an 80 foot waterfall that cascades down into multiple pools before flowing downstream towards its eventual destination –the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to bring your camera because these views are definitely worth capturing.
Salt Creek Falls (~1 hour 20 mins from Bend)
Salt Creek Falls is a stunning 286-foot waterfall located within the Willamette National Forest. With a 3.4-mile hike of moderate difficulty, this waterfall is an ideal day trip for hikers who love exploring the beauty of Oregon’s waterfalls. Along the way, you’ll be treated to lush forest scenery and views of the Diamond Creek Valley.
Salt Creek Falls is a cascade and plunge waterfall on Salt Creek, a tributary of the Middle Fork Willamette River, that plunges into a gaping canyon in the Willamette National Forest near Willamette Pass in Lane County, Oregon. The waterfall is notable for its main drop of 286 feet (87 m), which ranks as the third-highest plunge waterfall in Oregon, following Multnomah Falls and Watson Falls.
Oh, and if you’re feeling curious, the pool at the bottom of Salt Creek Falls is 66 feet (20 m) deep.
Location & Directions
Salt Creek Falls is situated in the heart of the Cascade Range, in the southern portion of the Willamette National Forest, adjacent to the state-designated Salt Creek Sno-park and Too Much Bear Lake. It is roughly 4 miles west of Willamette Pass and about 22 miles upstream from the creek’s mouth at the Middle Fork Willamette River just below Hills Creek Dam.
The waterfall is easily accessible by car year-round from Oregon Route 58, which connects U.S. Route 97 north of Chemult with Interstate 5 south of Eugene. The day-use area is about 21 miles east of Oakridge and about 5 miles west of Willamette Pass.
Description of the Hike
The Salt Creek Falls Trail offers two moderate to difficult paths: a 3.4-mile loop hike and a 6-mile semi-loop hike. Both start at the interpretive kiosk in the parking lot and gain approximately 400 ft in elevation.
From the parking lot and to the left of the interpretive kiosk is the beginning of the 3.4-mile loop hike upstream of the waterfall on the Salt Creek Falls and Diamond Creek Falls trails. The Salt Creek Falls trail starts with a paved walkway along Salt Creek that leads to a picnic area.
Proxy Falls (~1 hour 35 mins from Bend)
Proxy Falls is a stunning waterfall located in the Willamette National Forest, Oregon. It’s easily accessible and makes for an excellent day trip or weekend getaway.
Location and Directions:
Proxy Falls is located off Highway 242 near McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. To get there from Eugene take OR-126 East to OR-242 East/McKenzie Pass Hwy and continue on until you reach the parking lot at Proxy Falls Trailhead. The trailhead is well marked with signs that point towards the falls so it’s easy to find your way once you arrive.
Description of the Hike:
The hike itself is relatively short, but it offers some beautiful views along the way. You will be walking through lush green forest with plenty of moss covered trees as well as several small streams that run alongside the path.
At Proxy Falls, visitors are treated to two different tiers of waterfalls; one upper tier which cascades over a wide ledge into a pool below before flowing down another tier into another pool further downstream.
Smith Rock State Park Waterfalls (~35 mins from Bend)
While it’s not really an individual waterfall, heading to Smith Rock State Park is a worthwhile pursuit if you’re in Bend and want to see waterfalls and lots of other beautiful natural terrain.
Location and Directions:
Smith Rock State Park is located in central Oregon, about 30 miles north of Bend. It’s easily accessible from Highway 97 and offers plenty of parking for visitors. To get to the waterfalls, take the Misery Ridge Trail up to Monkey Face Overlook. From there, you can access a number of trails that lead down into the canyon and along Crooked River where several waterfalls are located.
Description of Hike:
The hike to Smith Rock State Park Waterfalls is relatively easy with only a few moderate sections on some steeper terrain.
Once you reach the bottom of the canyon there are several small cascades leading up to two main falls – Lower Red Wall Falls and Upper Red Wall Falls – both plunging over 100 feet down into pools below them surrounded by sheer red rock walls on either side. Take time here to enjoy this majestic place before making your way back up again…because you’ll need your energy.
FAQs in Relation to Waterfall Hikes Near Bend
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the waterfalls near Bend, Oregon, typically depends on weather conditions and accessibility. In general, late spring through early fall is the ideal time for waterfall hikes. During this time, you are more likely to experience comfortable temperatures and less chance of rain. Additionally, snowmelt from the mountains increases the water flow, enhancing the beauty and power of the falls.
It’s worth noting that some trails, like Tumalo Falls, are open only in the summer months. Remember to check current trail conditions and weather forecasts before heading out to avoid potential closures or hazardous situations.
Does Bend Oregon have waterfalls?
Yes, Bend Oregon has waterfalls. The Deschutes River runs through the city and is home to a number of beautiful cascades and falls. Some of the most popular include Tumalo Falls, Benham Falls, Dillon Falls, and Shevlin Park Cascades. All are easily accessible by foot or bike for those looking to explore the area’s natural beauty. Whether you’re in town for business or pleasure, these stunning waterfalls make for an unforgettable experience.
What is the most famous waterfall in Oregon?
The most famous waterfall in Oregon is Multnomah Falls. Located in the Columbia River Gorge, it stands at a staggering 620 feet tall and is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States. It’s accessible by car or foot, with plenty of viewing platforms along its two tiers for visitors to take in its majestic beauty. The area around Multnomah Falls also offers hiking trails and other attractions such as a lodge and restaurant, making it an ideal spot for travelers looking to explore nature while visiting Oregon.
Additional Nearby Attractions
If you’re looking to take a several-day-trip, I’m sorry to say that there are just no enough waterfalls close by Bend to just focus on that.
However, Bend isn’t world-renown as an outdoor destination just for a few waterfalls.
Here are a few of my favorite outdoor attractions that you can intersepse with your waterfalls hikes.
Lakes and Rivers
The Bend area is home to a plethora of beautiful lakes and rivers, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. The Deschutes River is a popular spot for rafting, fishing, and kayaking, offering thrilling rapids and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
If you’re interested in exploring other waterfalls, be sure to check out Steelhead Falls along the Deschutes River. For those who enjoy the tranquility of lakes, the Cascades provide numerous options such as the crystal-clear waters of Paulina Creek nestled within the Newberry Volcanic National Monument.
Three Sisters Wilderness
The Three Sisters Wilderness is a paradise for hikers, boasting more than 260 miles of trails that wind through meadows, forests, and along the McKenzie River. This wilderness area is home to the impressive Central Oregon waterfalls and provides an opportunity to explore the diverse ecosystems of the region. While hiking through the Three Sisters Wilderness, you’ll also be rewarded with breathtaking views of the central Cascade Range.
Smith Rock State Park
Renowned for its striking rock formations and sheer cliffs, Smith Rock State Park is a playground for rock climbers and hikers alike. The park’s trails offer picturesque views of the surrounding landscape and the opportunity to spot local wildlife, making it a popular destination near Bend. Towering above the Crooked River, the park offers a unique and diverse experience for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure beyond waterfall hikes.
Camping and Accommodation Options
When exploring the beautiful waterfall hikes near Bend, Oregon, you may need a place to stay. You’re welcome at my place! Just kidding, maybe if I had one.
However, there are various options for camping and accommodations nearby to suit your preferences and budget.
If you’re a fan of camping and connecting with nature, there are a few campgrounds in the area to consider. One popular spot is in Sunriver, which features well-equipped campgrounds that cater to families and groups. These campgrounds are located among the gorgeous ponderosa pines, offering a true Central Oregon experience.
There are also campgrounds closer to Sisters, Oregon, that provide easy access to some of the region’s best hiking trails. Some campgrounds offer amenities such as restrooms, picnic areas, and fire pits, while others may be more rustic, giving campers a chance to truly immerse themselves in nature.
Hotels and Lodging
If you prefer a more comfortable stay, a range of hotels and lodgings are available in the Bend and Sunriver area. There are a variety of options to choose from, including luxury resorts, cozy bed and breakfasts, and budget-friendly motels. These accommodations provide easy access to stunning waterfall hikes and other outdoor activities in the region.
Sunriver Resort, for example, offers upscale accommodations in the midst of scenic ponderosa pines, along with amenities like swimming pools, golf courses, and spa services. In Sisters, you’ll find the charming FivePine Lodge and other quaint lodgings that give you easy access to both the town’s local attractions and nearby hiking trails.
Exploring the waterfalls near Bend, Washington is a great way to spend your day. From Tumalo Falls to Smith Rock State Park Waterfalls, there are plenty of options for waterfall hikes near Bend that will leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated.
Don’t miss out on this amazing experience – book your trip today and come explore the beauty that is Bend’s cascading waters! Or don’t…the trails are crowded enough as it is.