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Trail’s End: 12 Waterfalls Hikes You Must Take This Summer

Good things come to those who wait. For Seattle families who survived the rainiest season on record that means waterfall hikes overflowing with the good stuff. So get ready to forge new trails with your half-pint hiking partner in tow. From jaw-dropping overlooks to our favorite toe-dipping spots, we’ve mapped out the deets so you can find spectacular falls outside the city limits. Read on and get hiking!

photo: woodleywonderworks via Flickr

Snoqualmie Region

Snoqualmie Falls
Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip
Good For: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids
Woof!: Leashed dogs are welcome

Each year over a million visitors are beckoned by the majestic sights and sounds of Snoqualmie Falls, and for good reason. A mesmerizing 1000 cubic-feet of water per second pounds into the Snoqualmie River from a 268-foot drop, while cool mists and rainbows float up from its splashes. Mini-hikers will love the interpretive plaques describing the wildlife, flora and fauna of the region, as well as discovering there are two power plant facilities located at the falls. Starting from the upper parking lot the path winds from the railed observation platform, behind the gift shop and then down a moderately steep grade to the lower observation platform. If it has been a while since you’ve visited, a new lower parking lot is available for those who want to get that up-climb done and out-of-the-way first.

Fees: Free parking
Good For: All ages and history buffs. After your trek, take a historic trip through the town of Snoqualmie—this is where you will find tasty eats, a candy shop and a train museum to boot.
Find It: Interstate 90 east to Highway 18 west

photo: j.c. winkler via Flickr

Twin Falls
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Good For: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids
Woof!: Leashed dogs are allowed

This stunning beauty is less than 45 minutes away and an easy family hike you will want to revisit every year. Although the Twin Falls trailhead is closed due to hazardous conditions, the waterfall is still accessible via the Homestead Valley Trailhead. Kids will love foraging the winding path of salmonberry bushes then trekking the moss-covered conifer forest along Snoqualmie River’s south fork. Enjoy peek-a-boo views of the upper falls before traversing a bridge and then descending stairs to the magical lower falls viewpoint.

Fees: A Discover Pass is required and can be purchased at the trailhead.
Find It: Exit 38 off Interstate 90, near North Bend

photo: Steve Cyr via Flickr

Franklin Falls
Distance: 2 miles round-trip
Good For: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids
Woof!: Dogs on leashes are welcome

This short, easy hike has such a beautiful payoff at the end even your doubting hike-critic will be raving about it all summer. Make your way across mini bridges and up wooden stairs while taking in breathtaking views of Denny Creek along the way. You will want to hold your little one’s hand as you maneuver the last rocky 100 feet to the base of the falls where you can sit on the rocks and enjoy a snack under the cool misting spray.

Fees: A Northwest Forest Pass is required
Good to Know: This is a popular hike, so be sure to arrive early to find parking and beat the crowds.
Find It: East on Interstate 90, near North Bend

Franklin Falls

photo: Roanne C. via Yelp

North and Central Cascades

Boulder River Trail
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Good For: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids
Woof!: Dogs on leashes are allowed

You won’t be disappointed rising early to trek this gentle hike with three waterfalls and breathtaking river views. Kids will love pounding the trail through the majestic old-growth forest with wildflowers, salmonberries and ferns of many varieties. The highlight of the trail is the spectacular Feature Show waterfall with its twin ribbons of water-flow veiling down a mossy rock wall into Boulder River. By 1.5 miles, you will reach the last waterfall and a good place to turn around if you’ve got minis in tow. Otherwise, the trail continues another three miles and ends at a popular picnic spot on the river.

Fees: Free parking
Good to Know: The forest service road to the trail has some potholes, but are manageable for most vehicles.
Find It: Interstate 5 to State Route 530, near Arlington

photo: Rusty S. via Yelp

Bridal Veil Falls
Distance: 4 miles round-trip
Good For: Ambitions, sure-footed kids ready to maneuver over rocky streams and charge up steeper inclines.
Woof!: Dogs on leashes are permitted

Get set to get wet! This trail starts on an old service road before forking onto a rocky footpath through a mossy forest of Maples and Red Alderwood trees. Kids will love hopping over gushing streams while catching glimpses of Mount Index through the forest canopy. When you’ve reached the falls take little ones on the easier path to the left for a gorgeous view of Bridal Veil Creek plunging down a 100-foot rock wall. Heading right takes you up a steep series of stairs for a close-up and refreshing look at the misting waterfall.

Fees: A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking
Good to Know: Be sure to wear sturdy, waterproof shoes and pack an extra pair of socks for stream crossing and rocky paths. Also, use extreme caution on the wet rocks.
Find It: Interstate 5 north to Highway 2. Approximately 21 miles east of Monroe.

photo: Bao-Yen T. via Yelp

Wallace Falls
Distance: 4.8 miles round-trip
Good For
: Energetic preschoolers and older kids with patient parents who are prepared to take breaks or turn around early if needed.
Woof!
: Dogs on leashes are allowed

This popular, well maintained path along the Wallace River has all the bells and whistles for a fantastic family outing. Mile markers guide the journey as you wander through an old-growth coniferous forest with benches and natural resting spots along the way, perfect for quick snack breaks. Be sure to take a right at the junction onto Woody Trail where you will begin to ascend the long stretch of switchbacks to the first scenic look of the lower falls. After a lunch break at the picnic shelter, journey the last half-mile to middle falls for a stunning view of the majestic five-tier waterfall, and a good place to turn around.

Fees: A Discover Pass is required for parking
Find It: Interstate 5 to Highway 2 near Gold Bar

Wallace Falls

photo: Yancy9 via Flickr

Mount Rainier

Myrtle Falls
Distance: 1 mile round-trip
Good For: Stroller friendly, for everyone
Woof!: No pets allowed

If a family trip to Mount Rainier is on your summer bucket list then be sure to venture the dreamy, paved portion of Skyline Trail from Paradise Lodge to Myrtle Falls. Discover breathtaking views of The Mountain flanked by subalpine meadows of Mountain Daisies, Arrowleaf Groundsel and Magenta Paintbrush. Spend some time gazing at the falls from the bridge overpass and then return to the lodge the way you came. If you’re planning to continue the 6-mile loop to Panorama Point you’ll want your hiking boots, water, sunblock and lunch, as the rest of the trail is a real climb.

Fees: Mount Rainier National Park entrance fee (fourth graders and their families visit Free)
Find It: Interstate 5 south to SR 512, SR 7 and SR 706 to the Nisqually entrance

photo: Alyanna C. via Yelp

Carter and Madcap Falls
Distance: 2-7 miles round-trip
Good For: Intrepid kids ready to cross a river on a sturdy, but narrow log foot-bridge
Woof!: Pets are not allowed

This easy hike is part of the 93-mile Wonderland Trail and begins at the Cougar Rock Campground two miles east of Longmire. A flat trail that wanders through river rock and old-growth forest following an old water pipeline up to the waterfall lookout. Be sure to hold your mini-adventure seeker’s hand while crossing the Nisqually River on a log footbridge. The two falls are within steps of each other and the entire journey is approximately 2.2 miles round-trip.

Options: If you’re trekking with experienced nature-explorers the hike can be extended by starting at Longmire and heading east on the Wonderland Trail for a fairly flat 7.2 mile round-trip journey. During the added miles, enjoy views of the Nisqually River as you weave in an out of a forest of Douglas Fir and Cedar trees. Alternatively, you can also take the Narada Falls trailhead that junctions with the Wonderland trail and hike down to the other two falls. Keep in mind that the hike back up to complete the 6-mile round-trip venture will be challenging.

Fees: Mount Rainier National Park entrance fee (fourth graders and their families visit Free)
Find It: Interstate 5 south to SR 512, SR 7 and SR 706 to the Nisqually entrance

Carter Falls

photo: Luis Turo via Flickr

Silver Falls
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Good For: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids
Woof!: No pets allowed

Located on the southeast side of Mount Rainier, the breathtakingly clean and clear, glacial Ohanapecosh River spills down a series of steps before plunging 40 feet into a large blue pool. This well-groomed, relatively flat trail begins at the Ohanapecosh Campground and travels along the river under a canopy of moss-draped hemlocks. Kids that easily bore will love that this trail loops, making the return trip to the car a novel experience.

Fees: Mount Rainier National Park entrance fee (fourth graders and their families visit Free)
Find It: From Enumclaw, east on State Route 410 and south on State Route 123 to the Ohanapecosh Campground.

photo: D.Taylor in Idaho via Flickr 

Little Mashel Falls
Distance: 5.5 miles round-trip
Good For: Sure-footed kids capable of handling slippery and muddy conditions
Woof!: Leashed dogs are welcome

Ready for a challenge? Navigating the trails to Little Mashel Falls is more of a scavenger hunt than a hike, but once you finally reach your destination you’ll find the payoff is much grander than its name describes. Little Mashel River falls along the foothills of Mount Rainier through Pack Forest, University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. The river cascades down three major drops with the 125-foot Little Mashel Falls triumphing as the largest. To reach this stunning beauty head from the Pack Forest administration building and make a left onto RD 1000 (Lathrop Drive). Follow the gravel forest road for about 1.8 miles before taking a left onto RD 1070. Look for a rock with the word “Falls” and an arrow painted in blue on it. Here’s where it gets tricky because there’s more than one trail to follow, but if you make a hairpin turn toward the grassy path near a pond you’re on the right track. Take a right at the junction where a tree is marked with yellow diamonds, then turn left at the trail signed for Middle Falls. Trail conditions can be very muddy, so be sure to hike in sturdy boots or shoes, and bring a change of clothes for the car ride home.

Fees: Free Parking
Find It: Interstate 5 south to SR 512 and SR 7. Follow to the University of Washington Pack Forest entrance on the left.

photo: Katie B via Yelp

Martha Falls
Distance: 2 miles round-trip
Good For: Intrepid kiddos ready to cross a stream on a sturdy, but narrow log foot-bridge
Woof!: No pets allowed

A portion of Martha Falls can be seen from Stevens Canyon Road in Mount Rainier National Park, but to get a closer look at this 670-foot behemoth you’ll have to ramble along a small, gentile portion of the Wonderland Trail. From a pull-out located less than a mile past The Bench (a hairpin turn on Stevens Canyon Road), walk back along the road to the marker for the Wonderland Trail. Descend along the old growth, tree-lined path to the base of the waterfall at Unicorn Creek. A log foot-bridge will take you across the creek for the best view.

Fees: Mount Rainier National Park Entrance Fee (fourth graders and their families visit Free)
Good to Know: Stevens Canyon Road closes during snowy conditions. Be sure to check Mount Rainier’s road report before heading out.
Find It: Interstate 5 south to SR 512, SR 7 and SR 706 to the Nisqually entrance. Follow past Longmire towards Paradise. Take a right onto Stevens Canyon Road and continue about a half-mile past The Bench (a sharp switchback in the road – you can’t miss it!) Park on shoulder then hike back up to the trailhead.

Martha Falls

photo: Jeff Gunn via Flickr

Olympic Peninsula

Murhut Falls
Distance: 1.6 miles round-trip
Good For: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids
Woof!: Pets are not allowed

If you are planning to venture to the Olympic Peninsula this summer be sure and make your way to the magnificent two-tiered Murhut Falls in the Duckabush Recreation Area. This short walking path will likely give you the tranquility and solitude you have been seeking as the trail is relatively unknown. Starting from an old logging road, the hike gently climbs through the dimly lit understory of ginormous Douglas Firs before traveling a steeper ascent to the falls lookout. Be sure to keep an eye on little ones while making the final climb, as the trail narrows with a steep drop-off to one side. If you are lucky enough to make the journey in late spring, kiddos will be delighted by bursts of eye-catching pink rhododendrons adorning the path.

Fees: The Olympic National Park entrance fee
Find It: South on Highway 101 to the Duckabush Recreation area

Murhut Falls

photo: Joe Doe via Flickr

Marymere Falls
Distance: 2 miles round-trip
Good For: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids
Woof!: Pets are not allowed

Marymere Falls Trail, located within eye-shot of Lake Crescent, begins as a flat path starting from Storm King Ranger Station. As you wander through the canopy of humongous conifers and maple trees be sure to snap a few shots next to one of these giants to gain perspective on how large they really are. After crossing a bridge over Barnes Creek, the path will start to climb before reaching the first viewing point. Take a moment to soak up the spray of this 90-foot plummeting beauty from across the moss walled pool. If the kids still have energy to burn, climb further up the stairs to the right for the upper perspective of the falls.

Fees: The Olympic National Park entrance fee
Find It: 20 miles west of Port Angeles on Highway 101

photo: Bree M. via Yelp 

Sol Duc Falls
Distance: 1.6 round-trip
Good For: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids
Woof!: Pets are not allowed

A beautiful falls that flows from the Sol Duc River then splits into four channels before plummeting into a narrow canyon. This short hike starts at the end of Sol Duc Road and travels an easy, wide path through towering old growth trees with sounds of trickling streams to add to the beauty. Kids will enjoy making their way past old cabins and over wooden bridges along the way.

Fees: The Olympic National Park entrance fee
Good to Know: Add an extra 4 miles to the hike by starting at the Lovers Lane Trail at Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Find It: Following 101 west, 30 miles from Port Angeles

photo: daveynin via Flickr  

Have you ventured on one of these hikes with your crew? Did we miss your favorite waterfall hike? Tell us in the comments below.

— Allison Sutcliffe & Rachael Brandon

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