If you’re new to Bend (or visiting) and you want an epic Central Oregon hike, you want the Tumalo Falls hike. It’s easy to get to, blows you away with its natural beauty, and is hands down one of the best hikes in Bend. DO IT. Just know that if you’re going to do it, which you are, and it’s the height of tourist season and a weekend, you’re going to no doubt encounter a full parking lot, viewpoints at capacity, and dogs everywhere. If that’s your thing, great, go for it. If people spilling like ants and snapping shots all over the place while you’re trying to “be out in nature” is going to be irksome, go early. And remember, as is usually the case, the further you wander from the parking lot, the less humans you’ll find. Though there will always be some, unless you go early.
Tumalo Falls Hike – One Of The Absolute Best Hikes In Bend
I’m guessing like 8 out of 10 Bend residents would cite Tumalo Falls as the best hike in Bend, which is exactly why it took me 2 years to actually get my ass up there. In a small town, you don’t have the luxury of being all counterculture and snobby (as in: if it’s a best seller I couldn’t possibly enjoy reading it). Nope, that attitude won’t help you in Bend. Just suck it up and join the masses. We know what we’re doing around here.
Tumalo Falls really is one of the best hikes within 30 minutes of downtown. You need to do it ASAP. For starters, you get some decent elevation gain (good cardio!). And, holy shit, it’s gorgeous. I mean this is a real waterfall (over a 90-foot drop), not the glorified rapids that are Benham and Dillon Falls (those are nice hikes, but save them for another day – and before you kayakers protest, I know the practical difference between falls and rapids, so leave me alone.). Most of the Tumalo Falls hike is along Tumalo Creek, above the giant falls at the trailhead. The hike meanders through a fern-gully wonderland (only with fewer ferns), while the creek shows off with waterfall after waterfall along the way.
What You Need To Know About Hiking Tumalo Falls
There are two versions of the Tumalo Falls Hike. There’s the short but steep jaunt, an out & back, which is great if you’re pressed for time and you’ll get in a lot of oohs and ahhhs. And then there’s the full monty, the 6.7 mile loop. Either version of the Tumalo Falls Hike is worth it, it all just depends on what you want to get into.
Either way, start at this trailhead for the Tumalo Falls hike. It’s about 20 – 30 minutes from downtown Bend.
NOTE: The last couple of miles to the trailhead are a mostly drivable dirt road. You’ll want a vehicle with good clearance, as potholes here are large enough to swallow a small pony.
Remember, it’s often colder up at Tumalo Falls than it is in town. Dress appropriately. During the deep winter, there will be snow, and the trail (and dirt road) may not be passable. Check here for road and trailhead closure info.
Give yourself 2 – 3 hours total to do the 2-to-4 mile out & back version of the Tumalo Falls hike. If you want to do the full 6.7 mile Tumalo Falls Hike loop, well, do the math yourself, you impressively ambitious outdoorsperson.
Once you have the directions all loaded up on your smart phone, head outta dodge on Galveston, the road that turns into Skyliners, which will lead you to the Tumalo Falls turnoff.
When you arrive and park (you’ll see the tandem bathrooms and other normal trailhead stuff), the first order of business is to walk to the Tumalo Falls overlook – it’s the best vantage point for the requisite #tumalofalls shots. The viewing spot is like 10 yards or so from the parking lot.
Actually Doing the Tumalo Falls Hike
Now that you’ve snapped the same Tumalo Falls shots as everyone else at the viewpoint, go back toward the parking lot and take the main trail. You’ll see it. When you’re in the lot facing Tumalo Falls, the trail is to the left of the viewpoint and also to the left of the useless info board. The trail is officially called The North Fork Trail. It’s the most obvious one and will be well trafficked.
Once you start hiking up the semi-steep hill, it won’t take long before you get to a junction. It’ll point you toward Happy Valley straight/left. But you will be drawn to what looks like some stunning views to your right. Go there – ignore the Happy Valley sign and take a right. Always go toward the views. Don’t worry, just keep walking upstream while gawking and taking photos and you’ll eventually rejoin the main Happy Valley trail.
It’s about two miles from the Tumalo Falls trailhead to the log bridge (a log made into a footbridge). You can turn around here (a four-mile hike is legit, sister, ain’t no shame), or cross the bridge and continue on for another 1/4 mile. If the latter, you’ll get a pretty viewpoint (yes, more falls), and another half mile to actually reach those falls. If you’re really going for it and want to do the full 6.7 mile Tumalo Falls Hike, keep on keepin’ on. Go left at the Swampy Lakes trail (important if you have dogs – you’re not allowed to go right, some watershed thing). In nearly 3 more miles you’ll hit the Bridge Creek trail. Take it. At that point you’re only about a mile from home, the Tumalo Falls trailhead.
The Tumalo Falls Hike In A Nutshell
In summary, here’s what you need to remember once you’ve ogled the main falls at the trailhead and are ready to do the actual Tumalo Falls hike:
- Take the North Fork Trail.
- In about 2 miles, you’ll hit a log footbridge.
- Cross the footbridge and keep hiking to check out Middle Fork Tumalo Falls.
- If doing the 6+ mile loop, follow the trail to Swampy Lakes Trail, otherwise, turn your ass around and head back.
- Go left on Swampy Creeks Trail.
- Take Swampy Creeks to Bridge Creek Trail.
- Bridge Creek leads you back to where you began…