Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Sahalie and Koosah Falls Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The McKenzie River below Sahalie Falls, Waterfalls Loop Trail (bobcat)
Sahalie Falls on the McKenzie River (bobcat)
Koosah Falls from the Waterfalls Loop Trail (bobcat)
Unnamed waterfall between Sahalie and Koosah Falls, McKenzie River Trail (bobcat)
Dark pool on the McKenzie River (bobcat)
Footbridge over the McKenzie above Sahalie Falls, McKenzie River Trail (bobcat)
The waterfall loop route on both sides of the McKenzie River (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Sahalie Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Carmen Reservoir Trailhead
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 380 feet
  • High point: 2,995 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Mid-spring through fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes, near the waterfalls

Contents

Hike Description

Lava issuing from the Sand Mountain area poured down the McKenzie River valley about 3,000 years ago in two separate flows, creating the benches over which two large waterfalls, Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls thunder. Interpretive signs at the Sahalie Falls Trailhead considerably exaggerate the height of both falls at 120 feet and 90 feet respectively. In fact, both have similar drops of about 75 feet, but remain impressive nonetheless. The Waterfalls Loop Trail takes you to both waterfalls and then connects with the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail on the west bank for a quiet return away from the crowds. Some of the most rewarding sections of this hike are along ice-blue sections of the McKenzie, where tumbling cascades drop through a dark and mossy forest corridor.

Take the paved trail leading down from the right side of the parking area. Make a left and then a right down a flight of steps. You’ll arrive at a viewpoint to Sahalie Falls, formerly known as Upper Falls, where it pours over a lava ledge from a constricted defile (Sahalie is the Chinook Jargon word for ‘high’). At times of high water, a second stream of water drops from a lava bowl to the right of the main flow.

Continue on the Waterfalls Loop Trail downriver. A series of steps takes you close to the McKenzie where it tumbles in a sequence of picturesque cascades. A green canopy of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red-cedar towers overhead. The river continues to pours through a constricted channel before making a fifteen-foot drop over a minor waterfall. You’ll reach a bench and railed viewpoint which offers a partial view of Koosah Falls, formerly Middle Falls (Koosah means ‘sky’). These falls offer different profiles at different times of the year. In the driest months, there are two separate streams of water dropping into a large amphitheater, while at full spate the waterfall appears as a single 70-foot wide plunge. Part of the McKenzie’s flow finds passage under the lava, and it issues forth here as a series of springs at the base of the waterfall.

At a fork on the trail, go right (Left will take you up to the Koosah Falls Trailhead). Pass another viewpoint now obscured by vegetation, and keep right again. Narrow steps lead down to the best viewpoint of Koosah Falls, a head-on vista up the canyon where you can make out a rock pinnacle on the forested slope above the falls. The river narrows under lava cliffs. Keep right at another junction, and descend to reach a one-lane bridge over the McKenzie at the Carmen Reservoir, a diversion facility for the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB). Take the road over the bridge, and pass an information kiosk. When you reach a vault toilet at the Carmen Reservoir Trailhead, look right where the loop trail reenters the forest.

Hike up to the McKenzie River-Waterfalls Loop Trail South Junction, and make a right at an impressive Douglas-fir. As the trail twists up through mossy lava outcroppings, look left for a massive log nursing a flock of baby hemlocks. Arrive at a viewpoint to Koosah Falls – take care here: the viewpoints on this side don’t have protective railings! The river narrows, and a spur trail leads to the McKenzie’s bank and a great view of the unnamed falls above Koosah. Next a scramble trail from a switchback leads out to a vista over Sahalie Falls’ amphitheater. There’s another view of Sahalie Falls from the main trail higher up, and you’ll soon pass near the lip of this thundering plunge.

The next spur switchbacks down to dark swirling, bubbling pool on the McKenzie. The river’s ravine narrows, and the trail crosses an exposed lava flow populated by vine maples. Above a log jam, the McKenzie is a quieter, broader river and the River Trail crosses a substantial footbridge to reach the McKenzie River-Waterfalls Loop Trail North Junction. The old single log footbridge lies nearby. Make a right on the Waterfalls Loop to pass mossy boulders on a lava ridge. An old access road runs nearby. At a junction, you can go right for a close view to the top of Sahalie Falls. Next, keep left to reach the parking area.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: McKenzie River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Willamette National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Willamette Cascades
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Jefferson - Mount Washington

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Restrooms, picnic area, information kiosk, nearby campground
  • Share McKenzie River Trail with mountain bikers

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Eugene, Oregon by Art Bernstein & Lynn Bernstein
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Waterfall Lover’s Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon’s Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • 50 Old-Growth Hikes in the Willamette National Forest by John & Diane Cissel
  • Hiking Oregon’s Central Cascades by Bruce Grubbs
  • Hiking Oregon’s Three Sisters Country by Bruce Grubbs
  • Oregon Nature Weekends by Jim Yuskavitch
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon’s Southern Cascades: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Dog Hikes: Oregon edited by Falcon Guides
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.