If you want an epic adventure to liven up a dull day, Chush Falls is the perfect hike.
First, there’s a 30 minute drive from Sisters to the trailhead on gravel roads, full of the fun and fright of avoiding sharp rocks, fallen trees, and other cars. Take Elm Street south from Sisters toward Three Creeks Lake. Drive about 7 miles and turn right (west) on Forest Road 1514. Drive five miles to FR 1514-600 (this is where it gets rough) and follow it two miles to a T. Bear left to the Chush Falls Trail and an easy hike to the canyon rim. After you cross the bridge over Whychus Creek, the last three miles are especially tense and nerve-wracking if you don’t have an off-road vehicle.
Arriving at the trailhead, you shake out the tension in your neck and begin a leisurely stroll through spacious woods with gurgling streams. After a few brief uphills and easy flat stretches, you come within sight and sound of Chush Falls proper, or Lower Chush Falls if we want to clarify its place relative to the other falls upstream.
Chush Falls used to be called Squaw Creek Falls, and I think it’s because the river cascades over this cliff in the same way hair cascades over the back of a woman’s head. You can see the fall from the trail, but if you want a clear view you’ll have to pick your way down the ravine to the base of the fall. When the creek is less full, it’s even possible to crawl behind the falling water. That takes some steely nerve though, because the space is tight.
The second waterfall is not much further up the trail, and it’s considerably smaller than Chush Falls. Because of its smallness, it doesn’t have a name…yet. Feel free to name it.
After the unnamed falls, you continue in a gradual uphill fashion, meandering and zigzagging and ducking through dense stands of tiny trees, as if you’re lost in a maze. Just when you begin to wonder if the trail is going anywhere, you emerge from the thickets…
…And there, looming above you on an unexpected cliff, is the climax of your adventure – Upper Chush Falls, also less-excitingly known as The Cascades. It’s three times as high and violent as anything before it, as it comes sliding and crashing down the cliff-face, whipped up in frothy white foam.
If you want to heighten your adventure from epic to slightly insane, you can scramble up the slope/cliff beside the waterfall – there’s a nice pool up top to wade in, plus some great panoramic views – but just remember that coming down that slope/cliff is much riskier than going up. And gravity is not your friend either way.
Depending on how far up you go, Chush Falls is a two to four mile roundtrip hike. Directions can be found at our front desk. As of July 2011, there was no parking pass required, nor any self-issuing wilderness permits at the trailhead. That’s probably because there’s no trail into the wilderness beyond the upper falls.
Click HERE for trail map & directions.