This eight mile, scenic loop trail starts at Tumalo Falls, 14 miles southwest of Bend. The parking area was small and full when we arrived, but we found a spot along the road. From the number of cars coming and going, we got the impression that most of the people were there for the viewpoint accessible after a very short walk up to the Tumalo Falls scenic overlook.
The South Fork of this trail ascends at a constant but reasonable rate for the first half of the loop. After the first mile, we left the families with small children behind. Next to disappear were the couples with unleashed dogs. And finally, at about the four mile mark, we entered the Bridge Creek Watershed which is closed to bikes, dogs and horses. It is the main source of drinking water for the city of Bend. From that point on, we encountered neither man or nor beast.
There are so many gorgeous waterfalls on this hike that we actually lost count. Tumalo is the highest and most spectacular, but the others are worth the effort: Double Falls, Upper Falls, North Fork Falls and Spring Creek Falls, Bridge Creek, to name just a few. The trail footing was as good as it gets— wide, smooth, springy, and free of rocks, puddles or roots. We could almost imagine hiking this barefoot. There are many viewpoints (but no signs identifying the name of each waterfall) along the way. A number of other trails converge on sections of this hike— Windigo, Swampy Lakes, among others.
Bridge Creek, despite it’s name, had no bridge. A large tree across the water served the same purpose, and was easy to navigate once we go past the roots at one end.
Once we turned onto the North Fork portion of the loop, the trail descended along the north side of the draw, and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees. Here we encountered a few short stretches of snow and frozen mud. By the time we got back to the parking area, cars lined the road for quite a distance.
We weren’t as well-prepared as usual, with no printed maps or GPS maps downloaded ahead of time, but we had time to trek a good eight miles, celebrate two days of excellent hikes and pristine camping with a stop at 10 Barrel Brewing in Bend and then make the three-hour drive back home Sunday night. Check out the previous day’s hike to Gray Butte.