Written by | Derek Carlson

Sahalie and Koosah Falls Loop Trail Exploration Guide

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Sahalie and Koosah Falls is a stunning pair of waterfalls that are located along the Mckenzie River. We love visiting these falls with our kids as they are right off the road but also have a number of trail options. Depending on how much time we have available they can be viewed directly from the car, as a .9 mile out and back, or as part of a 2.6-mile loop hike.

Sahalie Falls

Sahalie Falls with a double rainbow

Sahalie Falls is a 100-foot waterfall along the Mckenzie River that cascades over ancient lava flows into a pool below. The spray that comes off this waterfall is seriously impressive and helps build the incredibly lush environment of mosses and ferns that surround the falls.

For all you Homeward Bound fans out there you may find that you recognize these falls from the movie as it was shot around Central Oregon.

Getting to Sahalie Falls

The parking lot for Sahalie Falls is located just off of the Mckenzie Highway south of Clear Lake. The falls are located just feet from the parking lot and the viewing platform is accessible by a paved trail so this is a great spot for everyone to visit.

Note that the parking lot is small, I would estimate it only holds around 20 cars, so if you arrive mid-day on a weekend then parking may be a challenge. Some people will park across the highway as you can fit another half dozen cars there as well.

If you’re planning on hiking the falls loop we’ll go over some other parking options that tend to fill up less quickly a bit later on.

Tips for Visiting Sahalie Falls

  • Visit the falls during the off-season. This area explodes with color in the fall, turns into an icy wonderland in the winter, and swells with water in the spring. And the crowds will be far fewer during these times.
  • If you have to visit on a weekend in the summer consider arriving early. As these falls are located right off the highway the parking lot tends to stay busy all day long.
  • Stay on the viewing platform. There are no trails that lead down to the base of the falls.
  • Park at the Ice Cap Creek or Waterfalls Loop trailheads if you’re planning on doing the out-and-back or loop hikes as these are way less busy than the Sahalie Falls parking lot.

Koosah Falls

Koosah Falls from the lower lookout

Koosah Falls is a 70-foot waterfall that plunges into a deep pool and can be viewed from multiple areas around the rim of the falls. The natural amphitheater created by these falls makes for a stunning backdrop. Look along the cliffs on the far side of the falls as water makes its way through the rock and creates its own trickling falls down the mossy rock walls.

Getting to Koosah Falls

Koosah Falls are located less than half a mile down the waterfall loop trail from Sahalie Falls. This trail follows right next to the Mckenzie River and while the distance is short there are a lot of roots and some stairs to contend with.

You can also park at the Waterfalls Loop Trailhead located next to the Ice Cap Campground. The trail to Koosah Falls from this parking lot is short but it does require walking down a somewhat steep dirt trail to reach the viewing area.

Tips for Visiting Koosah Falls

  • Parking at the Waterfall Loop Trailhead is typically much easier than at the Sahalie Falls parking lot.
  • Don’t skip the lower lookout. It only has room for one group at a time and will provide the most intimate view of the falls.
  • Keep an eye out as you may catch a glimpse of bikers riding through the woods on the far side of the falls. That is the popular Mckenzie River trail where riders shuttle a 26-mile ride starting at Clear Lake.

Hiking the Waterfalls Loop Trail

The waterfall loop trail is a 2.6-mile trail that passes both Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls on both sides of the river. You can hop on this trail at any of the three trailhead parking lots (Sahalie Falls, Ice Cap Campground, or the Ice Cap day-use area).

We would recommend starting at the Ice Cap day use area as this way you will be heading uphill for the first half and downhill for the 2nd half of the hike.

Hiking the Waterfalls Loop Trail by Sahalie and Koosah Falls

If you’re starting at the Ice Cap Day use area head north along the Mckenzie River trail on the west side of the Mckenzie River. Note that this trail is multi-use and very popular with cyclists so keep an eye out. Most cyclists ride this trail downhill so they should only be coming from one direction.

This trail will take you past both sets of falls and there are even a few unofficial offshoots that will allow you to get down closer to the river for a unique perspective of the waterfalls. The trail continues north of Sahalie Falls approximately a quarter mile before crossing over a bridge to the east side of the river.

From there simply follow the river back downstream, passing once again by the waterfalls and most likely a few more people hiking the trail, before returning to your car.

Where to Stay Near Sahalie and Koosah Falls

Getting to these falls can be a trek for many, especially if you’re coming from Portland. Luckily, there are a number of lodging options in the immediate area that will allow you to explore these falls along with many other beautiful sights in the area like the Blue Pool, Clear Lake, or Proxy Falls.

Belknap Hotsprings

Belknap Hotsprings Resort is just a few miles down the road from the falls and offers lodging, natural hot springs, and a stunning garden that looks straight out of a European city to explore.

Ice Cap Campground

Ice Cap Campground puts you right on top of the trail which is great for grabbing some early morning or late evening photos of the falls. The forest around the falls is full of ancient, mosssy fir trees which take on an almost magical vibe in the early morning hours.

Clear Lake Resort & Campground

Clear Lake Resort is a county park that offers camping, cabins, yurts, a restaurant, and boat rentals to explore Clear Lake. The lake is a must see as it is relatively young at only 3,000 years old and is fed by underground springs so the water stays incredibly clear. Hence the name!

The lake was originally formed by a lava flow and at the bottom of the lake you can still see the standing trees that were covered with water after the lake formed!

Horse Creek Lodge

Horse Creek Lodge is the furthest away of these options but also offers the most outdoor amenities for exploring the Mckenzie River region. They offer full and half day rafting trips on the Mckenzie River or shuttle your bike to the top of the Mckenzie River trail so you can ride downhill back to the lodge.

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