Outdoor Seattle

Wallace Falls is one of the reasons you moved to Seattle

The spectacular views and the fact that Wallace Falls is just an hour northeast of Seattle makes this a very popular hike.  Wallace Falls is one of the reasons you would move to Washington State.

Two different hiking trails lead to the falls: the shorter 2.5-mile trek follows the Wallace River and gets fairly steep at times.  The longer 3.25-mile railroad grade is considerably flatter and worth the extra length for more leisurely walkers.  Stunning trees, mushrooms and ferns line both paths, and wildflowers grow in the brighter areas.  The falls are stunning any time of year, but especially spectacular after a rainy period.  Bring plenty of film for suitable-for-framing souvenir photos.  The 56-spot parking lot can fill up early on summer weekends.  If you arrive at eight you should find parking. Limited overnight campsites for tent campers are available, as are several picnic spots at the trail head.

Check out the kiosk to read up on the falls, park, and their history, as well as a very good map of the trail system. The high-voltage line right-of-way at the trail head is disconcerting, but look past this to the view of Mount Index and Baring Mountain.  After 0.25 mile you enter a uniform forest of young hemlocks and the power lines are now behind you with spectacular views ahead.  The Wallace River becomes audible and its presence felt in the cool breezes funneling down the valley.

At 0.4 mile you come to a junction.  Left heads to the falls on an old logging rail-road grade.  The easy grade attracts runners and mountain bikers.  It makes for a nice loop option, adding about a mile and is really best done on the return.  Head right on the Woody Trail.  Follow the trail through the forest, dropping down to river’s edge.  Under colonnades of moss-shrouded trees and accompanied by showy boughs of dark green ferns that seem to burst from the ground, continue beside the roiling river.
The trail pulls away from the river and begins to climb.  At a little over a mile, a short side trail veers steeply left to connect with the Railroad Grade Trail.  Continue straight, remaining high above the raucous river.  At 1.4 miles, you come to a junction.  Left heads to the Railroad Grade Trail (your return option) and also to Wallace Lake via the Greg Ball Trail.

Precede straight, dropping to cross the North Fork Wallace River, and then begin a short and steep climb to the Lower Falls viewpoint and picnic shelter.  A pretty sight, but what will probably catch your attention is the much bigger falls off in the distance.  Continue up the trail.  At 2.2 miles you will reach the viewpoint for the Middle Falls.  At 265 feet, this falls is the park’s highest, the one you can see from US 2 way down below, and one of the most impressive water falls in the state.  From the soggy overlook, you stare right into the heart of the tumultuous falls roaring through a narrow chasm.

The Upper Falls are another 0.5 mile beyond. Not quite as impressive, it’s still nevertheless worth the 500-foot climb to get there.  En route be sure to stop at the overlook above the Middle Falls for a sweeping view of the Skykomish River valley out to the Olympic Mountains.

The Woody Trial is approximately 5.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1200 feet.  The high point is 1,500 feet.  If you hike this trail during the weekends you can count of crowds.  If you come early or you hike this trail during the week you will avoid the crowds.  This is a great first hike of the season to get you ready for harder climbs later in the year, or it is a great family hike.  Click Wallace State Park for more details.

The Sultan Bakery is the landmark stop on the way to the park for coffee and sweet rolls, and on the way back for lunch or supper.

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