Hello Bend! Inspired by the beautiful weather this weekend, we decided to venture to a new waterfall closer to home. Chush Falls, just outside of Sisters, has been on my list to visit for a while now. Getting there is simple, if you’ve done your research in advance. GPS leads you to the wrong road and you lose signal as you get closer to the trailhead, so take screenshots or print your directions in advance.
This hike is different than other waterfalls hikes we’ve done in the past, which usually lead you through the dense green forest. This area was devastated by the Pole Creek Fire several years ago, which has altered the surrounding landscape and the hike itself.
Finding the Chush Falls Trailhead
The problem with the GPS is that it leads you down a non-vehicle accessible road due to all the downed trees caused by the fire. If you follow the directions, it will lead you to a narrow rocky road that prematurely ends due to rocks and downed trees. We had to drive over logs to turn the car around to get back out to the main road. It was a bit stressful for me! Some people start there hike here, but we didn’t want to risk getting more lost than we already were, and we knew there was a way to drive straight to the trailhead.
To ensure you make it to the trailhead without literally driving in circles, follow these directions: Once you get on NF-1514 Road, you do NOT want to follow your GPS any longer at that point. Do NOT turn left off NF-1514 Rd as your GPS will instruct you to do so several times. You will eventually come to a fork in the road. Stay to the right and continue straight on the gravel road. Once you notice a camping site, and a bridge, the turn off for Chush Falls trailhead is on the left. Do NOT cross the bridge. Continue on the road to the trailhead for approximately 1 mile until you reach the parking lot.
This hike begins on a bluff overlooking Wychus Creek and the Three Sisters mountains. The trailhead is clearly marked, and cul-de-sac style parking is available.
Hike to the Waterfall
We’ve never hiked through a “burnt forest” before. It was definitely an interesting change of scenery, and slightly eerie. This trail is ideal June-September to avoid the snow and helps to make the hike more enjoyable. Due to the lack of the tree canopy here, the sun is out in full force for the vast majority of your hike! If you are visiting Chush Falls in the summer months, be prepared for the heat and bring your sunscreen!
The hike itself is approximately 5.25 miles round trip and will take you approximately 2.5-3 hours. My kids are 10 and 12 years old and they had no problem making this hike. There is a bit of incline in places, but nothing too strenuous. There are tons of downed trees throughout the trail, which my kids considered a fun obstacle course.
If your kids are younger, the length of the hike and log climbing could be an issue. By the last mile, my kids were tired and just wanted to be back at the car. Emmy’s Whine-O-Meter is a famous tool we use in our household to gauge energy levels on hikes. Although it was off the charts after the detour we took to find the trailhead, it didn’t kick back in until mile 4.5!
Adventuring to the Waterfall
Once you reach the end of the trail, there is no “viewing area” to see Chush Falls. You can see glimpses of it through the trees, but the only way to truly embrace this waterfall is to traverse down to the stream.
Proper hiking shoes are a must as the trail down to the base is incredibly steep and not recommended for novice hikers.
We brought raincoats so we could get closer to the falling water and quick-dry hiking pants, which were absolutely soaked after the falls! We dried off quickly and were totally comfortable for the 2.5-mile hike back to the car. It’s absolutely worth it to have the right gear!
As a mom, I think it is also important to note there really isn’t a proper picnic spot on this hike. There are no tables at the trailhead. When you reach the end of the trail near the waterfall, there is an area with logs to sit and relax a bit. With others preoccupying the space and social distancing measures in place for our family, there is no guarantee you will be able to use this area upon arrival.
The trail itself is narrow, requiring people to be courteous and pull over to let other groups pass. Overall, based on the parking lot when we arrived, it seemed like the trail would be really busy. However, as I’ve discovered with so many wonderful outdoor adventures available to us in Central Oregon, the wide open spaces provide us with a natural buffer.
Below is our list of tips when visiting Chush Falls. Have some great tips of your own you would like to share? Let us know and we will add them to the list!
Know Before You Go: Chush Falls Tips
- Screenshot or print directions – there is no cell service as you begin to reach the trailhead
- Stay right at the fork in the road; turn left BEFORE the bridge
- Visit June-September to avoid the snow
- No bathroom, stop in Sisters on the way
- Bring plenty of water and snacks to refuel before heading back to the car
- Bring sunscreen, bug spray, and hats
- Hiking shoes are recommended if you plan to venture down to the falls
- Bring a raincoat and/or wear quick-dry clothing if you want to get close to the misting water.
Check out our recent re-cap on Toketee Falls! For more on our Waterfall Hike series and outdoor adventures, follow Hello Bend on Instagram and Facebook for updates! Additionally, during this time of revolving COVID-19 restrictions, check the status of any Oregon park by clicking here.