Proxy Falls – Willamette National Forest

A panorama of Lower Proxy Falls - a 226 foot cascade waterfall. Just over an hour from Eugene, it's the perfect trail for kids: diverse landscape, two waterfalls, and it's only 1.5 miles.

Proxy Falls is the perfect mountain escape on a hot valley day.   We fled the Willamette valley on such a day, with the thermometer hovering around 97 degrees.  Proxy Falls is one of our very favorite hikes and it called to us.  We answered by hauling 6 kids up to the Old Mckenzie Highway and parking under the old Douglas Firs lining the road.

The trail at the start of Proxy Falls is easy and wide, with large Douglas fir trees overhead. It's a waterfall hike for kids near eugene

One reason this trail is our favorite is the diverse terrain.  In an easy 1.5 mile loop, you experience every part of central Oregon.  Initially, the trail is wide and easy.  It doesn’t last long that way, though, so be sure to pack your baby carrier.  Very soon, the trail narrows and begins to climb.  It’s an easy hike for almost anyone, but there is some elevation change, so it’ll give you a workout.

Proxy Falls trail changes from a shaded trail under the trees

And the dirt trail gives way to a lava flow, occasionally requiring scrambling over rocks on the trail.  Don’t worry about needing to rest…the scenery here is amazing and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch your breath as you stop to take it all in.

Ancient lava flows along the Proxy Falls trail

My husband and I both hold degrees in forest management, and he’s a born teacher, so he often takes time to stop and teach our kids something about the forest.  On this day, he had them all shut their eyes and describe what they smelled, and heard, and which direction they felt the wind blowing.  This way, we teach them to appreciate the forest, and natural resources in general.

We are foresters, and we teach our kids about the forest

Back to hiking, the trail changes again.  It passes through a stand of old growth timber, and the trees stretch into the sky further than you can see.

Girl runs through old growth douglas fir trees along a trail

Kids and man hugging a huge tree

Before you see the first waterfall, the trail changes again and again.  First a stand of hemlock trees (notable for the lack of underbrush and “clean” appearance) and a plot of fallen timber that’s perfect for a rest–just pull up a tree and sit!   But before you know it, you’ll reach a junction.  The Lower Proxy Falls is the spectacular cascade that you’ve admired in photos, and you definitely don’t want to miss it.

Take the right path to lower proxy falls, take the left path to the upper falls

And then, just a little further…

Proxy Falls - a 226 waterfall

Lower Proxy Falls, often just called Proxy Falls, is an astonishing drop of 226. Astonishing, perhaps, because it’s so unexpected. The trees open and then…it’s just there…

 

Lower Proxy Falls

There is a trail to the bottom.  It’s steep and required a bit of scrambling both over and under logs, but it’s well worth the trouble.  Stop to play in the creek, look for pretty rocks, or just keep hiking to the base of the falls.

Children stooping under a fallen log to see the waterfall

Children play in the creek below Proxy Falls

Hike to the bottom of Proxy Falls for a beautiful view

Proxy Falls in Oregon is a 226 foot drop

Proxy Falls spreads out at its base

 

Upper Proxy Falls

Climb back up to the main trail, and continue past the junction for a second waterfall.  Upper Proxy Falls is a short distance away.  It’s a much less impressive waterfall if you compare it to Lower Proxy, but it’s worth a see and still fabulous if you can avoid comparisons.

Upper Proxy Falls takes more effort to see, but it's worth it

The pool below Upper Proxy Falls is perfect for swimming, except it's icy cold

My daughter waded in bravely, but came right back out. “It’s glacially cold!”

Finally, satiated on waterfalls, we headed down the last of the loop trail back to our van.  I highly recommend finishing the whole loop, rather than going back the way you came.  It’s shorter, and you get to see more new territory!

waterfall hike for kids near eugene

Details

Forest Service day-use fee: $5

Not wheelchair- or stroller-accessible

Vault toilet available at trail head

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OregonOutdoorMama

I’m a middle-aged mom of 3-6 and sometimes more, depending on day. I’m out of shape and usually exhausted. Our favorite summertime activity (and sometimes on dry winter days) is getting outdoors and finding adventure.

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