Top Autumn Hikes on Whychus Creek

Sep 27, 2016
Some of the best fall hiking in Central Oregon can be found along Whychus Creek. Here we list our top hikes to get you out on the trail and connecting with the Creek.

The word Whychus means “the place we cross the water.” Whychus Creek flows 41 miles from its headwaters in the Cascades, through sagebrush steppe and drier canyons to meet with the Deschutes River near Culver, Oregon. Portions of Whychus Creek have been designated Wild and Scenic by Congress making it a spectacular place to explore each fall.

We could tell you all about how special Whychus Creek is to Central Oregon, but we think you should get out there and experience it for yourself! Here are three hikes we think are some of the best to get you connected to Whychus Creek. Let’s take it from the top:

Whychus Falls. Photo: Brian Ouimette.
Whychus Falls. Photo: Brian Ouimette.
Upper Whychus Creek and Chush Falls

A hidden gem on the south side of Sisters is the hike to Chush Falls. A moderate 5.5 mile hike (out and back) winds through the 2012 Pole Creek burn. Shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers are once again lighting up the bare ground with vibrant color and providing contrast to the charred trees. Continue on enjoying views of Broken Top and the Three Sisters.

The trail to Chush Falls ends at an overlook recently constructed by the US Forest Service. Enjoy the view of the waterfall, cascading 67-feet to the creek below, and the large boulders and deep pools that create a spectacular scene. This portion of Whychus Creek looks very different from the lower reaches that carve their way through dry, narrow canyons and open meadows. Red osier dogwood and alders dot the banks along the river and the trail is relatively flat, with just a few steep sections. More info

Whychus Canyon Preserve

Of course, we think the best place to hike along Whychus Creek is Whychus Canyon Preserve. The cooler temperatures of fall make the canyon more tolerable for longer hikes during the day. Boasting more than 7 miles of hiking trails, including access to Whychus Creek, this hike rewards explorers with beautiful lichen-covered junipers, and the changing fall colors of aspens, alders, and cottonwoods along the creek.

Whychus Canyon Preserve. Photo: Tyler Roemer.
Whychus Canyon Preserve. Photo: Tyler Roemer.
Hike the trail down to the creek, but be prepared for a more difficult hike on your way back to the trailhead. You’ll climb nearly 300 feet from creek to rim, a challenge for both your legs and your lungs. More info

Hiking at Alder Springs. Photo: Joan Amero.
Hiking at Alder Springs. Photo: Joan Amero.
Alder Springs (Lower Whychus Creek Trail)

At the height of summer, Alder Springs is not the best choice for hikers looking to beat the heat. But in the fall, the canyon becomes more hospitable for exploring. Hike along the canyon rim and then down into the canyon to Whychus Creek. Bring your sandals and be prepared to ford Whychus Creek, a refreshing wade that will introduce you to a place where steelhead and Chinook salmon swim. Continue on the trail and follow the creek to where it meets the mighty Deschutes River, all the while reveling in the fall colors changing around you. Eat lunch by the river and prepare for your journey back to the trailhead, completing your 7+ mile round-trip hike. More info

Happy, healthy Whychus Creek

As you hike along the cool waters of Whychus Creek, think about the future of this special place. We can ensure that Whychus Creek is healthy and protected today, and tomorrow, by choosing to be a part of a the Land Trust's Campaign for Whychus Creek. This Campaign is charting the future of Whychus Creek--indeed Central Oregon--by making sure important lands along the creek are conserved and healthy for the wildlife and people that depend on them. Donate today.