Are you a waterfall enthusiast and love hiking to spectacular falls? Then don’t miss these 8 best waterfalls near Bend OR!
Hiking can no doubt be an arduous adventure, but what better way to keep you motivated than the prospect of a beautiful waterfall at the end of your hike.
The roaring water is something we take for granted in the US, as many other countries don’t have such wide and varied geography.
Coming second only to the great state of Washington, Oregon has the second most amount of waterfalls than any other US state. Over 500 more waterfalls than in California.
So if you want to experience the might and beauty of these stunning Waterfalls in Oregon, then this is a great place to start and admire the great outdoors!
Bend is the heart of ‘waterfall country’ in the state of Oregon which is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. The relatively small city finds itself east of the Cascade Mountains which earn their name from the beautiful waterfalls found among its crags and gullies.
This is without mentioning the area’s varied geography but also its interesting volcanic landscape thanks to the now extinct volcano Pilot Butte.
A combination of these geographies and topographies makes Bend, Oregon an interesting place to explore, especially for stunning cascading falls.
With that said, let’s explore what this area has to offer together as we uncover 8 of the best waterfalls near Bend OR!
Hiking To These Falls? Grab These Hiking Essentials
- A hiking day backpack
- Comfy pair of men’s boots, or woman’s hiking boots
- Hiking water bottle for hydration
- A cozy men’s and woman’s windbreaker for those gusty summits
- A set of hiking poles
8 Awesome Bend Waterfalls
Koosah And Sahalie Falls
If you are on the hunt for two of the best waterfalls near Bend, Oregon, then don’t miss the Koosah and Sahalie Falls!
These two waterfalls are pretty close to each other and also require only a small hike to reach them. Both waterfalls seem to come from the McKenzie River which is sourced in the Cascade Mountains.
If you are walking the McKenzie River Trail that passes these falls, you can complete this small hike as a little side quest, considering it’s so close and short.
Both of these Bend waterfalls hark back to the volcanic period when Pilot Butte was still active. It’s thought that around 3000 years ago the lava that poured down the McKenzie Valley created the cliff bench which the waterfalls cascade over.
Sahalie Falls is pretty impressive if you enjoy the larger white water-gushing waterfall. The water tumbles over the bench from around 100 feet.
In comparison, its smaller sibling the Koosah Falls is around 70 feet in height and has actually formed into two separate falls right next to each other. While mildly less impressive, they drop into a much deeper pool than Sahalie does.
This hike itself, not the Mckenzie River Trail, is around 2.6 miles round trip and has some pretty easy terrain underfoot. There is around a 400-foot elevation on the trail. It’s a beautiful looping trail that almost anyone can do and appreciate the beauty of the two waterfalls.
Peter Skene Ogden Trail – McKay Falls & Paulina Falls
For those hikers and eager beavers who want a trail that is a little longer, and really want to put the work in for those views, the Peter Skene Ogden Trail could be for you. The trails are around 8 miles altogether, a full day’s work, but exhibit many of Bend’s best waterfalls.
While there are plenty of places you can hop on the trail, we suggest starting at McKay Campground Site, which isn’t far outside Bend. Here you should get your first taste of a waterfall pretty soon, namely, McKay Falls, a 500-foot tall waterfall that will really get the ball rolling.
Soon after you should join up with Paulina Creek and the rapids which emerge into lots of small waterfalls that aren’t identified by name. Eventually, these rapids turn into Paulina Lake, and just before you should find Paulina Falls.
Paulina Falls comes out of what is quite a wide cliff side that has a big drop on either side of the water flow. It is a plunge waterfall that drains from Paulina Lake. The falls drop from around 80 feet.
In the summer this area becomes a bit of a natural water park. Certain parts of the rapids are like water slides that drop into the large body of water below the falls. People often cliff jump off the sides of the cliff that surround the waterfall. Do so at your own risk.
Steelhead Falls Hike
This is a much shorter hike to the waterfalls of around 2 miles, on the return journey, an out and back type of trail, there is an incline that some may find relatively hard but it isn’t that long.
The trail follows a winding gorge for about a mile until you reach the falls, and you take the same route back out.
The falls themselves are quite wide and fall into a deep and wide pool. In the summer this pool is very calm and is often a great place to swim. You can truly get a brilliant summer day of walking, admiring views, and swimming.
Moreover, if you are an explorer there are loads of unmarked trails that lead into the meadows. You can explore these paths as much as you like if swimming isn’t your thing. Find one you know and like and it might be your escape route when the falls get busy.
Proxy Falls – Waterfalls near Bend OR
Proxy Falls is particularly interesting if you enjoy woody foliage, grottoes, and also lava. This area of Oregon is particularly interesting as it’s one of the rare areas where we see volcanic devastation meeting the forested areas. The results are this pretty unique waterfall.
Note that in the winter months snowfall makes this hike a little too dangerous to be open. There is a viewing platform where you can see the falls all year round. We would suggest going to the bottom of the falls in the summer for a full experience.
The woody area mentioned is known as the Three Sisters Wilderness, which is where you start your hike. You basically follow the old lava trails which are pretty interesting for a budding geographer.
The first half a mile of the walk is like this and is subsequently a little rocky underfoot.
After about a mile, where you will be happy to hear it flattens out by this point, the trail forks into two different paths.
The path leading right will lead you to the lower falls. These falls are much narrower and smaller but they are particularly beautiful as they rush over fallen mossy trees that cluster at the bottom. The white water is surrounded by deep green firs that hug the falls.
After you’ve appreciated these falls, turn back down the path whence you came and take the alternate path on the fork. This leads you to the more impressive upper Proxy Falls.
The upper Proxy Falls are particularly awe-inspiring as they run over the mossy cliffside into an enchanted grotto. A perfectly felled tree bridges a large gap and presents a perfect photo opportunity.
This is a well-trodden path that is usually taken to reach Marion Lake. But, most people miss the turning to see the enchanting double waterfall at Marion. The waterfall itself requires a mastery of the off-road path but it’s totally worth it, plus there won’t be loads of people there!
Following the normal trailhead to Marion Lake, you should pass another lake, Lake Ann. A short while after reaching this lake you should see a fairly well-defined spur path.
This path will eventually reach a dead-end, although you should have the falls in sight. To get the best view, get off the trail and scramble a little to the clear viewpoint for the best view.
You will see Marion Falls, which is technically the highest fall. The fall below it is often called Gatch Falls, but many people suggest that it is actually just the lower shelf of Marion Falls. Take the hike and judge for yourself.
Salt Creek Falls
This is a short hike that takes you to a viewing point on a cliff looking over the waterfall, rather than directly to the waterfall itself. The trail itself is around 3.7 miles, a great way to stretch your legs without too much strain.
The trail starts with a display board that has lots of information about how the falls were originally made. The trail is wide and pretty easy, surrounded by huge firs.
We guarantee you will feel small when you see the waterfall which is one of the largest in the state. The water tumbles from over 300 feet high, which is exactly why you can’t get to the bottom of it.
The trail leads to the perfect viewing point on the side of a cliff. In winter, as you aren’t getting very close to the waterfall, you can take this trail fairly easily even in snow. The view of the frozen waterfall in the winter is truly enchanting.
Final Thoughts – Best Waterfalls near Bend Oregon
All these waterfalls in Bend are particularly beautiful and are all fairly well trailed and have clear paths. There are over 2000 lakes in the Oregon State, most of them pretty close to Bend, so there is plenty to explore.
The falls listed are the main ones that are easy enough to reach by foot and don’t require more than a day’s hiking.
All these hikes should make a beautiful day out in the summer sun, or if you prefer, you can easily do some of these in the winter months, while others may be un-walkable in the snow. Plus, you’ll get to admire these memorable Waterfalls near Bend OR!