Washington waterfall hikes: cascade walks for your bucket list
Feel the spray on your face with these Washington waterfall hikes, offering stunning endpoints to shaded hikes through lush, old-growth forests
Washington state’s wild mountains and rocky coastline make it a hiker’s paradise, particularly in the western part of the state, where mild temperatures and regular precipitation mean lush green rainforests and breathtaking cascades. Washington is home to over 100 waterfalls, many of which you can reach without much of a walk at all, but our list of the best Washington waterfall hikes covers some of the most breathtaking falls in the state that require at least a short stroll if not a strenuous day hike.
As with all mountain states, you’ll get the best out of these waterfalls during the spring months, when the snow is melting and they’re at their mightiest. Due to Washington’s temperate climate, however, several of these also made our list of best winter hikes in Washington when, of course, they’ll be quieter.
These Washington waterfalls are spread out across the state, from ones you can easily reach from Seattle to cascades in the state’s famous National Parks and even one in the more arid region of eastern Washington. Expect plenty of untouched scenery, spray on your face and slick trails and go armed with good hiking boots and a waterproof jacket for these Washington waterfall hikes.
Washington waterfall hikes near Seattle
Distance: 1.4 miles
These thundering falls are considered by the Snoqualmie tribe to be the birthplace of humanity and today provide hydroelectricity for Puget Sound Electric. This 270ft falls is easily one of the most scenic and popular in the state and if you were a Twin Peaks fan, you’ll remember it from the opening credits. This stunningly beautiful waterfall can be reached via a short, steep trail that descends from Falls Viewpoint at Snoqualmie Pass and involves a bit of a challenge on the way back up. It does get crowded but it’s worth getting up early for.
Distance: 2 miles
Franklin Falls is another shorter waterfall hike that begins at Snoqualmie Pass and is popular in part due to a paved trail and its proximity to Seattle, however don’t let that put you off. The towering falls are framed by two tall viaducts and the three tiers have a total drop of 135ft, the last 70ft drop can be admired from the hiking trail. The trail itself is mostly through dense forest so it’s great on a summer’s day, though the rock does get slippery, so take care.
Distance: 5 miles
Wallace Falls State Park is on the western side of the Cascades just north of Gold Bar and is accessible year-round. Wallace Falls is actually a set of nine different cataract waterfalls. This hike to the breathtaking cascades begins on a scenic, wooded trail along the Wallace River. For the first couple of miles, you can enjoy a gentle walk through lush vegetation while the steeper climbing only begins once you reach the falls. There are three main falls – lower, middle and upper – and you can turn back at any point if you become tired.
Washington waterfall hikes in Olympic National Park
Sol Duc Falls
Distance: 1.6 miles or 5.8 miles
Sol Duc Valley is a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience, boasting lush rainforests and snow-capped mountains. Sol Duc Falls splits into multiple channels that dive almost 50ft into a gorge. The short, family-friendly hike here begins from Sol Duc Hot Springs and Resorts and the well-maintained path leads you through mossy forest under a dense canopy. You’ll hear the roar of the falls up ahead before arriving at them via a short, steep climb and will most likely get a bit damp as you get up close to the falls.
The hike to the falls is short and easy, but you can make for a longer adventure with Lover’s Lane Loop which takes you back to the trailhead on the other side of the river from your ascent.
Distance: 1.7 miles
This hike begins at the Storm King Ranger Station and winds through lush, old growth forest and ferns alongside Barnes Creek before arriving at the spectacular 90-foot falls over mossy rocks. The trail is typically open year-round but the steps near the falls can become icy in winter so wear Yaktrax as needed and take care.
Washington waterfall hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
Distance: 6 miles
Spray Falls is an impressive waterfall that requires a beautiful hike to reach. Starting from Mowich Lake, you’ll hike through green forest with lots of sparkling stream crossings and mountain views. You’ll be able to feel the spray on your face long before you see the magnificent falls tumbling over a 350ft rock face. You can turn round at the falls or continue another half mile up steep switchbacks to Spray Park featuring beautiful subalpine meadows.
Waterfall hikes in eastern Washington
Distance: 1.4 miles
Palouse Falls in Paulouse Falls State Park was carved by ice more than 13,000 years ago and is one of the last remaining waterfalls on the Ice Age floods path. It was named Washington State’s Waterfall in 2014 and with a dramatic 200ft drop over granite cliffs it is certainly one of the most picturesque. The waterfall is especially beautiful at sunset. There isn’t an official trail but a gravel road along the rim offers great views.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.