Photo by Greg Lief

Squaw Creek

  • Region: Oregon Cascades
  • Length: 3.5 miles round trip
  • Min Elev: 4810 ft
  • Max Elev: 5400 ft
  • Season: Summer/Fall

Scenery: 5

Difficulty: 4

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Submitted By:

Greg Lief


Start from the town of Sisters, which is located 20 miles west of the Santiam Pass along Highway 20 in Central Oregon. In the middle of town, look for Elm Street... turn south and stay on Elm Street, which will become Road 16.

Stay on Road 16 for approximately 7.2 miles. Be on the lookout for a "Chain-Up Area" sign on the right (west) side of the road... turn right immediately beyond that sign onto unpaved Road 1514.

Stay on Road 1514 (which is relatively smooth for a gravel road) for 5 miles. Just before crossing a bridge, watch for a "Falls trailhead" sign on your left, and turn onto Road 600. This narrow dirt road has many sharp rocks, but is passable for normal-clearance passenger vehicles... just take it slowly.

After two miles on Road 600, turn left at a T-junction onto another dirt road (Road 680), which ends in 0.4 miles at the trail parking area. The trailhead is on the left (east) side of the road.

NOTE: A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at this trailhead.

Trail Description

This trail features three wonderful waterfalls. As of this writing (September 2005), the US Forest Service is in the process of submitting alternate names for the currently politically-incorrect (and ubiquitous) name. The leading candidate appears to be Chush Creek, but that is still subject to change.

The trail starts uphill from the parking area, but is mostly level with gradual ups and downs for about 0.9 mile. At that point you will encounter two switchbacks for a tiny bit of non-strenuous climbing. Shortly after reaching the top of that small ridge, at approximately the 1.1 mile mark, you will reach an overlook of the first waterfall, which is wider than it is high. To better appreciate this one, I strongly urge you to descend to the base, which can be done by turning right at the overlook area and looking for a steep but manageable trail down the embankment (plenty of trees and roots to assist you). My photos of this lower waterfall were taken from its base.

To visit the other two waterfalls along the creek, continue left from the overlook area, along an unofficial but clear trail which leads uphill. In another 0.3 mile, you will come to another viewpoint of the second waterfall, which is known as "The Cascades". Although you will be able to get a good overview from the trail viewpoint, you can also scramble down for a lower look, as I did for some of my photos. If you decide to do this, be careful because the rocks on the slope leading to the base of the falls are much looser than they may appear!

Continuing to the left of the Cascades' viewpoint, you will see trails leading both left (uphill) and straight. Bear left and climb along the trail as it leads you through a mini-labyrinth of trees. In another 0.3 mile, you will come to the officially named waterfall ("Squaw Creek Falls"), a 120-foot drop which tumbles gracefully down a steep cliff. If you are not content with the viewpoints from the boulders, you can continue along this trail, which climbs to your left above the scree slope to higher vantage points of this impressive waterfall. And, as they say, it's all downhill from there!


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There are three waterfalls on this hike. The trail kind of fizzles out after the second one but if you keep going the third waterfall is the largest and prettiest. It is well worth the extra effort to get to the third waterfall.

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