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Ten Great Waterfall Hikes

Waterfall hikes that are accessible most of the year but most impressive as the snow in the mountains starts to melt: Boulder River, Taylor River, Wallace Falls, Twin Falls, Cedar Falls, Murhut Falls, Lower Falls Creek Falls, Ancient Lakes.

In Washington's deep and towering woods (and also in its arid, rolling hills), you'll find an abundance of falling water, from subtle cascading streams to thundering falls that shake the stones to their foundations. In fact, our mountains—the Cascades—are named for the multitudes of falling waters you'll find here.

One of the joys of waterfall viewing in the Northwest is that you'll always find at least one flowing any time of year. Some are perennial, falling year-round. Others are seasonal. Some stream from glaciers heating in the summer sun, some are fed by winter rains, and others course from melting snow packs in spring. Many can be reached by car, but the most rewarding are those requiring a hike—either a short wander through the woods, or a multi-day backpacking pilgrimage.

Below are just a handful of waterfall hikes that are accessible most of the year but are most impressive as the snow in the mountains starts to melt. If you can't get enough of the cascades, then here's how to find even more:

  • Search for waterfall hikes: Use the "waterfall" filter in the Hiking Guide, and narrow down the results by season (elevation and calling ranger offices will help you choose) and by checking recent Trip Reports.
  • Follow Bob and Barb: This Trip Reporting team are on the hunt for great falls large and small all year long. Check out their waterfall Trip Reports.
  • Summer waterfall hikes: For more, you can dip into our Washington Trails magazine archives for an article on waterfalls and additional suggestions for July and August waterfall hikes in Mount Rainier National Park.

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North Cascades

Cedar Falls

cedar falls bob barb.jpg Cedar Falls - Cedar Creek
Upper Cedar Falls. Photo by Bob and Barb.

Location: North Cascades Highway
Round Trip: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 500' to 3550'

Easily attained glory in the North Cascades! Cedar Falls is a two-tiered cascade that crashes loudly for much of the summer.

The hike climbs gently to the falls at 1.75 miles while the creek below rages downstream loudly. While mostly in the trees, there are views of Goat Peak and pretty wildflowers to enjoy. For those wanting further exploration, an additional 7 miles will take you to the fabulous vistas from Abernathy Ridge.

>> Read more about Cedar Falls.

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Boulder River

Boulder Falls
Two spectacular waterfalls tumble down the cliffs and into the Boulder River. Photo by Eric Jain.

Location: Mountain Loop Highway
Round Trip: 8.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 700' to 1550'

A favorite, this lovely trail into the Boulder River Wilderness is a great hike for kids and adults and has several notable waterfalls to offer. Most prominent is Feature Show Falls (see photo), a wedding-cake of a falls across the river from the trail just 1.5 miles in. It's at its peak flow in winter and spring.

>> Read more about Boulder River.

 


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Wallace Falls

Wallace Falls
The Middle Falls at Wallace Falls State Park. Photo by Rachel Popkin.

Location: Stevens Pass
Round Trip: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1200' to 1500'

Wallace Falls State Park is one of the best destinations in the state for waterfalls. The three-tiered falls is one of the state's premier lowland falls (ranking with Snoqualmie and Palouse Falls) and is accessible most of the year. Lower Wallace Falls is arguably the most photographic; Middle Falls the most spectacular; and the Upper Falls the lonliest.

>> Read more about Wallace Falls.

 

 


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Central Cascades - Snoqualmie Pass

Twin Falls

Twin Falls
Twin Falls, photo by Dr. JD Hascup.

Location: North Bend area
Round Trip: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 500' to 1000'

Twin Falls is a great year-round hike to a beautiful waterfall. With it's big pay-off, Twin Falls is an ideal hike for small children and visitors. There are benches and a nice viewpoint of the falls at .75 mile, but by hiking another mile (down and then up again), you will reach a sturdy bridge that crosses high over the water and between the two falls. You will be mesmerized by the waterfalls and the water all around them. Do note that this is a popular trail, and on weekends don't expect any solitude.

>> Read more about Twin Falls.

 

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Franklin Falls

Franklin Falls
Franklin Falls is a short and easy hike with a towering waterfall at the end. Photo by Susan Elderkin.

Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Round Trip: 2.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 400' to 2600'

Franklin Falls is a great hike to take with young children. It is short, with a gentle climb and a pretty waterfall at trail's end. The trail starts just outside the Denny Creek Campground and travels along the South Fork Snoqualmie River to the falls. While you may notice the sights and sounds of I-90 above the falls, the big attention-grabber is the falls. Note that the spray and morning shadiness at the falls can be cool even on hot days. Bring jackets!

>> Read more about Franklin Falls.

 

 

 


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Bridal Veil Falls

Franklin Falls
Photo by treeana.

Location:  Stevens Pass
Round Trip: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 800'

A better choice for late spring (late May) this is a fairly level, easy hike through second-growth forest, with a rewarding cascade down a solid rock ridge at the end.

Follow abandoned logging roads into the creek valley, where all sounds are muffled by grand, overhanging tree branches. In the spring you'll be serenaded by birdsong. With a gentle grade and lots of places to stop and play in the water, this hike is perfect for young children.

>> Read more about Bridal Veil Falls.

 

 

 

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Olympic Peninsula

Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls is a great three-season hike on the north side of the Olympics. Photo by David Elderkin.

Location: Olympics - North
Round Trip: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 200' to 2000'

A short and popular trail to a plunging 50-foot waterfall makes this an excellent family destination—or a nice place to pause on longer hikes and backpacks into Olympic National Park.

You'll enjoy the big trees along the trail and the powerful force of the waterfall as it pitches itself into a narrow chasm.

>> Read more about Sol Duc Falls.

 

 

 

 

 


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Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls. Photo by diver806.

Location: Olympics - North
Round Trip: 2.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 400' to 1100'

We like this hike as a leg-stretcher while driving to Pacific Coast beaches or as a destination with families enjoying time on the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula.

Just one mile in on a very easy trail is a beauty of a waterfall—90 feet of water that is particularly stunning in the spring. A little lollipop loop brings different views of the cascade and a way to keep the crowds moving in one direction.

>> Read more about Marymere Falls.

 

 

 

 


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Upper Siouxon-Horseshoe Falls

Lower Falls Creek Falls
Photo by Grandpa Bear.

Location: Indian Heaven
Round Trip: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 500'

Wander under cover of ancient trees, along the fern-lined path of the Siouxon Creek valley.

This trail takes you to not one but two cascades—one smaller falls, and one grander plunge into Horseshoe Creek. Look down on Horseshoe Falls from a bridge across the creek. See if you can spot a grazing black-tailed deer on your way back.

Make sure that you bring a good map along with you, because this hike is not the best maintained.

>> Read more about Upper Siouxon-Horseshoe Falls.

 

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South Cascades

Lower Falls Creek

Lower Falls Creek Falls
Lower Falls Creek Falls in the South Cascades' Wind River area is a wonderful year-round destination for the whole family. Photo by John Hultquist.

Location:  Columbia Gorge area
Round Trip: 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 800' to 2200'

Who says that Oregon has all of the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge area? A forest walk along Falls Creek gives way to a beautiful waterfall at 2 miles.

The falls are most impressive in fall, winter and spring when rainfall and snow melt are at their peak. However, the summer months offer the most forgiving weather and biggest respite from the heat as the viewpoint is continuously sprayed with mist. There's a nice pool at the top of the falls—watch for beavers!

>> Read more about Lower Falls Creek.

 

 

 

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Central Washington

Ancient Lake

Ancient Lakes waterfall
A waterfall in desert country? You bet! Photo by 'Galiwalker.'

Location: near Wenatchee
Round Trip: 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 10' to 860'

Waterfalls in the desert. Deep coulees. Small lakes and large lakes. Sagebrush. Wildflowers. A cacophony of bird songs. There are many reasons to visit Ancient Lakes in the Quincy Wildlife Recreation Area. Early spring is really the best time to view the waterfalls; by June they are drying up and the area becomes quite hot. Make sure to save time to explore the entire lake basin. This wetland area provides habitat for many species of birds and mammals.

>> Read more about Ancient Lake.

 

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Eastern Washington

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls
The setting sun reflecting off passing stormclouds bathes Palouse Falls in warm reddish light. Thanks to spring runoff, now is a great time to visit the falls.

Location: Tri-Cities
Round Trip:
2.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 293'

You'll want to make the trek out to Palouse Falls at least once. Between the stunning falls, the big sky of the scablands and the antics of resident marmots, this relatively short hike is photographer's dream.

If you're lucky, you might even snag one of the ten tent sites at the park's campground. If you're making the trip along I-90 from the west, detour north to catch the falls at Ancient Lakes.

>> Read more about Palouse Falls.

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