Thursday, May 19, 2022
May 19, 2022

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Quick getaway to Oregon’s Steelhead Falls stuns

Area offers relatively easy hiking trail, breathtaking views, overnight camping


BEND, Ore. — After all my jaunts throughout Central Oregon over the past 20 years, I still occasionally venture to special spots that are new to me — even well-known locations.

Steelhead Falls is one such area. For some reason, I had yet to make the 45-minute drive from Bend to the stunning falls, located near Crooked River Ranch along the Middle Deschutes.

The area provided the perfect short hike for a quick Sunday getaway with my son, Mason, 14. Lately, I find that hiking is the best outdoor activity for conversation with my kids, including daughter Miley, 12, and to catch up on the details of their middle school lives. Running, mountain biking and skiing are great, but are not always the best for communication.

Anyway, the relatively easy hike near Steelhead Falls offers a welcoming escape into nature with family or friends.

The falls are just a half-mile trek from the trailhead. The trail follows a short downhill section into the canyon carved by the Deschutes.

The path flattens quickly and follows the river along the canyon to Steelhead Falls. Yellow wildflowers were just beginning to bloom on our trip, and will no doubt be more spectacular later in the spring.

The trail includes several areas to access the river for rainbow and brown trout fishing. This stretch of the river is open to trout fishing year-round but restricted to artificial flies and lures.

Once the heat of summer descends on the High Desert, the 25-foot cliffs near the falls are popular areas from which to jump into the river for a swim.

From Steelhead Falls, the Deschutes River flows toward the waters of Lake Billy Chinook, where it connects with the Crooked and Metolius Rivers.

After enjoying the scenic falls, Mason and I continued hiking farther downstream. We scrambled over some rocks and continued to where the river turned west. Unique, castle-like rock formations lined the river canyon.

The trail transformed from a rocky path to a grassy meadow, and then to narrow, cliffside singletrack.

After about 11/2 miles of hiking, we turned around to head back the way we had come. We ended up hiking about 3 miles in 90 minutes. It was just enough time to enjoy our surroundings while reconnecting without the distractions of laptops, phones and iPads.

Those who want to add mileage to a hike in the Steelhead Falls area can take the Foley Waters trail off the south end of the Steelhead Falls parking area. Foley Waters is also a popular fishing area.

Overnight camping is also available near the Steelhead Falls trailhead, and sites are first-come, first-served.

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