Despite the foot traffic Wallace Falls sees as one of Washington’s most popular attractions, those who get out early on the trailhead will be rewarded with a serene tranquility that few other hikes in the area can offer. And unlike many trails, which sacrifice peripheral scenery on the journey for the prospect of a grand summit view, the Woody Trail is consistently gorgeous as you wind your way along the Wallace River and approach the nine dazzling falls.
The moderate elevation gain (1300 feet, most of which occurs on a series of switchbacks between the Middle and Upper Falls) might give beginners cause to worry, but you can take comfort in the knowledge that there are still great views to be had at the more accessible Lower and Middle Falls stops. The Middle Falls overlook provides arguably the trail’s most impressive scenery with a panoramic view of the Skykomish River valley and the distant portrait of the Olympic Mountains trailing into the horizon.
Wallace Falls (deriving its name from Kwayaylsh, surname of the first homesteaders in the area) trail is in great condition. Although the park sees a lot of foot traffic due to its popularity, the trail remains well maintained and relatively clean thanks in part to maintenance from WTA, who has had work parties attend to this trail over the last four years. There are some sections, especially pushing on from the Middle Falls to Upper Falls, where the way becomes more rugged, but these sections are brief.
To begin, find the trailhead just off the parking lot, framed by the information kiosk and the restroom facilities. Trek under a pair of mammoth power lines, which despite doing their level best to ruin potential photo ops of Mount Index and Baring Mountain at the clearing, do not completely remove the grandeur of the view. Continue left, trading the last traces of civilization for the gentle babbling of the Wallace River as you duck under a canopy of aged hemlocks.
At the half-mile marker, you will encounter a split in the trail. The path on the right, distinguished by a wooden gate (intended to signal that the trail is hiker-only from here on out), leads to the Woody Trail. The left fork diverts to the old Railroad Grade, a longer bike-accessible path. Bikers and more seasoned visitors may swing left to experience the further delights of the park, including paths that lead north to Lake Wallace, but proceed through the gate on the right to the Woody Trail if you are on foot and desire the compact Wallace Falls experience.
From there, trace the Wallace River where you may catch fly fishermen playing hooky from work or any number of introspective visitors enjoying the many benches and natural nooks that the trail provides. Eventually you will break from the river and encounter the trail’s first steep climb. Continue up, encountering diversionary paths for the Amphitheater and the Railroad Grade trail, but stay on the Woody Trail until you reach the Picnic area at the Lower Falls, just two miles from the trailhead. Stop to admire the falls, but push less than half a mile for the prospects of better views at the Middle Falls, which boast the most impressive panoramic sights on the trail.
There is no shame calling it a day at the Middle Falls overlook, but the hardcore, spry, or those with something to prove will power up the steepest grade of the trail, a sweat inducing half-mile of switchbacks that lead to the Upper Falls, where the path officially concludes at 2.8 miles.
WTA Pro-Tip: Often known for the nine waterfalls, Wallace Falls State Park and the surrounding parks are less well-known for mountain biking, fishing, swimming, boating, kayaking and rock climbing opportunities. Visitors looking to participate in any of the ancillary activities offered should contact the park and inquire into the seasonal availability of these experiences.
Dogs are allowed at Wallace Falls, but are required to be leashed at all times. There is a strictly enforced fine for unleashed dogs stemming from a number of incidents where unleashed dogs have been swept over the falls. Please be mindful of the dangers of the park for the safety of you and your pet.