Tumalo Falls Hike: Where to Find the Best Waterfall Views

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The Tumalo Falls Hike is one of the quintessential waterfall hikes in all of Oregon. Even more amazing is the fact that it is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Bend, Oregon!

Tumalo Falls is a 90-foot waterfall fed by Tumalo Creek approximately 20 miles west of Bend. Tumalo Creek originates in the Broken Top area, and features a number of smaller waterfalls along with the main attraction, Tumalo Falls, before it makes its way into the Deschutes River just south of Tumalo State Park.

The waterfall is accessible year-round and offers stunning views that vary as the seasons change. From icy sided cliffs to warm summer days to explosions of fall colors this area offers it all.

Tumalo Falls in Spring

Getting to Tumalo Falls

Tumalo Falls is located approximately 13 miles west of downtown Bend off the end of Skyliners Road. All you have to do to get there is hop on Skyliners and follow it until you get to a one-lane bridge.

At this point, you’ll see a gate. In the summer this gate is open and you can drive the remaining 2.5 miles to the Tumalo Falls parking area. This allows you to step out of your car and view the falls almost immediately. Well, maybe if you show up at noon on a Saturday in July you’ll still be walking for a while from your parking space a half mile down the road (the falls get crazy busy in the summer).

In the winter the gate will be closed so you’ll be parking just across the bridge in a small lot. From there it is a 2.5-mile hike, ski, snowshoe, or bike, either along the closed road or along the trail that follows Tumalo Creek.

Tumalo Falls Road Hike

Walking along the road isn’t the most exciting option but it is the most direct.

Another option is to park at the Skyliners Trailhead lot and follow the Tumalo Creek trail along the south side of the river to the falls.

The gate typically closes in the late fall once the snow starts and opens again in late spring. I personally prefer the area when the gate is closed as it makes viewing the falls a much more personal experience and the trails are typically dead quiet.

Note that there is a $5 day use fee at the falls or you can display your Northwest Forest Pass.

Is the Tumalo Falls Gate Open?

Yes. As of June 1st, 2023, the Tumalo Falls gate is open for the summer. The gate will typically close again in the late fall when snow begins to fall around the falls.

Tumalo Falls Hike

The first spot to view Tumalo Falls is directly off the main parking lot. There is a short walk to a viewing platform that takes less than 30 seconds and offers a beautiful view of the falls and surrounding canyon.

From there, there are numerous hikes you can do from the Tumalo Falls Day Use Area.

Tumalo Falls Lower Viewpoint

The preferred hike for most is to park in the day-use parking lot, or along the road, if the lot is full, and just start heading uphill along the North Fork Trail. The trail starts out on a couple of steep switchbacks to take you to the top of the falls.

The trail is approximately 1/4 mile to the top of the falls. There are numerous vantage points from here to look over the falls and back over the Tumalo Creek area. This alone makes for a great stopping point in and of itself but if you came prepared there is so much still to see!

Tumalo Falls Trail Loop

If you’re up for a 7-mile hike with some moderate elevation gain then the Tumalo Falls trail loop is a great option. This Tumalo Falls hike will not only take you past Tumalo Falls but also Double Falls, Middle Tumalo Falls, Middle Fork Tumalo Falls, and Bridge Creek Falls.

To begin this hike start uphill along the Northfork Trail.

Note that mountain bikes are allowed to travel uphill on this trail so keep your eyes out for any bikers, especially along the flatter stretches where they may be picking up speed.

After passing the Tumalo Falls viewpoint 1/4 mile into the trail you’ll follow Tumalo Creek uphill through a lodgepole pine forest. There are numerous areas to explore the creek along this portion of the trail which is great when hiking with small kids.

A ways in you’ll start to get a view of Double Falls. There is both an upper and lower portion of the falls and you’ll be able to see both from the trail. If you turn back here you’ll have completed a 2.5-mile hike.

From here you’ll keep heading upstream and at approximately 2 miles you’ll catch sight of Middle Falls. This waterfall is around half the height of Tumalo Falls at 43 feet tall.

From there you’ll cross a smaller and larger footbridge over Tumalo Creek and find yourself in the midst of three different waterfalls. Lower North Fork Tumalo Falls will be visible through the trees off to the north.

You’ll then pass by Lower Middle Fork Tumalo Falls and Middle Fork Tumalo Falls. Another 3/10’s of a mile up the trail you’ll run into the intersection with the Swampy Lakes Trail.

From here you can either proceed back down the Northfork Trail or take a left on Swampy to continue the loop. This trail passes through dense forests with a few peekaboo views of Broken Top along the way.

Approximately 1.3 miles from the finish you’ll run into Bridge Creek Trail. Hang a left here and you’ll follow Bridge Creek back to the parking lot. Along the way, you’ll get a glimpse of the 25-foot tall Bridge Creek Falls.

Note that the Swampy Lakes and Bridge Creek sections of trail are within the Bend watershed so dogs and bikes are not allowed on these trails.

This Tumalo Falls hike is among the best in central Oregon and with so many great sites along the way it makes for a great short or long hike.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest