The first summer of our waterfall adventures, we went for an impromptu camping trip near McKenzie Bridge without knowing what (if any) waterfalls were in the area. We visited four waterfalls that weekend, three of which are on waterfallsnorthwest.com’s Top 100 list. Pretty good for not planning ahead!
Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls are both on the powerful McKenzie River, about a half mile apart. “Sahalie” is a Chinook word meaning “Heaven,” and “Koosah” means “sky.” An easy 2.6 mile loop trail connects the two, and it’s recommended to begin your hike at Sahalie.
It’s only 100 feet from the parking lot to the viewpoint at the top of Sahalie, which is wheelchair accessible and can be crowded. The best views, however, are down the trail toward Koosah. Sahalie is a beautiful and powerful cascade, earning the #22 spot on the Top 100 list. It was also featured in Disney’s “Homeward Bound.”
The viewpoints for Koosah Falls are not as up close as those for Sahalie, but the surrounding forest provides a gorgeous setting for landscape photos. We were lucky enough to capture a rainbow at the base of the falls in our photos, as well. Koosah is #25 on the aforementioned list.
SUMMARY: My rating: Must-see / favorite (4 stars)
(Sahalie: Waterfall – 4 stars, Trail – n/a, Experience – 3 stars; Koosah: (Waterfall – 4 stars, Trail – 3 stars, Experience – 3 stars)
Distance from Beaverton: Almost two and a half hours drive southeast
Nearest town: McKenzie Bridge
Nearest city: Bend
Length of round-trip hike: The loop is 2.6 miles. It’s about 1 mile to hike from one waterfall to the other and back again. Or you could park at each day use area and not hike at all.
Best season to visit: Any, although visiting in winter is not recommended due to snowy roads.
Things to know: If you wish, you may park at Koosah Falls and begin your hike there. The parking lot is about a half mile south of the Sahalie Falls Day Use Area, described below.
Consider combining this trip with: Rafting on the McKenzie River, soaking in a hot spring, hiking to Tamolitch Pool, or visiting some more waterfalls in the area, such as Terwilliger Falls or Proxy Falls (and the 4 falls closest to it).
Toilet / Amenities: Vault toilets at Sahalie Falls Day Use Area. I found conflicting information on whether or not Koosah Falls Day Use Area has toilets, and since we parked at Sahalie I don’t have first-hand knowledge either.
How to get there:
- From the junction of Highways 20 and 126, follow Highway 126 south for about 4½ miles to the signed parking area for Sahalie Falls.
- From there, follow the signs to view both falls. If you are planning to hike the loop, stay right at all junctions past Koosah Falls.