This week we decided to do Benham Falls & Dillon Falls which is a popular hike along the Deschutes River Trail. The Deschutes River Trail is an extensive trail system that follows the Deschutes River in the Bend, Oregon area.
The Deschutes River changes its appearance from a peaceful lazy river that barely seems to move to a raging torrent through the lava narrows and over the Falls just a half mile later then returning to the peaceful river.
The Falls are in the Deschutes National Forest and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Benham Falls Recreation Site and Benham Falls West Recreation Site are located nearby.
There are forest roads connecting Benham Falls to Lava Butte, Lava River Cave, and Sunriver Resort. A footbridge connects the forest road to an easy-to-navigate trail near the river and falls. The shady picnic area has lots of wildlife and flowers.
Benham Falls have a pitch of 22.5° and they are rated Class 5 for watercraft. They are the largest falls on the upper Deschutes.
Dillon Falls have pitch of 76.5°, and are a significant obstacle to whitewater running with a Class 5 rating. Unlike nearby Benham Falls, Dillon Falls are not widely documented because they are hard to see. Trails provide a somewhat better view of the falls.
Dillon Falls were named after Leander Dillon, a nearby homesteader, who died in 1907.
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The falls were created by the eruption of nearby Lava Butte approximately 6,000 years ago, as the lava flow dammed the Deschutes, forming a lake known as Lake Benham. The river eventually flowed over the dam, draining the lake and thus forming Benham Falls. Around 1885, J. R. Benham attempted and failed to file a land claim near the falls, though they were later named for him.
Three parallel trails wind through pine forests, lava flows and riparian zones along the variously placid and tumultuous waters of the Deschutes River. This trail can be used year round in most years. Mountain bikes are allowed on most of the path, but to reduce conflicts the Forest Service prefers that they use instead the designated, gated back roads. Horse riders have their own trail a few hundred feet above the hiker path.
Benham Falls & Dillon Falls Hike
We elected to do the hike from the south starting at the Benham Falls East picnic and parking lot. To get there, travel south on Highway 97 for approximately 8 miles and take the Lava Lands Visitor Center exit to the right. Continue passed Lava Lands Visitor Center on Forest Road 9702 for approximately 4 miles.
This part of the Deschutes River Trail provides a spectacular view of untamed rapids along the Deschutes River, several lava flows, and the beautiful forests of Central Oregon.
After parking follow the trail north to the footbridge that spans the Deschutes River, cross the bridge and follow the trial as it makes its way along the river.
This log-jam was created in the 1920s to protect the bridge pilings from floating objects. Logs were intentionally jammed in front of the bridge, tied together and anchored to other pilings to form a barrier. Over the years, silt has deposited on and around the logs, allowing grass and small plants to grow.
The hike to Benham Falls from where we parked is an easy half-mile walk with lots of forested scenery along the way. It is mostly along an easy, fairly level trail that is also used for mountain biking.
The hike to Benham Falls from where we parked is not a challenging hike and it provides beautiful views of the Deschutes River and pine forest in the surrounding area.
We ate lunch at the Slough Picnic Area. This is another parking area where you can access the trail. This is 3 miles from where we started and we were going to return from here. But after resting a bit we decided to keep going to Dillon falls which was only another 2 miles.
We are getting close to the parking lot for Dillon Falls. This is a very lazy part of the river and is enjoyed by many people in canoes, kayaks and pontoon boats. It is a dangerous area because the Dillon Falls rapids starts just around the corner and is hard to hear because of the lava flow.
This Benham Falls & Dillon Falls hike ended up being 10 miles round trip, but was well worth the effort. Another beautiful day in central Oregon!
Check out our YouTube Channel to view the video of this hike.
Have you done this hike? If so please add comments below to tell us of your experience.