Hiking Along the Central Oregon Waterfall Trail

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A series of small waterfalls spread out on a low rock
(Photo by Sally McAleer / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)

Tamolitch Falls

Easily accessible from Highway 126 along the McKenzie River corridor, Tamolitch Falls is what’s known as a “dry” waterfall that only flows seasonally, typically in the spring. Hikers come in all seasons to where it drops, a pool of water so clear it’s known as Blue Pool (except in winter, when the water turns dark). The cliff rim from which the falls overflow resembles a spilling bucket, possibly the reason it’s named for the word for “bucket” in Chinook jargon. This falls is surrounded by topography that’s rich with relics of its volcanic past, including lava tubes, feeder springs and rock formations that line the winding forested trail to the overlook.

If you go: No permits are needed, but dogs must be kept on-leash.

A tall waterfall flows down a cliff
(Photo by Sally McAleer / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)

Sahalie & Koosah Falls

A little farther east on Highway 126, Sahalie and Koosah falls are accessible just off the highway and are linked by an easy 1-mile trail. Be warned, however, that the trails aren’t marked so may be difficult to navigate in winter. Geology buffs know these falls formed when basaltic andesite erupted 3,000 years ago and dammed the wild McKenzie River in several locations. Sahalie Falls plunges 75 feet over a lava bench while Koosah has at least two channels that fall in a curtain from a similar height. In Chinook language, Sahalie means “heaven” and Koosah means “sky.” On a warm day, seek out the misty spray of waterfall kisses that land on your cheeks as you hike near the water. The roads and parking lot are not maintained for snow and ice in the winter, so use caution and do not park on the side of the road in winter. 

If you go: No permits are needed, but dogs must be kept on-leash.

(Photo by Sally McAleer / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)

Proxy Falls

When McKenzie Pass on Highway 242 opens in spring, you’ll find a 1.6-mile hike to Proxy Falls near Belknap Hot Springs. The cascade’s famous main drop descends 226 feet, making it one of the highest in Oregon. Known as a hanging-valley waterfall, it was formed when glaciers cut through the rock about 6,000 years ago, leaving the tributary springs higher than the rest of the valley. The pool below Proxy Falls completely drains and appears to disappear into porous soil and, it’s speculated, lava tunnels under the surface. On the approach trail through the Three Sisters Wilderness, take your time and enjoy the tall evergreen trees and volcanic terrain.

If you go: Permits are $5 a day without a valid recreation pass; dogs are allowed on-leash.





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