The lower drop of Christine Falls in July 2018
During the 4th of July weekend, I had the chance to visit Mount Rainier National Park, which I would absolutely suggest doing. It’s another stunning national park to add to the list if you haven’t already. One of the benefits of Mount Rainier…a lot of waterfalls!
Mount Rainier is over 14000′ in elevation, and if you consider that much of that elevation change happens over a relatively short distance from sea level, it leads to a lot of chances to find waterfalls. There are a number of marked waterfalls on the main map, but there are many others that you can find along the way. One of the first waterfalls you might encounter is Christine Falls. It’s essentially a roadside waterfall you’ll come across along one of the main roadways in the park. It’s taller than it appears in this photograph, but one part of the drop is at an angle hidden behind a rock. You can view the upper portion of the falls from the road. The road is narrow, though, so you have to careful if you want to view the upper portion.
The main thing that has kept me from visiting Mount Rainier until this point…the weather. The other times I have visited Washington have been earlier in the year, generally. This is not the ideal time to visit much of the park, as many of the roadways and trails will be covered in snow. Even in early July, a number of the trails at Paradise were STILL covered with feet of snow, though the outdoor temperatures were very comfortable. You still maybe able to visit some of the lower elevation waterfalls, but it’s a better bet to show up in the summer months. (Of course, you then run into more people…)
- We entered the park on WA-706 heading east (at the Nisqually Entrance).
- You will pass the National Park Inn and Longmire Museum, and after a few more miles and switchbacks, you will pass the trail head for Comet Falls. Comet Falls is on the same creek, but is at a higher elevation and requires a longer hike (which I didn’t attempt).
- Shortly after passing that trail head, you’ll cross a bridge where you may notice the upper portion of the falls. After this, there is a parking area on your right.
- From this parking area, there is a very short downhill hike that leads to the view shown in this pictures.
Accessibility: 9/10 (Easy)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip (essentially roadside)
Where in the World is Christine Falls?
Upper Wallace Falls in December 2012
I visited Wallace Falls in December 2012, and it had snowed at higher elevations in the previous day. It meant that there was 3-4″ of snow on the ground. The air was very humid, though, and there was a beautifully surreal mist in the air. I was apprehensive about visiting the falls because of the weather conditions, but I found the drive to be better than expected. I still wasn’t sure what the hike was going to be like, though.
The initial portion of the hike to view the multiple falls is rather flat. It then suddenly starts climbing. In normal conditions, it’s probably perfect. In snowy conditions, it’s fine until you keep climbing and climbing. There are three drops to the falls, and they are pretty tall, so the elevation gain is pretty surprising. Arriving at Middle Wallace Falls wasn’t particularly difficult, and many others had completed this portion of the journey. Continuing on to Upper Wallace Falls proved to be more challenging. Not only was the snow deeper, but the trail becomes steeper and rougher. I was still able to make it without much difficulty, though that portion was far less traversed. Looking back, I remember that my boots were the biggest problem, as they were too tight on my feet and were causing more issues than any snow or trail. I promptly went and bought new shoes after this hike (literally an hour or two later).
I have to admit in the end that I fell in love with Wallace Falls State Park. The snow surrounding the waterfalls just added to the amazing views. The mist created an almost ethereal setting. If you’re in the Seattle area, and are looking for waterfalls Wallace Falls and Snoqualmie Falls are definitely the two best choices.
- If you’re headed to the area from Seattle, the most difficult part might be getting onto US-2. It’s not terrible, and yet the road system is just complicated enough. One option was a toll bridge, which was quicker, but I didn’t want to deal with that since I was in a rental car. The other option was looping around at one point along I-405 and WA-522. Follow the signs headed toward US-2 West.
- Once along US-2 W, keep driving until you enter the town of Gold Bar. Not long after entering the town, there will be a sign indicating the turn to Wallace Falls State Park.
- If you’re heading west, you will take a left turn onto 1st Street.
- At the four-way stop, turn right onto MacKenzie Street. Head to the end of this road. Near the end, there will be a fork.
- Take the left fork headed to the entrance of Wallace Falls State Park.
- At the parking area, there is a kiosk where you can pay the $10 entrance fee by credit card.
- Start along the trail. The trail is obvious and well maintained, but it does become steeper and more difficult to traverse as you proceed. The hike to the Upper Falls is 2.7 miles one-way.
Accessibility: 3/10 (moderate/strenuous, steep, though nowhere near impossible…more complicated when snow is covering the ground, but still fun)
Length of Hike: 5.4 miles round-trip (to Upper Falls)
Where in the World is Upper Wallace Falls?
Just a little more than 20 miles from the Seattle area is Snoqualmie Falls, a powerful waterfall with a significant drop. It is easy to get to and view, and is not so insanely busy that you’ll feel crowded.
There are two different views of Snoqualmie Falls. The first is from the viewing platform right near the parking areas. This is the easiest of the viewpoints to access, and is great from people with limited mobility or for those with young kids. The second viewpoint is not as accessible. There is a 0.5 mile trail down to the base of the falls. The way down is not so bad. They way up is steep enough that you’ll feel your muscles burning and maybe even crying a little bit. I wish I could say the view from the base was more spectacular, but it wasn’t. The view from above is just fine.
December 2012: About 4.5 years after my visit to Snoqualmie Falls, I got the chance to visit the falls for a second time. The first time I visited, it was a sunny day, and the hike to the base of the falls warmed me up a bit further. The spray from the falls was an issue, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The second time I visited, the falls were more intense, and it had been cloudy and raining for most of the day (and a few days before this also, I believe). There was an aura of fogginess that couldn’t be shaken, so it made it somewhat difficult to capture the falls, especially considering the spray and rain caused my lens to get wet repeatedly! Still, it’s such an amazing sight!
- From Seattle, get onto I-5 S/I-90 E toward Portland.
- Merge onto I-90 E from the exit on the left toward Bellevue/Spokane.
- Go about 23 miles, and then take exit 25, highway 18 West.
- Turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto Highway 18 (the SE Snoqualmie Parkway), and go a little less than 4 miles.
- Turn left on Railroad Ave SE/WA-202. Follow WA-202 to the clearly marked parking area. Signs along the interstate indicating where to exit make the trek not so difficult at all.
Accessibility: 10/10 (at parking lot), 4/10 (to the base)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip to viewpoint; 1.4 miles round-trip to base
Snoqualmie Falls in April 2008
The falls in December 2012
Where in the World is Snoqualmie Falls?