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Oregon: Central Oregon – Tumalo Falls

A 100-foot waterfall with numerous hiking trail options of varying difficulty and length

Central Oregon has many beautiful places to visit and there are some fabulous hikes just a few minutes from downtown Bend. One of our favourite places to visit is Tumalo Falls.

Leaving Bend you take a ten-mile drive along a tree-lined paved road deep into the Deschutes National Forest. This road is often closed in the winter due to snow. Eventually, the paved road runs out and then you travel a further two miles on a dirt road at the end of which is a small parking lot. It costs $5 for a day pass – but it is free if you have a Northwest Forest Pass or Inter-agency Pass. And when I said the parking lot is small I mean small – it fills up very quickly, so often you have to park on the road and walk in.

Here is a MAP of the area.

From the parking lot, there are many options for hiking and mountain biking. The most popular option is to take the Northfork Trail. The first thing you will see once you set out on the Northfork is the impressive 97-foot main fall, where the Tumalo Creek crashes down vertically from the ridge. After a short, but steep climb you reach the viewing platform where you can look over the falls – it is very beautiful and impressive. Most people seem to only get this far and they miss much more beautiful falls upstream.

Tumalo Falls is a 97-foot drop waterfall in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon
Watching Tumalo Falls from a view point - near Bend, Oregon

From the main falls, the Northfork trail continues upwards. Along the next half a mile, or so Tumalo Creek settles down and is easily accessible if you fancy a paddle – which is especially on the way back down!

A cairn on Tumalo Creek
Karen standing by Tumalo Creek

If you are lucky enough to visit at the right time you might get to see a mass visitation of California Tortoiseshells – it is a truly magical experience with a literal cloud of butterflies descending on the area!

California Tortoiseshells invade the Deschutes National Forest each year

As you travel further up the Northfork trail there are more falls to see – none quite as amazing as the main falls – but nonetheless spectacular in their own way. There are also more places to stop and enjoy Tumalo Creek more closely. There is nothing we like more than the sounds of a babbling brook.

The majority of the journey is along paths beneath the canopy of the pine trees, which provide a lot of shade, which is a blessing on a hot day.

Eventually, the Northfork Trail ends in a sumptuous meadow, which is adorned with an assortment of wildflowers in the early summer months. Here there are options to extend your hike along numerous trails or simply head back down to the parking lot. If you fancy a circular walk then take the Mrzek Trail south and join the Farewell Trail which will bring you back onto the road a short distance from the Northfork Trail parking lot.

There are also some great mountain bike trails from the same spot, but bikes are not allowed (although I have seen many people ignore this) on the first part of the North Trail.

Best time to visit Bend

What is Bend’s climate like? Well in a word great. Bend has the highest average number of sunny days in the state. Clear days average 158 days per year with an additional 105 days that are mostly sunny. Many of the remaining days provide substantial sunshine. Days that are totally cloudy do not often occur.

Bend sits on Oregon’s high desert at an elevation of 3,600 ft (1014m) so, for newcomers, it takes a while to acclimatise.

Located west of the Cascade Mountains, Bend gets the benefit of the protection of these mountains, as most of the crappy weather comes from a westerly direction.

The winters are chilly and sometimes very cold, mostly at night, but there are plenty of crisp winter days to enjoy. In the summer it gets hot during the day, but not oppressively so, and because of the low humidity, the temperatures drop quickly after sunset. So, you don’t often need to have the air conditioning on! But at nighttime even on the hottest day, you are likely to need to wear a sweater.

The air in Bend is extremely clear (except when there are wildfires close by) and there is little light pollution. Therefore you get amazing bluebird days, incredible sunrise and sets and the most perfect night skies.

Where to stay in Bend

1. MILL INN BED & BREAKFAST

Located in the heart of Bend within walking distance to the historic Downtown, the Old Mill District, and the Les Schwab Amphitheater.  Originally built in the early 1900s as a hotel and boarding house, The Mill Inn Bed and Breakfast has been refurbished and now offers 10 unique rooms in a comfortable setting. Guests will enjoy the seven-course breakfast, an outdoor spa, the deck for bbq’s, free WiFi, plus the secure basement storage facility equipped with ski and snowboard racks, waxing tables and a workstation for your bicycles.

2. BUNK+BREW

The Bunk+Brew Historic Lucas House is the newest and ONLY affordable lodging for the adventure traveller in downtown Bend, Oregon.

2.5 blocks from the Bend Ale Trail, the Lucas House (1910) is also Bend’s first and oldest brick building.

Book a room (or bunk), grab a free check-in beer, and catch a ride on their adventure shuttle, the “Dirtbag Express”.

You don’t need a bed? Take advantage of our “Dirtbag Deal” — shower, towel, laundry, Wi-Fi, beer, and sauna!

The new sauna bathhouse is the perfect place to relax with a local beer and share stories with international travellers.

3. PINE RIDGE INN

A boutique experience in a natural setting. Pine Ridge Inn is tucked away from main roads and overlooks the beautiful Deschutes River. It’s the perfect location to find the tranquility you are looking for while still having easy access to downtown Bend, the Old Mill District, hiking and biking trails, and along the road to Mt. Bachelor and the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway.

Pine Ridge Inn is perfect for both business and leisure travelers, as it boasts incredibly spacious, and quiet accommodations for our guests. All of our suites feature king-size beds, gas fireplaces, and free wireless Internet access. The majority of our suites offer an amazing and elevated view of the Deschutes River.

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