We had the most amazing experience hiking Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls recently. This little slice of heaven, located on the McKenzie River, is just an hour outside of Bend and well worth the drive!
I’ve been wanting to visit this amazing place for a while, so I pulled out my handy-dandy Bend, Overall book, so we would know exactly where to go, and we hit the road.
Sahalie Falls viewpoint
Well marked off Hwy 126, you won’t miss it. The parking lot is pretty busy as I imagine a lot of people pull off the road to check it out while passing through. Luckily, the hiking trail was not near as busy.
Sahalie Falls is breathtaking!
You can take a short hike to the top of the falls to take in the view of the surrounding area. Check out this panoramic shot I got!
The most amazing view of Sahalie Falls can be found at the lower viewing area.
To the left of the fencing, there is a slippery path that leads to the bottom of Sahalie Falls. I’ve read that you can actually make it all the way to the alcove behind the falls. We tried to get as close as we could but the closer you get, the more powerful the mist, and the more wet it is. We decided not to get totally drenched and made it about half way.
If you’re determined to make it behind the falls, I would recommend packing a raincoat in your backpack. Either way, to get awesome pictures, be sure to pack a waterproof camera case so you can still get pictures while at the base of the waterfall or your phone will get soaked.
Another tip I learned from my Bend, Overall book is to hike the trail clockwise to Koosah Falls from Sahalie Falls. The trail to Koosah Falls in this direction is much closer to the river, with spectacular views along the way, and many opportunities to explore off trail. This is your chance to get up close and personal with Mother Nature!
My biggest advice, especially if you plan to explore off trail, is to wear a good pair of hiking shoes. My older daughter was home visiting from college, she wore her sneakers, and there was a noticeable difference in the traction and stability we had in our hiking shoes. Well worth the investment if you don’t already have a pair of legit hiking shoes, especially if you are new to Bend! REI has a great selection so you can actually try them on and see which fit is best. I love my hiking shoes…never thought those words would be coming from this city girl!
Along the way to Koosah Falls, we were able to explore off trail at the banks of the river, see rapids, look over the top of Koosah Falls, and even hike down to the base of the waterfall for our own private viewing and photo op!
The climb to the base of Koosah Falls was particularly steep. Super proud of my 6 & 8 year olds for being so adventurous! Again, the hiking shoes were a huge help. If they didn’t have hiking shoes, we would not have been able to take them down such a steep and rugged climb. I am so glad we didn’t miss out on some of the most beautiful views and memories!
There was also another cool area a little further down the river from Koosah Falls to explore off trail with beautiful views of the waterfall.
An oasis with tons of climbing opportunities for the kids…
Continue on the trail to the end a little further down the hiking path. Once you reach the clearing, you will see the bridge that leads you to the other trail where you can make the hike back up the other side of the river. There is a vaulted toilet at the trailhead as well.
It quickly became clear why it was recommended to hike the trail clockwise, as the hiking path for the return trip is further away from the river and the falls and there are not as many places to explore off trail. It actually worked out quite well, after all our exploring on the first half of the hike, the kids were starting to get a little tired. This trail for us was more of a straight hike back, and we didn’t feel like we were missing out on the views because we had seen so much already! The beauty on this hiking path is still stunning!
There are areas along the path that can be a bit steep, so just be prepared for that if the kiddos are with you. It isn’t anything the kids can’t do, however you may just hear a little more complaining along the way, especially if you forget to bring a snack like I did…Oops!
That being said, I would highly recommend bringing a snack along this hike. As we started out on the second half of the hike, it was the perfect opportunity for a snack break to fuel up for the next part of the journey. Camelbaks for the kids are always a good idea, well worth the investment!
Once you pass Sahalie Falls at the top, it is a fair distance to the footbridge to cross back over the river, and once you see it, it’s a welcome sight.
Before the bridge, we were able to stop for pictures at this cool staircase built into a fallen tree.
Once over the bridge, it is a short walk back. At the end of the path, we ended up where we started, at the top of Sahalie Falls!
The total hike took us just over 3 hours, and that’s with quite a bit of exploring. The total distance was roughly 3.5 miles. For you Fitbit users out there, it was 10,600 steps and we went up and down 520 ft. (to give you an idea of the elevation).
I was thrilled to finally visit Sahalie Falls & Koosah Falls and experience the beauty along the Mackenzie River. This is definitely a hike to you should add to your “must do” list, especially if you have visitors in town. We are already looking forward to our next visit, and we hope to see you out there…Living the Bend Life!