Dillon Falls

Deschutes River / Bend, Oregon, USA

About Dillon Falls


Hiking Distance: about 0.8 miles round-trip (not including scrambling to improve views)
Suggested Time: allow 1 hour

Date first visited: 2021-06-27
Date last visited: 2021-06-27

Waterfall Latitude: 43.95732
Waterfall Longitude: -121.41198

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Dillon Falls was a run of class V rapids and cascades on the Upper Deschutes River while flanked by lava fields deposited from the Lava Butte eruption 7000 years ago.

It’s a similar situation to the nearby Benham Falls further upstream, but Dillon Falls felt less developed.

Dillan_Falls_039_06272021 - Dillon Falls
Dillon Falls

Indeed, Benham Falls had the sanctioned lookouts and two trailheads to access it, but Dillon Falls required that I go on either a bit of a dusty drive to reach its nearest trailhead or else hike an additional 3.5 miles from the Benham Falls East Trailhead.

That said, due to the less-developed nature of Dillon Falls, trying to find that satisfying all-encompassing view was hard to come by.

So I had to be content with the partial views that I was able to safely find.

Nevertheless, the flip side to its rather wild and undeveloped nature was that I at least enjoyed a more serene experience thanks to there being far fewer people.

Dillan_Falls_005_iPhone_06272021 - Looking across the profile of Dillon Falls where the Deschutes River was about to bend due to the lava cliffs across it
Looking across the profile of Dillon Falls where the Deschutes River was about to bend due to the lava cliffs across it

Speaking of development, Dillon Falls was named after a homesteader by the name of Leander Dillon, according to my Gregory Plumb book.

From the Dillon Falls Day Use Parking Lot, I passed a picnic area and skirted by a calm part of the Deschutes River, where I could see people tubing or kayaking.

However, at about a quarter-mile, the river started to become turbulent, and this was where I suspected the Dillon Falls run began.

I probably spent the majority of my time on this excursion scrambling to try to find the best viewing spots without putting too much risk to my safety since there were no guardrails or designated lookouts.

Dillan_Falls_010_iPhone_06272021 - This was as much of the run of Dillon Falls that I could capture in a single photo, but as you can see, the run kept going in both directions of the Deschutes River
This was as much of the run of Dillon Falls that I could capture in a single photo, but as you can see, the run kept going in both directions of the Deschutes River

I ultimately went as far as an additional 0.15-0.2 miles or so further downstream where I felt the Deschutes River was starting to calm down and represent the end of the run of Dillon Falls.

That said, it’s not like there’s an obvious spot where the Dillon Falls started and ended so the extent of my exploration was just my judgment call.

After having my fill of Dillon Falls, I just backtracked the way I went, and I wound up spending a little over 30 minutes for the entire excursion.

Authorities

Dillon Falls resides in the Deschutes National Forest near Bend in Deschutes County, Oregon. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Dillan_Falls_001_06272021 - Arriving at the day use parking lot for Dillon Falls on a very hot late June 2021 day
Dillan_Falls_004_06272021 - This was the picnic area by the Dillon Falls Day Use Area Trailhead
Dillan_Falls_007_06272021 - Looking across a calm part of the Deschutes River shortly before the 'storm' of Dillon Falls
Dillan_Falls_069_06272021 - Looking upstream at where people have been floating on the Deschutes River well upstream of Dillon Falls
Dillan_Falls_012_06272021 - Looking ahead at where the Deschutes starts to churn at the start of Dillon Falls.  I noticed one couple actually wading into a calm part of the river nearby the high current parts
Dillan_Falls_014_06272021 - The Dillon Falls Trail splitting (kind of like how the Benham Falls Trail did) where the path on the right skirted the cliffs overlooking Dillon Falls
Dillan_Falls_015_06272021 - Context of the Deschutes River and the Dillon Falls Trail besides it
Dillan_Falls_016_06272021 - Another look at the couple who were wading in the Deschutes River to cool off from the extreme heat of an unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest during our late June 2021 visit
Dillan_Falls_019_06272021 - Looking across parts of Dillon Falls as the Deschutes River was churning big time
Dillan_Falls_023_06272021 - Looking downstream at the Deschutes River where I'd imagine was the heart of the run of Dillon Falls
Dillan_Falls_034_06272021 - Looking down at another part of Dillon Falls backed by intriguing lava rocks and cliffs that I suspected were from the Lava Butte eruption some 7000 years ago
Dillan_Falls_038_06272021 - Looking downstream at the continuation of the run of Dillon Falls
Dillan_Falls_041_06272021 - Looking down at what I suspect to be the main drop of Dillon Falls
Dillan_Falls_048_06272021 - There weren't many people around Dillon Falls during my late June 2021 visit so I did manage to notice this little guy seemingly unafraid of me (was it looking for a handout since it got used to being fed?)
Dillan_Falls_057_06272021 - Another contextual look downstream at the Deschutes River backed by very interesting-looking basalt lava cliffs at Dillon Falls
Dillan_Falls_068_06272021 - After having my fill of Dillon Falls, it was time to head back the way I came
Dillan_Falls_072_06272021 - Back at the picnic area by the day use parking lot for Dillon Falls
Dillan_Falls_013_iPhone_06272021 - It was a bit of a dusty road on the way out of Dillon Falls, which is something to keep in mind because at one moment, I was blinded by excessive dust clouding my visibility of the Dillon Falls Road


I managed to visit Dillon Falls as we used downtown Bend as the base, so I’ll just describe the driving directions from there.

So assuming we’re going south on the US97 towards downtown Bend, I’d take the exit 138 towards Downtown-Mt Bachelor, which would lead us to a traffic light with NW Colorado Ave.

Dillan_Falls_001_iPhone_06272021 - On the unpaved Dillon Falls Road
On the unpaved Dillon Falls Road

Turning right onto Colorado Av would put me on the path to the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway.

Following the one-way NW Colorado Ave westwards, I drove for about 7 miles (following the signs for Cascade Lakes as Colorado Ave became Century Dr).

Right before the entrance to the Cascade Lakes Welcome Center, I made a left turn onto USFS Rd41 (also called Dillon Falls Rd on GoogleEarth on Conklin Rd in my Garmin).

Then, I followed the Conklin Rd for about 2.6 miles before turning left onto the unpaved Dillon Falls Road (FS-600).

Dillan_Falls_073_06272021 - Looking back at the day use parking lot for Dillon Falls
Looking back at the day use parking lot for Dillon Falls

After another 0.7-mile on the FS-600 Road, I made another left right before the boat ramp area and drove to the Dillon Falls Day Use Parking Area.

Overall, this drive took me under 30 minutes.

For geographical context, Bend was 143 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) south of Hood River, 128 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) east of Eugene, 173 miles (over 3 hours drive) northeast of Medford, 162 miles (over 3 hours drive) southeast of Portland, and 319 miles (over 5 hours drive) west of Boise, Idaho.

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Back and forth sweep of the profile of perhaps the most vertical part of the rapids of Dillan Falls while also examining the lava cliffs on the opposite side of the Deschutes River


Back and forth sweep following the flow of the Deschutes River at the Dillan Falls from a precarious rock outcrop


Downstream to upstream sweep of Dillan Falls from further downstream of the falls itself while examining all the whitewater as well as the lava cliffs on the opposite side of the Deschutes.

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Tagged with: deschutes, bend, rapids, upper deschutes, conklin road, cascade lakes



Visitor Comments:

Deschutes River run August 22, 2021 1:02 am by Steve Gillett - Dunno if you're into whitewater rafting, but there's a short trip between Dillon Falls (unrunnable, at least commercially) and Lava Island downstream (ditto). There's a nice Class III rapid, Big Eddy, in the middle. The run takes only about an hour (IIRC), and you can sign up (again IIRC) with an outfitter at the nearby… ...Read More

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