Oregon Highway 126 provides access to some great hiking trails, which will take you to some nice waterfalls. You can see two of these waterfalls on just one 3-mile loop trail (although you don’t have to hike the entire loop to see them both): Sahalie and Koosah Falls.
I had hoped for a beautiful day of driving along the scenic McKenzie – Santiam Pass Scenic Byway, but on this particular day, the road was anything but scenic. A steady downpour of rain was making driving tedious. It also threatened my hiking plans, but I decided I’d rather get wet and see some waterfalls, than stay dry and see nothing. So, I ventured out on the Waterfalls Loop Trail, which takes you to viewpoints on both sides of Sahalie and Koosah Falls.
Sahalie Falls is nearest to the parking area, and only requires a short, easy walk. As far as I could tell, you’re limited to just this view of Sahalie Falls (unless you take the entire loop trail around to the other side). It’s an impressive waterfall, at about 73 feet tall. In the rain, though, it was less than spectacular.
From Sahalie Falls, it’s a pleasant walk through a beautiful forest to Koosah Falls. Keep in mind that you’ll be walking downstream, and therefore, downhill.
Follow the signs, and before long (maybe a half-mile or so)…
… you’ll come upon another break in the trees, revealing a view of Koosah Falls. This waterfall seems a bit more picturesque, but it’s also a bit shorter, with a 64-foot drop. Again, you’re limited to one viewpoint on this side of the McKenzie River. From other photos I’ve seen, I think the view from the opposite side is better.
It was raining so much, that I decided not to hike the entire loop. Instead, I headed back uphill…
… and along the way, took a few pictures of the trail itself, which I found to be quite pretty, even in the rain.
The forests in Oregon are always so colorful, due to the moss that grows, thanks to the abundant moisture.
The Bottom Line
Sahalie and Koosah Falls are two of the impressive waterfalls that you’ll find along the scenic McKenzie – Santiam Pass highway, and if you have time, you should hike the entire loop trail around the two waterfalls. I suspect the viewpoints on the far side will be better than those on the east side of the river, so your extra effort should pay off.
The trailhead for Sahalie and Koosah Falls is located along Oregon Highway 126, about 5 miles south of US 20.
This route is part of the McKenzie – Santiam Pass Scenic Byway, which makes a loop through the Cascade Mountains, west of Sisters, Oregon.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Salem to Detroit Dam…
… Detroit Dam to Dee Wright Observatory…
… and McKenzie Pass on to Bend: