Imagine a place hidden deep in the Oregon mountains where there are natural water slides that are safe and fun for the entire family to enjoy; a place where you are far from the noise of the city, where your kids’ laughter echoes off of rock walls and all you can hear beyond that is the roar of swirling water as it churns all around you. That’s what the natural water slides in Deschutes National Forest are like, and that’s why this is an experience that you don’t want to miss.
There are two ways to reach the natural slides. You can either hike in yourself or with your family and friends, or you can do the Fat Biking tour with an outfit called Paulina Plunge. The difference would be that if you do it alone (with family/friends), you are on your own as far as making it down and out. In other words, you have to hike down and then hike back up. And just to be clear, there’s quite a vertical drop, so the hike is not for the feeble-hearted. The pros of going it on your own is that you can keep your own pace. You don’t have to keep up with anyone else’s schedule, and that can be a good thing if you like to just take your time and appreciate your surroundings.
My friends and I opted to do the Paulina Plunge Tour and, while it was a little strenuous as far as keeping pace, I have to say it was a complete blast. I loved the group we were with, everyone had a great time, and it was pure relief at the end to be ferried straight back to our car at the end of the day!
It can be difficult to find the right parking lot, so be sure to carefully pay attention to where you want to go. They have staff directing you to your parking lot, so just tell the guide if you are part of a group doing the Paulina Plunge, or if you are interested in hiking in yourself to the waterfalls and natural water slides, because there are two different parking areas, depending upon which way you choose to access the natural slide.
Hiking Start Point & Info
When you buy your tickets online with Paulina Plunge, they will email you a confirmation, with instructions for where to meet and what time to time. Be sure to get there early, because the roads are not paved and it’ll take you longer because you have to drive slower. They'll also remind you about what to bring with you.
Tour with Paulina Plunge
If you meet the fitness and height criteria, I recommend doing the Paulina Plunge Tour. It’s a guided tour where you’re in a group or if you have enough people in your own group, it can just be you and your family or friends. This is a biking/hiking tour, where you make stops at each of the waterfalls along the way. Riding a fat tire mountain bike, you’ll ride down a total of 2,000 vertical feet. It ends up being four, 1-/2 mile segments in between each stop at a waterfall. There are a total of six possible waterfalls to visit, but you might not visit them all, depending on time and weather permitting.
At the end of the day, you get a shuttle ride back to the parking lot. Make sure you bring sufficient gear, including closed toe shoes such as tennis shoes or water shoes. No Speedos or bikinis are allowed. For the biking/hiking, it’s recommended that you wear a tank or t-shirt and shorts. A helmet is provided, but if you have one that you own and it fits well, feel free to bring it. If you bring a camera, be forewarned that it’s your responsibility, and there’s a good chance it will get wet. I skipped the camera because I didn’t want to have to worry about it all day. Don’t bother with a towel, because you’ll air dry fast. Skip the bug spray, but bring sunblock. This activity is available from June 15 to September 4.
This is an activity for the physically fit. It entails a lot of biking and at there are two half mile hikes descending 250 feet each. Two tours operate each day; one from 10 AM to 3 PM and another from 9AM to 2 PM. You have to make reservations online, and each rider has to have at least a 28” inseam, due to restrictions on the available bikes.
- Water shoes are recommended when you get to the slides!