The Sahalie (“Heaven” in Chinook) and Koosah (Sky) Falls on the McKenzie River are located at the terminus of two massive lava flows, the same lava flows that damned nearby Clear Lake 3,000 years ago. This mellow hike is best early in the summer but also quite nice in the fall, especially after leaf peeping Clear Lake. From the parking area, start by hiking a few hundred feet upstream to the upper Sahalie Falls lookout and enjoy the cool breeze generated by the turbulent 100-foot tall falls. A short distance downstream from the parking lot there is another lookout/viewpoint for Sahalie Falls that provides a different perspective.
After enjoying the awesome power of Sahalie Falls continue downstream for half a mile to the Koosah Falls lookout on the aptly named “Waterfall Trail”. The trail descends a few hundred feet enroute to Koosah Falls but the trail is well graded and not at all challenging. This stretch of the McKenzie River is nearly continuously whitewater and there are several interesting rapids that could be the subject of a photograph (if you remember your tripod and neutral density filter(s).
The 70-foot tall Koosah Falls is very pretty albeit a little less awesome than the pounding whitewater of Sahalie Falls. Views of Koosah Falls from the west side of the river (the return leg for this hike) are better than from the east side of the river near the car park.
After enjoying Koosah Falls, continue downstream for .4 miles to a gravel road that runs along the edge of the Carmen Reservoir. Turn right on the gravel road and after 150 yards turn right again at the trail sign. After 100 yards or so through a dense woods this trail will intersect with the McKenzie River Trail. Turn right on the McKenzie River Trail to continue on the loop hike.
The 1.3 mile stretch along the western bank of the McKenzie River is the most scenic portion of this hike in my opinion and the forest (mostly Douglas-Fir and Red Cedar) seems more healthy on this side of the river. There are several huge Douglas-Fir trees to enjoy as you make your way to the footbridge that returns you to the east side of the river. After crossing the footbridge turn left – it is .4 miles to the Sahalie Falls car park.