Named for the trout that once frequented the river, Steelhead Falls is a well-known swimming hole and cliff jumping spot in central Oregon not far from Smith Rock State Park. Even if you’re not in the mood for a plunge in the icy waters of the Deschutes River, the well-maintained half-mile trial to the falls offers spectacular views of the canyons, bird life, and the 20-foot falls. Just below the waterfall there are plenty of 25- to 30-foot cliffs that are perfect for jumping, but take caution as the climb out of the water is quite steep. If you prefer to forego the cannonball and just dip your toes in the refreshing water, you can access the river further down the trail via a sandy beach area.
On the left side of the falls you’ll find the remains of an old fish ladder that the steelhead once used to make their way around the falls, but fish are now blocked by dams downstream. There are number of fishing spots along the trail. Anglers have had luck with rainbow and brown trout on this stretch of the river.
This is a great year-round hike, but the best time for swimming is June through August when the water temperatures have warmed.