Water Works

Waterfall Hikes near Seattle

The snow is melting and the falls are roaring on Washington trails.

By Allison Williams April 9, 2024 Published in the Spring 2024 issue of Seattle Met

Bridal Veil Falls is always ready for a close-up.

In Alaska, they call spring “breakup” for the disassembling ice that comes with warming temperatures. Here in Washington, we might as well call the season “washout” as our high-elevation snows melt and dribble into creeks and rivers. That makes for spectacular waterfalls, at their most scenic when thick with runoff—and the worthy destination of a spring hike. Take care, as waterfalls are one of nature’s most dynamic features, creating as many hazards as photo ops.

Otter Falls

Interstate 90

In the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie, a broad valley just outside North Bend packed with easy-access wilderness, a gentle trail leads to a giant granite face. Here, Otter Falls tumbles to a chilly lake. Expect plenty of creek crossings on the 5.5-mile route, a veritable abundance of running water along the entire trek.

Franklin Falls shows off.

Franklin Falls

Snoqualmie Pass

In winter, the Interstate 90–adjacent waterfall can freeze into a wall of ice, making it a favorite snowshoe destination. But the spring thaw allows the water to show off its grandeur, and the mile-long approach means the payoff comes quickly. Expect lots of company along the way.

Murhut Falls makes a statement in the forests of the Olympic Peninsula.

Murhut Falls

Olympic Peninsula

At the end of a one-mile trail just off Hood Canal, Murhut gives classic waterfall vibes: two near-vertical drops into round pools, fallen logs strewn about the area. Waterfalls have a story to tell about insistence and even destruction, and Murhut’s tale is of shaping the deep woods around it.

Bridal Veil Falls

Highway 2

Expect a little snow on the trail well into spring at this famous falls. Though only two miles each way, the uphill makes the trek a workout—cool off with the misty spray that gives the falls its matrimonial name. Once you’ve hiked it, you’ll try to spot this iconic cascade from the road every time you motor toward Stevens Pass.

When Rainier is still snowy, Little Mashel Falls celebrates spring. 

Little Mashel Falls

Mount Rainier

Though our giant volcano has plenty of spectacular waterworks, their high elevation means they’re best (or only) visited in midsummer and early autumn. This particular showpiece, on the other hand, sits on the highway to the national park entrance, in the foothills around Rainier. The trio of falls is reached via confusing web of trails within the Pack Forest, so be sure to bring a map for the five-mile round trip.

Wallace Falls

Highway 2

This is a favorite rainy-day hike, as the views here are close-up and the vibe only improves with a heavy mist. The falls is made up of several drops, tumbling almost 400 feet in total, and hikers should keep to the well-marked 2.8-mile route; the state park’s off-trail slopes are treacherous even when dry. 

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