McKenzie River Waterfall Loop Trail

I love taking out-of-state visitors to this hike, because it shows them a slice of Oregon’s beautiful forests, a wild river, and some gorgeous waterfalls. It’s also an easy 3-mile hike to clock in, even for those not used to hitting Pacific Northwest trails. Not to mention that it’s close enough to nearby attractions, such as Eugene, Cougar Hot Springs, and Tamolitich Pool, that it makes for a great start to a day of adventures.

To catch the full glory of Sahalie Falls, a 100-foot raging torrent of water, one only has to roll up to the trailhead parking lot and walk about 100 yards. It’s a breathtaking sight, especially when the water level of the McKenzie River is at its deepest. There’s a railed viewpoint right near the falls where you can lean out and catch spray from the rainbow-hued mist generated by thundering sheets of water. In Chinook jargon, “sahalie” meant “top,” “upper,” “sky,” and “heaven” – all words that feel appropriately applied to these falls.

Once sufficiently damp and awed, embark on the hike by turning left, following the direction on a sign marked “Waterfall Trail.” You’ll head downstream through a forest of red cedar and Douglas fir, with the flow of the McKenzie River in sight. In another half-mile the river pours off another cliff, forming the 70-foot Koosah Falls. You’ll spot massive springs down at the waterfall’s base where the river has punched through layers of andesite basalt that flowed in the area over 3,000 years ago.

Keep right at the junction as you walk past Koosah Falls to stay on-trail. In less than half a mile you’ll hit a gravel road that runs next to the Carmen Reservoir. Follow this path another 250 yards through the woods and reconnect with the McKenzie River Trail. You'll wander back past viewpoints of Koosah and Sahalie Falls, then emerge back at the trailhead.

Directions: From McKenzie Bridge, drive 19 miles east on Highway 126. Near milepost 5, pull into a large, well-marked Sahalie Falls parking area. The trailhead is signed.

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