About Tumalo Falls
Tumalo Falls was a classically rectangular-shaped waterfall that reminded me very much of Rainbow Falls near Mammoth, California.
Not only did these waterfalls have a satisfying shape, but they were similar in size, and they both were in similar rainshadow environments full of pine trees.
Tumalo Falls features a 97ft drop, and it was quite easy to visit because it didn’t require much of a hike to experience.
For that reason as well as the fact that it’s located quite close to the city of Bend, this was a very popular waterfall so its parking situation can get crazy really fast.
Just to give you an idea of the parking situation, we showed up at around 6:40am on a Saturday morning, and we were one of few early birds that snagged one of a handful of parking spaces past the bridge over Tumalo Creek (see directions below).
But when we got back to the car just before 8am, the main parking lot was not only full, but people started parking along the shoulders of the unpaved road before the bridge over Tumalo Creek.
I’m sure at peak times of the day, the parking situation may run back for at least a mile, which means that you’d have to hike the extra mile in each direction (adding 2 miles round-trip to your total hike).
In addition to the lookout by the parking lot, I also managed to experience it from an unsigned trail to its base as well as from its upper viewpoint.
Tumalo Falls Upper Viewpoint
Besides the lookout close to the parking lot (just past the restrooms), I followed the well-established North Fork Trail (No.24.2) beside the road closure towards the Tumalo Falls Viewpoint.
A trail sign along that trail indicated that it was a quarter-mile away, and my GPS logs pretty much confirmed it.
About half-way up this hill, there was an unsigned or unmarked spur trail veering to the right, which I’ll get to later.
As for continuing up the well-established trail, it eventually started to flatten out, but at just about 0.2-mile from the start was a trail fork.
Keeping left at the fork would have continued the North Fork Trail, but I kept right along the railings, and it reached a protruding overlook with a more top down view of Tumalo Falls.
Just beyond that viewpoint, I was able to follow the fencing to another lookout situated right at the brink of Tumalo Falls.
Tumalo Falls Base
So on the 1/4-mile trail leading up to the Tumalo Falls Viewpoint, there was that unsigned trail junction where a path went to the right.
This unmarked trail appeared to have had quite a bit of use as well as remnants or evidence that it’s a legitimate trail even though there was no official signage confirming it.
Nevertheless, I was able to follow this trail as it was flanked by low-lying shrubs before rounding a bend and following Tumalo Creek upstream.
After going over a couple of tree roots, the trail-of-use ultimately ended right next to the base of Tumalo Falls with part of it sitting kind of behind it (though it was being sprayed pretty intensely when I was there in late June 2021).
When I looked around from this area, I could see that this area pretty much sat directly beneath the lookouts at the top of the canyon rim so that gives you an idea of where this trail is situated relative to the sanctioned North Fork Trail.
After having my fill of this spot, I headed back the way I came to that half-way point of the ascent to the Tumalo Falls Viewpoint to end this little (but satisfying) detour.
Extending A Visit To Other Waterfalls
I had originally planned to extend my hike further up the North Fork Trail to at least Double Falls and perhaps the Upper Tumalo Falls.
However, an unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest prevented me from any hiking longer hiking pursuits, especially when I had other waterfalls to pursue later that day.
Had I done these pursuits, the out-and-back hike to Double Falls would have been about 2 round-trip.
Continuing higher up the North Fork Trail to the Upper Tumalo Falls would have been about 4 miles round-trip.
Hopefully, on the next opportunity under more benign conditions, I’ll pursue these waterfalls as part of an extended hike to more completely experience this very popular area.
Tumalo 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.
Since Tumalo Falls is just west of downtown Bend, I’ll just describe the driving directions from there.
So assuming we’re going south on the US97 towards downtown Bend, we’d take the easy-to-miss exit at Hawthorne Avenue (this is the next exit after Lafayette Av and the one before Colorado Ave).
Once on Hawthorne Ave, we’d turn left at the four-way stop onto NW Hill St, and then we’d follow NW Hill St until we have to turn right onto Franklin Ave.
Then, we’d continue on Franklin Ave for about 3/4-mile as it bends towards NW Galveston Ave, where we’d turn right to continue going west.
NW Galveston Ave eventually becomes Skyliners Rd, and we’d follow this street another 10.5 miles until reaching the signed turnoff for Tumalo Falls on the left (NF-4603).
Finally, we’d follow this unpaved road for the remaining 2.5 miles before reaching the end of the road at the Tumalo Falls Day Use Parking Lot, which is just on the other side of the bridge over Tumalo Creek.
Overall, this drive should take no more than 10-15 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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