9 miles east from OR 126, the McKenzie Highway, OR 242, will take you the Proxy Falls Trailhead. A short hiking loop - one mile - takes you to the base of two waterfalls - Upper Proxy and Lower Proxy. The falls tumble off glacially-carved cliffs, cut over 6000 years ago. More recent basaltic lava flows have covered the canyon floors, damming the outlet splash pool of the upper falls.
Your trail wanders up and through the old lava flows and in no time you are at the Lower Proxy Falls, two main cascades breaking into many on the green clad cliffs in deep ancient forests.
The blues of the river are incredible as they rush downstream hypnotically. Crystal clear, this is not bather friendly water being only a few degrees from a frozen state. It is possible to take a loop trip around both Koosah and Sahalie Falls on both sides of the river. Foot bridges both upstream of Sahalie and downstream of Koosah enable the 2.6 mile circuit to be made.
The Upper Proxy Falls ends in a splash pool at the base of huge lava flows. The pool never overflows as water percolates down through the lava reemerging with waters from the nearby likewise lava-dammed Linton Lake, a couple miles down the canyon in huge springs recreating lost creeks.
The Cone Peak/Iron Mountain hiking loop off US 20 at Tombstone Pass - just west of the highway junction below Santiam Pass - is one of the best places to experience the magnificense of the Cascade Mountain wildflower show. The whole loop is only a little under 7 miles and the views and flowers are truly grand.
A mile down from the McKenzie River's birth at the outlet of Clear Lake, the river roars over the 100 foot high Sahalie Falls. A marked parking area with an adjacent rest area gives access to a couple of grand viewpoints from which you can marvel at this magnificent cataract.
Another halfmile down from Sahalie Falls, the river repeats its act with a 70 foot plunge over Koosah Falls. Lying off the highway a short distance seems to cut down a bit on the number of stopping motorists - their loss, your gain.
Moss, ferns and green grasses - kept green by the huge rainbowed mists - act in colorful counterpoint to the snow white mane of the falls. Deep, blue skies look down from above, responsible for the hints of pure turquoise in the roaring waters below.
From an overlook, you can make your way down closer to the base of the falls on rough bootpaths and the occasional downed tree. Mists surround you as you gaze at the dancing waters tumbling down mossy cliffs.
The best direction from the parking lot on Tombstone Pass is east - you need to buy a $5 day parking pass or have an annual NW Forest Pass. You switchback up Cone Peak and eventually come to pumice meadows ablaze with color in July. Iron Mountain, with its lookout and the southern spire, looms to the west.
From Cone Peak you continue west across a flower-bedecked saddle in to forests at the base of Iron Mountain. Going much of the way around the mountain, you come to a trail going up to the lookout atop the peak. Many swithcbacks take you up through flowered gardens.
Atop, you find grand views of the Cascades from Diamond Peak in the south to Mt Hood in the north. The lookout is manned during the fire season and is not open to the public. You can peer through the door when it is not in use at the simple interior within. A earlier lookout was literally blown off the summit by autumn storms and one of the lookouts also fell to his death here - a memorial is placed just to the south of the lookout.
From the top you return through the flowers you came up through - maybe not sweating as much - and return to your car after crossing US 20 and heading east for a final mile along the trail following the old Santiam Wagon Road. Hard to imagine wagons rocking along in these high forests.
A short distance beyond Lower Proxy Falls, you come to the Upper Falls. It rambles a little more boisterously than its neighbor, the Lower.
Again, several viewpoints are available along easy trails - both downstream and at the falls' brink. The forests here area old ancient trees, some of the Douglas firs being over 6 feet thick.