It's hard to fathom just how many visitors come to see spectacular Tumalo Falls, walk up to the upper viewpoint, and then turn around and get back into their cars to return to Bend. As a kid growing up in Bend, I did the same thing, and for all of the visits to this 89-foot free-fall cascade, Tumalo Falls was all I knew of the area. Granted, as the tallest waterfall in and around Bend, Tumalo Falls is a truly impressive sight, but what lies upstream on the next 3 miles of Tumalo Creek is also incredible. All told, there are roughly eight waterfalls that make up the upper run of Tumalo Creek, and they each continue to impress.
The trail starts at Tumalo Falls, an area decimated by the 1979 Bridge Creek Fire and now dominated by young ponderosa pines. Not long after you set foot on the trail and begin to follow the creek, you will quickly be immersed in a lush forest of white fir, Engelmann spruce, mountain hemlock and green manzanita. After hiking the 3.2-mile stretch up to the Swampy Lakes Trail intersection, you will have several options. You can turn and head back the way you came. You can turn right and head 0.7 miles up to Happy Valley, perfect for backpacking. You can also turn left and head back to the trailhead via Bridge Creek, making a loop out of the adventure. Heading back via Bridge Creek is certainly advisable, as you'll pass several more distinct cascades, but note that dogs and livestock are not permitted on this section of trail because it is also the primary watershed for the City of Bend.