The Fall River hike in central Oregon is a lovely easy hike along a crystal, clear river that springs like magic out of the surrounding lava rocks. You can access the trail rail from several pull-out parking places along Forest Rd. 42 or from the Fall River Campground.
The Fall River is a tributary of the Deschutes River in the Deschutes National Forest. It is a large, beautiful spring creek that flows for eight miles into the Deschutes River in Oregon. The clear river flows around bends bordered by grass and willow trees and a beautiful forest with birds and abundant wildflowers in the spring. It is located about 25 miles south of Bend Oregon.
The Fall River also hosts the Fall River Hatchery, a state-run fish hatchery which raises rainbow trout, brook trout and cutthroat trout fingerlings for stocking programs throughout the state. It is a favorite river for local fly fishermen.
If you park at the campground day use area, you can hike upstream on a winding trail through lodgepole and ponderosa pine along the river to where the water emerges from the ground in multiple springs.
Near the head of the river is the historic Fall River Guard Station that was once home to crews of firefighters. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s and has been restored and converted to a quiet, rustic getaway for anglers or if you just want to spend quiet time in a ponderosa forest next to a clear mountain river.
The hike from the campground to the Guard Station is an easy 2.6-mile round trip, and we think it is the prettier of the two hikes. Both hikes are on the campground side of the river, but you can cross the scenic foot bridge and hike upstream of down along paths made by fishermen. As you cross the bridge, you can look down into the unbelievably clear water and enjoy the profusion of wildflowers growing out of the fallen logs.
Once you return from the hike to the head of the river, you can head downstream by walking through the campground to where the trail begins between campsite #8 and #9. This trail leads you through the lush ponderosa forest alongside the river. It is a round trip hike of about five miles and ends where private property begins. There are several access points to this part of the trail along Forest Rd 42 as you drive to the hike.
Getting to the Hike at Fall River
You get to the hike by going south of Bend on Highway 97 and turning off at Vandevert Road, then heading to South Century Drive. Turn right on South Century Drive Fall River (Forest Road 42) toward and drive for 9.7 miles. Turn left at the Fall River Campground entrance and park at the day use parking lot. There is a pit toilet in the campground, but no water, so be sure and take your own.
From the parking lot head straight to the river for a striking view of the clear river and lovely footbridge. It is a great place for a picnic if you only have a brief time to spend, but the campground is also nicely located along the river if you have more time to spend.
While this is not a destination hike like many others in Oregon, it is still a worthwhile easy hike in the forest along a quiet river. It is also a good hike when other trails in the area are overcrowded on busy, hot, summer weekends.