As we traveled north from Seattle to the Skykomish River Valley to walk to Wallace Falls, we were shrouded in a deep fog that made us wonder if we’d even be able to see the falls. We arrived at the Wallace falls parking lot, which appeared to be on the outside of the fog bank, and began the short route that would eventually lead us to Wallace Falls.
We were about a mile into the Wallace Falls Trail when we noticed ourselves above a deep layer of low fog, with strong sunlight shining through the trees. After a very dreary winter in Seattle, the sight of beautiful skies above us energized us and added to the magic of the Wallace Falls walk.
We’ll offer you all the information you need to plan an outstanding trip to one of Washington State’s best waterfalls in this hiking guide to the Wallace Falls Trail.
Where is Wallace Falls Trails?
Wallace Falls State Park is a 1,380-acre (560-hectare) public recreation park in Snohomish County, Washington, located along the Wallace River. The state park is one mile (1.6 kilometers) northeast of Gold Bar, on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.
Three waterfalls, three backcountry lakes, old-growth coniferous woods, rushing mountain rivers and streams, and remnants of its logging history in the ruins of railroad trestles, unused railroad grades, and springboard cuts in stumps are among the park’s highlights.
Wallace Falls Trail History
The Wallace Falls Railway Trail, which historically saw thousands of logging trains operated by the Great Northern Railroad delivering timber to lumber factories in the area, makes up a substantial portion of the route. When lumber mogul Friedrich Weyerhaeuser bought 900,000 acres of land from the railroad in 1900, he created the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company.
Wallace Falls State Park was established in 1977 after the state of Washington purchased a portion of the land. In addition to its more than 12 miles of hiking trails, the park offers camping, kayaking, swimming, fishing, rock climbing, and bird watching.
How deep is Wallace Falls?
Wallace Falls is one of the most well-known waterfalls in the North Cascades, and it serves as the highlight of the popular Wallace Falls State Park, which is located just outside of Gold Bar. The falls descend 392 feet in four different steps, though the final two drops are inaccessible from the trail system.
The falls’ first 265-foot drop into a vast amphitheater can be seen from US Highway 2 in the valley below. The river funnels into a 75-foot drop after entering the big pool below the main drop, which plunges over a section of free fall in between cascades.
The third and fourth drops drop an additional 7 and 26 feet, respectively, but are located deep within the gorge and are not visible from the authorized views. The remaining height is accounted for by small cascades between each stage.
Wallace Falls Trails
Wallace Falls State Park is a great place to go if you’re looking for a lovely, easy-to-reach hike. The 5.6-mile round-trip hike up the park’s Woody Trail will satisfy any desires for the Pacific Northwest’s typical collection of sight delights (think sword ferns, mosses, and evergreens).
Then it’ll serve you three delicious cherries on the cake: the gushing cascades of Lower, Middle, and Upper Wallace Falls. It’s only an hour’s drive from Seattle and can be hiked all year (because of its lower height, it doesn’t get as much snow as other popular treks). In other terms, it’s simple to see why this is one of Washington State’s most popular outdoor activities.
What Makes It Great
The trail’s first section takes you beneath buzzing power lines, but don’t worry, you’ll soon leave all industrial structures behind. About half a mile from the trailhead, you’ll come to a fork in the road after dipping beneath a canopy of hemlocks and Douglas firs.
The Old Railroad Grade is a wonderful ride for mountain bikes, but if you want to hike to the falls, remain on the hikers-only Woody Trail to the right. You will soon arrive at the Wallace River’s bank. The river’s babble will accompany you for the following stretch as you travel along with it and cross bridges over its minor tributaries.
The trail then turns away from the river as it ascends to the falls. The lower falls are two kilometers from the trailhead and descend 212 feet over five stages. But don’t give up: the middle falls are only half a mile away and are the trail’s picturesque highlight. The waterfall cascades down into a jagged bowl below, lapping up ethereal mist along its flanks. On a clear day, vistas of the Olympic Mountains define the skyline in the opposite direction.
Many people turn around at this point, but if you still have some stamina, you can continue up the switchbacks — the toughest portion of the trail – to the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls, located 2.8 miles from the trailhead, marks the end of the Woody Trail. If you want to go even further, you may always take the Upper-Grade Trail to Wallace Lake.
Parking at the Trailhead
There’s a large parking area at the trailhead, equipped with flush bathrooms and a parking payment machine! On weekends, however, this parking lot is frequently full by 10:00 a.m., if not before. Particularly in the summer. On weekends, arrive by 10:00 a.m. at the latest to ensure a parking spot.
We arrived on a cold weekday morning, and the parking lot was approximately half-filled by the time we finished the hike around midday. When we arrived at 9:00 a.m., there were only three automobiles in the parking lot, including our own.
Park Facilities and Regulations
The park is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. until dark. Visitors must get a Discover Pass to drive to state parks and recreation areas operated by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Passes can be purchased for $10 per day or $30 for an annual pass at a parking lot kiosk.
Near the parking area and the 1.5-mile mark on the Woody Trail, there are additional restrooms. Check out the information available at the kiosks beside the restrooms. Along the way, you’ll learn about tree species such as Western hemlock, Douglas fir, and Pacific yew.
Although there aren’t many wildflowers along the trail, there are plenty of edible berries, including blackberries, red huckleberries, salmonberries, and thimbleberries. Deer ferns, Western sword ferns, and licorice ferns are among the ferns that thrive in the area.
Fees and Passes Required
Because this trek is located within Wallace Falls State Park, you must either have a Discover Pass in your car or pay a $ 10-day use fee at the parking lot machine.
If you plan on visiting three or more Washington State Parks in the following year, the Discover Pass is a good investment.
It’s also worth mentioning that the permit is valid for two vehicles, so if you have two cars, you may just buy one for your household. You may either purchase it in advance at REI or on-site at Wallace Falls State Park.
- Distance: 5 miles
- Total Ascent: 1,200 ft.
- Season: Spring – Fall (sometimes in winter)
- Trail Type: Out and Back
- Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
- Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash
- Trailhead: Trailhead Location
When to Hike to Wallace Falls
This hike is best from spring to fall when the trails are free of snow. We particularly like the mossy, ferny aspect that appears during the wetter months, which gives the impression that you’re wandering through an enchanting forest.
For context, we hiked up to Wallace Falls in late January following a spell of moderately mild weather (in this case, in the 40s). The trail was coated with snow and ice on both sides when we traveled it.
The falls will be at their most spectacular in the winter and spring when the extra water is a sight to behold and the vista from Valley View is dotted with snow-capped peaks. The falls are less stunning in the summer as the rain stops and the warm weather arrives.
In the winter, the trail is frequently covered in snow and ice, especially in the week or so following a major storm.
If you’re going to Wallace Falls at any time of year, make sure to check recent trail reports to see what the conditions are like before you go.
Places to Stay at Wallace Falls
The Wallace Falls Lodge
The Wallace Falls Lodge is located 3.7 kilometers from Wallace Falls State Park and features a sundeck, picnic area, and library.
The Hotel’s rooms all have a writing desk, wide windows, and a sound system. They include glassware as well as an ice machine. For your comfort, the venue offers full-body massages, head massages, and back massages. Hiking, horseback riding, and fishing are all popular activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Stevens Pass Motel
Do you need a place to stay in Gold Bar? Then look no further than Stevens Pass Motel, a low-cost motel that offers the best of Gold Bar right to your door. Guest rooms provide facilities such as air conditioning and a refrigerator, and visitors can connect to the internet through the motel’s free wifi.
Stevens Pass Motel has a 24-hour front desk to make your stay more comfortable. There is also a lounge on the site. There is free parking at Stevens Pass Motel if you are driving. Stevens Pass Motel is an excellent tourist attraction because it is close to Skyland Ranch (2.0 mi), a notable Gold Bar landmark.
When you’re hungry, make your way to Mountain View Diner, which is popular with both locals and visitors. If you’re seeking things to do, go to Wallace Falls State Park, which is a popular tourist destination.
We are confident that you will enjoy your stay at Stevens Pass Motel while you explore everything Gold Bar has to offer.
Riverfront Gold Bar Cabin
Relax in the center of the Pacific Northwest wilderness in this gorgeous three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath vacation rental cottage in Gold Bar. This 1,200-square-foot cottage on the Skykomish River features breathtaking views, a furnished deck, and a warm wood interior, making it the ultimate natural hideaway.
Your inner outdoorsman will love waking up to the rushing river and gorgeous mountains whether you spend your Evergreen State getaway hiking, whitewater rafting, or skiing.
Hampton Inn & Suites Seattle/Redmond
Hampton Inn & Suites Seattle/Redmond Wa is located in Redmond, 8 kilometers from Crossroads Bellevue, and features a fitness center, free private parking, and a shared lounge. This property has luggage storage as well as a sun terrace for guests. The hotel has an indoor pool as well as a 24-hour front desk and free WiFi throughout the resort.
The rooms at the hotel include a desk. All rooms at Hampton Inn & Suites Seattle/Redmond Wa have a flat-screen TV, air conditioning, and a private bathroom with a hairdryer. Certain rooms additionally have a seating area. Each room has a closet.
Every morning, the motel offers a buffet and an American breakfast. Guests can relax at the snack bar or use the business center.
Boeing Field/King County International Airport is 35.4 kilometers away from Hampton Inn & Suites Seattle/Redmond Wa. Couples, in particular, enjoy the site, rating it 9.3 for a two-person excursion.
Willows Lodge is a beautiful Woodinville, Washington hideaway surrounded by the Pacific Northwest’s inspiring scenic magnificence and Woodinville Wine Country.
Willows Lodge is set on five landscaped acres bordering the Sammamish River in the heart of Washington’s wine country. You may refresh your body, soul, and spirit in this cozy, luxury hideaway.
What to Pack for Hiking to Wallace Falls
Here are a few things we consider to be necessities for hiking in the Pacific Northwest (apart from some fundamentals, which you should bring with you on any trip, regardless of state or geography).
Waterproof Hiking Boots or Shoes:
We like the Adidas Terrex Swift GTX shoes (Alysha has owned two pairs for almost a decade) and the Columbia Newton Ridge Boots (a great entry-level waterproof hiking boot).
A Raincoat Is Self-Explanatory:
When you’re in the mountains, there’s always the possibility of rain, so we never leave the house without a rain jacket in our backpacks. I enjoy my Columbia rain jacket since it is a wonderful inexpensive waterproof jacket that is ideal for Washington. Waterproof pants are also useful — there is nothing worse in the world than most pants.
We thought they were stupid (or only for older hikers), but we now never perform a difficult hike without them. Do you remember how we mentioned you’d be doing a lot of uphill and downhill hiking? Trekking poles can be used in both directions.
They give you additional leverage and help you set a nice tempo on the way up. They’ll save your knees on the way down. We both have these REI trekking poles, but the buckles are failing (and have been for quite some time), so we’ll be buying in a pair of these Black Diamond poles next, which have a different three-piece setup that is more durable.
A good daypack (we like Osprey backpacks for their lifetime guarantee, particularly the Talon / Tempest, which Alysha currently has), a reusable water bottle (we each carry two of these collapsible water bottles, which are perfect for both hiking and travel), and snacks are also recommended for your hike.
Wallace Falls Trails – FAQs
The Wallace Falls Trail in Snohomish County is a must-see for visitors and locals alike, with its shady tree canopy, well-marked pathway, and stunning views at nearly every point along the ascent. Hikers of all ages and abilities can enjoy this popular day trip, though families with young children or senior hikers should stay at the Lower Falls picnic spot.
Everyone else is invited to dig a little deeper and take on the challenge of climbing to the top; their efforts will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Middle and Upper Falls, as well as other scenic locations along the way. Even though you’ll be sharing the trail with hundreds of other hikers, you can go it alone or with a group of companions at any time of year.