Tumalo Falls - A Must See in Bend, Oregon No Matter the Season
January 06, 2022
When you're in Bend, Oregon, you have to visit Tumalo Falls.
The Tumalo Falls trailhead is in the Deschutes National Forest just past the historic town of Skyliner; roughly twelve miles outside of Bend. There are different ways to access the waterfall depending on the time of year, which I’ll outline in each season below. If parking at the trailhead in the summer, you’ll need to pay the $5 day fee or carry a Northwest Forest Pass, linked here. This pass is valid throughout Oregon and Washington.
It’s hard for me to choose which season I prefer to visit Tumalo Falls. It’s so vastly different during the two major seasons, and stunning. The falls are just under 100 feet tall. They’re impressive from both the lower viewpoint and the upper viewpoint overlooking the falls. The upper viewpoint is a steep quarter-mile hike from the parking lot but is absolutely worth it, even in extremely hot temperatures. Although trails used to allow you to access the bottom of the falls, they have been blocked due to safety. Please do not use these social trails.
Dogs are allowed on the trail, but make sure that you keep them on leash. Also, pack out any dog poop that your dog creates. Nobody likes looking at doggie bags on the trail. There is a section of trail near Tumalo Falls that doesn’t allow dogs, but it will be quite clear if you head that way. There’s also a picnic area near the parking lot alongside the river for post hike snacking and a vault toilets at the trailhead.
Whether you hike up to Double Falls past Tumalo Falls in the summer or enjoy the round trip hike in the winter, make sure you come prepared. Bring water, snacks, your hiking essintials, and know your way around the trails.
Seeing Tumalo Falls in the summer can mean crowds of people and no parking in the few parking spots at the trailhead. So I always suggest heading there early in the morning. This allows for a better hike but also helps on those really hot days. If you don't find a parking spot directly at the trailhead, there's additional parking along the road leading to the trailhead. Just make sure you park on the side that allows parking.
When starting your hike, head straight for the first viewpoint. It gives the most beautiful headon view of the falls. From there, continue up the steep quarter-mile to view the falls from one of two upper viewpoints. You can stop here, turn around, and head to one of the breweries in town, but I highly recommend continuing your hike. Continue on the Tumalo Falls Trail towards Happy Valley.
In less than a mile, the trail will lead you to Double Falls (pictured below). If you keep going past Double Falls you’ll see numerous waterfalls and end up at a bridge river crossing. The trail is mostly tree covered and stunning. But warning in the summer months - Be prepared for mosquitos. Wear bug spray and long sleeves/pants for the best protection.
There will also be areas along the way where you can dip your toes in the water. I suggest bringing a snack and enjoying it right by the river. If you go in the early morning, enjoy your coffee or tea next to the river and enjoy the slow peaceful morning with nature.
Winter is a gorgeous time to visit Tumalo Falls, it just takes a little extra effort to get there. There is a gate that closes the road to the falls just past Skyliner Lodge due to snow. But, you can still use this road to get to the falls. Many cross country skiers and snowshoers use this road, as well as hikers with spikes on their boots. Because it can get quite icey between snow storms, I highly recommend at least spikes on your boots. Spikes help prevent slipping and falling on icy road and trail conditions. It’s roughly 2 ½ miles to the falls from the gate, making this a 5 mile round trip hike in the winter.
Once you see the waterfall, you’ll know why so many people hike to the falls in the winter. The water freezes at the bottom of the falls, the ice being a clear blue color like that of an igloo. The water continues to freeze on top of itself, creating multiple layers of ice which is then covered in snow. It’s a sight worth seeing.
My favorite way to hike to Tumalo Falls in the winter is to take the road to the falls, then take the Tumalo Creek Nordic Loop back to the car (map provided here). This route is a total of 5 ½ miles but so worth the extra half mile. There’s a few reasons why I love this route. For one, it’s not as busy as the main road, making for a more peaceful end to the hike. Also, this route takes you up on a ridge, overlooking hundreds of miles of pines and mountain tops. And if you catch the trail just after a snow storm, the pines are covered in snow making for a winter wonderland.