Upper Wallace Falls, Washington

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.

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If you’re heading west, you will take a left turn onto 1st Street.
  4. 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.
  5. Take the left fork headed to the entrance of Wallace Falls State Park.
  6. At the parking area, there is a kiosk where you can pay the $10 entrance fee by credit card.
  7. 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)
Height: 240′
Length of Hike: 5.4 miles round-trip (to Upper Falls)

Where in the World is Upper Wallace Falls?

Middle Wallace Falls, Washington

Middle Wallace Falls in December 2012

Wallace Falls State Park is a truly spectacular place to visit, and there are a number of great waterfalls in the park.  The major drops are found along the Wallace River, and I was trying to decide which one to write about first. I decided to write about my favorite, Middle Wallace Falls.

It wasn’t snowing in Seattle this past weekend, the first weekend of December. But I did know that it was snowing in parts of the Cascades. I was a little bit hesitant at first about trying to visit the falls, but I decided to do it anyway. I drove the 40 or so miles from Seattle to the park. I could tell that it had snowed nearby, as some of the car roofs were covered in it.

I arrived at the park, and started along the hike. The snow was minimal and melting at first. I was surprised at how “warm” it felt (I think it had something to do with the relative humidity). As I started hiking upward (after the first 0.5 miles or so), the snow started building up. Near the end of the trail at Upper Wallace Falls, there must have been 3 or 4 inches covering the ground, and the snow kept dropping from the trees into my coat. Even in the snow and cold, I was still enjoying the amazing beauty around me.

The drops along the Wallace River might rank as some of the most impressive drops in the region. The area has a very “Yosemite-like” feel, especially since I also visited Yosemite after a snowfall. The evergreens surrounding me everywhere really added to the ambiance. And then to come upon this spectacular, 367′ total drop, was the icing on the cake.  It’s definitely worth a visit, no matter the season.

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If you’re heading west, you will take a left turn onto 1st Street.
  4. 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.
  5. Take the left fork headed to the entrance of Wallace Falls State Park.
  6. At the parking area, there is a kiosk where you can pay the $10 entrance fee by credit card.
  7. 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 (steep, though nowhere near impossible…more complicated when snow is covering the ground, but still fun)
Height: 367′
Length of Hike: 4.2 miles round-trip (to Middle Falls)

Where in the World is Middle Wallace Falls?