Sahale Falls is a lesser known waterfall on the SE side of Mt. Hood that plunges over 60 feet on the East Fork of the Hood River. The waterfall is often hiked to as part of a loop hike in conjunction with the nearby Umbrella Falls. Both waterfalls are easy to access during the summer from the Mt. Hood Meadows parking lots and on days in which the gates are open you can even drive to Sahale Falls. If you are reading this though, you are probably not interested in driving to a waterfall.
When we hiked to Sahale Falls we started from the Elk Meadows Trailhead located just before the Mt. Hood Meadows Hood River Meadows (HRM) parking lot. If you head into the HRM parking lot you will not miss the trailhead parking area on the left hand side right before you enter the lot. Note that a Northwest Forest Pass or day fee is required to park here.
You can find the start of the trail to Sahala Falls on the opposite side of the road from the Elk Meadows Trailhead. You will see a wood sign that says it is a half mile to Sahale Falls however it is really more like 3/4 of a mile if you stay on the trail the whole time. As you start hiking you will cross a meadow which is really a cross country ski trail and then soon dip down to cross a small creek. Continue on the trail until you soon hit a paved road.
From the paved road you have two options. You can take the paved road all the way until you come to a bridge that crosses the East Fork Hood River and delivers nice views of Sahale Falls or you can cross the road and find the trail that picks up on the other side. Hint: look toward your right to find the trail. We chose to take the trail.
Keep hiking on the trail for awhile as you pass through the forest and gradually go uphill. After about a half mile keep your eyes peeled for a trail that heads left downhill towards Sahale Falls. There is another wood sign here indicating that this trail goes to the waterfall.
Here you will want to exercise EXTREME caution. The “trail” down to Sahale Falls is more like a steep and loose scramble above cliffs that uses exposed roots as hand holds. If you fall here you will almost certainly be injured and could probably die in extreme cases. So if you are not comfortable scrambling down loose rock do not proceed. You have been warned.
For those of you brave enough to scramble down the hill you will be rewarded with up close and personal views of Sahale Falls and access to a swimming hole. Take a seat and enjoy the cool breeze from the falls or risk hypothermia and take swim in the freshly melted snow runoff. Seriously, this water is cold. Our pup Sidney wasn’t deterred though and promptly jumped in to cool off.
To return to the trailhead we chose to make a sort of loop out of the trek and walk down to the road/bridge and take the road back. To this you will scramble back up the hill and then before you get back to the trail you came in on follow a footpath to the right towards the road. This is yet another scramble but not nearly as exposed as the trail to the falls. From the road enjoy another view of Sahale Falls then follow it back in the same direction you came until you meet up with the trail again on the right.
The Sahale Falls hike we describe here is very short and most people will probably want to do more of a hike when here. You can easily continue up the trail past Sahale Falls to visit Umbrella Falls and even make a loop of it.