A remote atmospheric waterfall, Steelhead Falls is a hidden oasis that was formed a few million years ago. Lined by colorful 25-foot cliffs, the 20-foot waterfall drops into a deep canyon that was formed at about the same time span as the waterfall.
A part of the National Conservation Lands, the Steelhead Falls area offers a variety of recreation activities. Hikers take a scenic 0.5-mile trail that runs along the river from the parking area. During your hike you will enjoy fantastic bird’s views of geological outcrops and the picturesque river, winding between rocky walls of the bluffs. You can continue your trip downstream for about a mile.
The area features a deep rocky gorge with cliff jumping opportunities at the base of the gorgeous waterfall. A popular stretch of the Deschutes River above and below the waterfall is a popular destination for anglers, swimmers, cliff jumpers, and experienced whitewater rafters.
The well-marked trail inside the canyon is packed with hikers during summer weekends. The trip to the waterfall is relatively easy but there are a few slanted parts that are slippery and steep. Use sturdy hiking shoes.
The trail has many random turns, so follow the signs and hike along the river.
Steelhead Falls is well-known for summer water activities including swimming and cliff jumping. The river at the waterfall base features a large swimming area below the waterfall, cliffs and rocky outcroppings on both sides of the canyon serve as jumping spots for young adventure seekers. Jumping off the cliffs near the waterfall is quite risky.
Further down the trail, you can find comfortable access to the river, sandy spots, and smaller cliffs for relatively safe jumping.
The Deschutes River is feeding by snowmelt. For this reason, its water is extremely cold most of the year. The best time for swimming here is July and August. At the end of July, the surface river temperature near the falls was 64°F.
Swimming holes associated with cliff jumping can be extremely dangerous. Variations in water levels, rocks that are not immediately visible, or even shifts in river bottoms due to strong currents can all lead to undesirable consequences including serious injury and death. It is, therefore, very important to check current conditions and all associated risks and concerns. Make safe decisions!
Along the trail up and down the waterfall, you can find signs directed to deep pools that are good for fishing. Anglers can catch hatchery steelhead, rainbow and brown trout. Only artificial flies and lures are allowed. A tagged wild fish must be released.
Caution. Watch out for rattlesnakes. They might be hiding near heavy brush, under logs, and in rock crevices.
Steelhead Falls | General Description
Location: Deschutes Canyon-Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area
Services: Vault toilet at the trailhead, no water
Activities: Swimming, cliff jumping, hiking, fishing, nature viewing, and photography
Accommodations: Camping on first-come first-served basis
Distance from the trailhead: 0.5 miles
Hike Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Elevation gain: 140 ft (73 m)
Road access: Any passenger vehicle
Day-use fees: Free
Dogs: Must be on a leash
Popularity: Moderate to high
Elevation (waterfall): 2,400 ft (732 m)
Steelhead Falls is located:
- 15 miles north of Redmond
- 32 miles north of Bend
- 133 miles east of Salem
- 147 miles southeast of Portland.
Directions to Steelhead Falls Trailhead
- Travel 6.4 miles north on Highway 97 to Lower Bridge Market Road in Terrebonne
- Turn left onto Lower Bridge Market Road and follow 2.2 miles to NW 43rd Street
- Turn right on NW 43rd Street and continue 1.8 miles to Chinook Drive
- Drive a mile to Badger Road
- Turn left onto Badger Road and go 1 mile to Quail Road
- Turn right on Quail Road and follow 0.5 miles to River Road
- Turn left onto River Road and continue to the Steelhead Falls Trailhead.