Just beyond the Sisters’ city limits, some of the most majestic natural wonders scatter the wilderness in every direction: waterfalls. Hikers have their pick in exploring the Cascade Mountains, the McKenzie River, the Three Sisters Wilderness, and the Willamette National Forest in search of these magnificent cascades. Here are nine waterfalls near Sisters worth exploring.
After traveling west of Sisters on Highway 242 for about 28 miles, the Proxy Falls trailhead leads hikers on a short but unmissable hike through the Three Sisters Wilderness. From the beginning of the two-mile loop, hikers experience an environment unified in old lava flow and vast forest. At the trail junction, hikers have the choice to first view the impressive 226-feet tall Lower Proxy Falls from the overlook—and brave the steep hike down, weather depending—or continue the loop towards Upper Proxy Falls. Since the portion of Highway 242 which leads to the trailhead is closed during the winter, the best time to hike Proxy Falls is between mid-June and October with a day-use permit. Dogs are welcome if they are kept on a leash.
Down the highway from the Proxy Falls Trailhead, Linton Lake Trailhead offers hikers a slightly longer option at approximately three and a half miles out and back. After reaching the lake, Linton Falls is a somewhat longer, more challenging trek to reach on an unmaintained trail. However, hikers can see the waterfall overflow into the lake from afar if they choose to stop hiking at the recommended place. The trailhead is located across the way from Alder Springs Campground and a permit is required to access the hike. From Sisters, take Highway 242 for an hour until reaching the Linton Lake Trailhead. Like Proxy Falls, the portion of Highway 242 that the Linton Lake Trailhead is located on is closed until mid-June.
With expansive views of South Sister, the Chush Falls Trail leads hikers through the Three Sisters Wilderness for a moderately easy five mile out and back trek. From Sisters, travel south on Three Creeks Lake Road, eventually leading to NF-600—located off NF-1514—where the Chush Falls Trailhead promises stunning views. Hikers will experience the spectacular current of the Whychus Creek before it descends almost 70-feet into the water below. A permit will be required at the trailhead, and self-issued permits are also available at this trailhead between June 15 and October 15.
Deep in the Three Sisters Wilderness, Obsidian Falls rushes from the backdrop of North Sister. The waterfall is located at the halfway mark of the almost 12-mile hike beginning at the Obsidian Trailhead. The hike itself is moderately difficult and requires a Limited Entry Permit and a day-use permit because of its popularity. The reward for the lengthy hike are the substantial views of the obsidian rock lining the trail and, of course, the waterfall. Located off Highway 242, the best time to hike is after June.
Sahalie and Koosah Falls
Meaning “Heaven” and “Sky” in the Chinook language, Sahalie and Koosah Falls grace the McKenzie River after an ancient eruption of basaltic andesite. After traveling for approximately 50 minutes from Sisters via Highway 126, the Sahalie Falls parking area offers a paved, wheelchair accessible pathway leading to a viewpoint of the 75-foot waterfall. For those itching to see more, continue on the trail off the viewpoint towards Koosah Falls—about a half mile from Sahalie Falls. The relatively easy 2.8-mile hike approaches views of the McKenzie River as well as weaves through the striking forest. As the hike is in the Willamette National Forest, a permit will be required and dogs should be kept on a leash.
Cascading from a side creek that spills into the Metolius River, Wizard Falls is small yet mighty as it fountains into the water. Traveling west on Highway 20, it is only a 30 minute drive from Sisters to the West Metolius Trailhead: the starting point for the easy six-mile hike to Wizard Falls. The trailhead is open year-round, dogs should be on a leash and there is a permit required at the trailhead. Once hiking, expect views of the almost transparent water and—at the right time of year—breathtaking wildflowers dotting the trail.
Tucked away in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, Gatch Falls drops in tiers into Marion Creek. From Sisters, it is a one-hour drive to Marion Lake Trailhead. There, hikers will experience a moderate five-mile out-and-back packed with evergreens, creeks, lakes, and, eventually, the remarkable hidden-gem known as Gatch Falls. The falls are closed in the winter, and a Northwest Forest Pass will be required for the trailhead beginning in June for the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. Be sure to note the areas of the trail where dogs are required to be on a leash.
One hour outside of Sisters—traveling west on Highway 22—Gooch Falls is a rewarding sight for spectators who are looking for a shorter hike in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness but are still hoping for a stunning waterfall view. The half-mile hike beginning just off Marion Creek Road, leads to the impressive, tiered waterfall that tumbles into the creek below. The Willamette Wilderness will continue to astound hikers on both the drive in—rounding Three Fingered Jack—and upon arrival in the dense forest adjacent to the waterfall.
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