This short hike may not justify a long drive from Eugene or Bend, but if you are in the area exploring many of the other adventures on the McKenzie River, you will certainly want to make time for it. The hike itself is a short loop that winds through lava fields and into dense forests where mosses and lichen thrive. If you walk the route in a counter-clockwise direction you'll encounter the trail leading off to Lower Proxy Falls first.
The falls appear in a natural clearing framed by dense old-growth cedar and Douglas fir, a bold frame for the light and misty elegance created by the 225-foot drop. The face of the falls is narrow at the top and fans out into several streams that almost dissipate into the air. Follow the trail down to the right for a more intimate view of the falls, and if you're a photographer, bring plenty of lens cloths for your camera. You will have to hop over and around Proxy Creek as you make your way up to the base of the falls, where from afar what appears a gentle cascade turns into an overwhelming shower.
Once you’ve dried yourself, head back to the main loop and continue in the counter-clockwise direction. Soon you will find another trail leading to the right toward Upper Proxy Falls. The Upper Proxy Falls actually stem from an unnamed creek and only gain their name from their proximity to their more impressive neighbor. These falls are beautiful in their own right, however, and you can get an up-close perspective at their base. At 130 feet, Upper Proxy Falls splits into two streams that slide down the steep basalt face before converging into a mess of downed trees and tumbling into a pool at the base.
To return, simply continue on the main trail in the counter-clockwise direction. You will re-enter the lava field portion of the loop before descending back to the trailhead parking area.
Note: Highway 242 is not maintained in the winter.