Is there anything better than getting out in nature after a busy week? Maybe getting out and seeing a waterfall. In Washington State, a waterfall hike is a luxury nearly everyone can afford, and one we hope you take advantage of. Lucky for you, we’ve assembled a list of some of the best waterfall hikes to explore in the Evergreen State. Some of these are short and sweet scenic routes where you’re liable to rub shoulders with fellow excursionists, while others are secluded gems ideal for blissing out to the sound of surging waters. Wherever you choose to go, we recommend checking out the Washington Trails Association for updates on hiking conditions and closures before chasing waterfalls.
Franklin Falls – North Bend, Wash.
Pack a picnic and head to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest this summer to enjoy three tiers of gorgeous cascades at Franklin Falls. The trail leading to the falls is well-suited to entry-level hikers. It’s just two miles out and back with a gentle incline of 400 feet. You’re likely to bump into several families on the weekends, so get here early if you want to enjoy this low-effort, high-reward trek in solitude. Nature-lovers flock to the base of Franklin Falls to lunch while being sprinkled with the refreshing mist of the waterfall. In the winter, make sure to visit when the dense surrounding forests transform into a snowy oasis ideal for snowshoeing and you can see the waterfall frozen midstream.
Distance: 2.0 miles roundtrip
Palouse Falls – LaCrosse, Wash.
Unlike the alpine forests that house many waterfalls on this list, Palouse Falls State Park is a sunbaked and historic geological monument showcasing its namesake couloir. Located roughly an hour away from the Walla Walla Valley, Palouse Falls is the official waterfall of Washington State and was formed by the Missoula floods that carved the Scablands at the end of the last Ice Age. The waters of the Palouse River run through a tapered channel before diving 200 feet into the canyon pool, winding through the rock gorge before pouring into the Snake River. The terrain is rough with craggy buttes, rock benches, vast coulees and basalt cliffs, each offering stunning views from their vantage point. That said, Palouse Falls is less of a hike and more of a stroll to the vast overlook, accessible to all at just 1-mile roundtrip. Also, exercise caution: the area is home to rattlesnakes. After a day of exploring Palouse Falls, head to Walla Walla and check into The FINCH Walla Walla before luxuriating at some of the region’s exceptional wineries.
Distance: 1.0 mile roundtrip
Snoqualmie Falls – Snoqualmie, Wash.
Thirty minutes outside of Seattle you’ll find Snoqualmie Falls, one of Washington State’s most beloved tourist attractions and among the most significant, with a 268-foot water cascade and width of roughly 100 feet. The cataract captivates more than 1.5 million visitors annually, thanks in part to its feature in the credits of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.” In addition to the phenomenal gully, Snoqualmie Falls has a splendid two-acre park that provides an educational opportunity for horticulture and flora novices. Next to each plant surrounding the falls is a plaque with the species name. The falls’ trails are beginner-friendly and easily accessible from the impressive upper and lower observation decks. The crystalline waters of Snoqualmie Falls have been providing energy to a hydroelectric plant for more than 120 years, and the river’s falls now generate electricity for the region’s Puget Sound Energy. After an afternoon of marveling at the behemoth, spend the night at the glamorous Salish Lodge & Spa overlooking the falls and enjoy their Dungeness crab Benedict for brunch.
Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip
Sol Duc Falls – Port Angeles, Wash.
Situated on the northern peninsula in the thick of the sweeping Olympic National Park, the Sol Duc Valley is a pristine sanctuary full of rushing waters, wandering trails and subalpine lakes. Plan to visit the Valley between late March and late October when the weather is mild and the winding roads are free of frost. You’ll begin your journey by setting out on the wild nature trail canopied with coniferous trees and mossy boles on the way to the falls. The picturesque cascades are well-shaded by the forest and tumble into the rocks at the base of the babbling Sol Duc River, a superhighway for Coho salmon. The falls can split into as many as four rushing channels and are best viewed from the bridge bestride the roaring river. During late October, travelers can observe the perennial salmon migration at the Salmon Cascades, a short 7-mile jaunt from Sol Duc Falls. After a day of savoring the lush canopy, check into a cozy cabin at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and immerse yourself in one of their three mineral hot spring soaking pools.
Distance: 1.6 miles roundtrip
Tumwater Falls – Tumwater, Wash.
Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls may not be the first place you think of when you’re searching for waterfalls here, but it definitely belongs in the conversation of best waterfall hikes in Washington. You do not need to drive to the middle of a mountain range to find it, there are no snaking trails canopied by towering trees deep in the wilderness, and the chances of crossing paths with a bear are slim to none, unless you encounter the Charmin bear in the WC. Yet, what the city-centric park lacks in backcountry it makes up for in family-friendly accommodations suited for voyagers of all ages and abilities. Just south of Washington’s state capital Olympia, the park boasts a scenic half-mile loop trail parallel to the Deschutes River, tumbling waterfalls and a fish ladder where visitors can watch as the salmon travel upstream. Elsewhere, visitors can take in views of the old Olympic Brewery from the pools of the lower falls. The falling waters provide a serene backdrop for the blooming rhododendrons in the spring.
Distance: 0.5 miles roundtrip
Whatcom Falls – Bellingham, Wash.
The Nooksack word “Whatcom” translates to “noisy water,” which turns out to be the perfect description of Bellingham’s colossal set of rapids. Located on 241 acres of pristine evergreen land in northern Washington, Whatcom Falls Park is a family-friendly destination accessible to outdoors people of all skill levels. With four different sets of waterfalls to explore — that’s right, FOUR — and three-and-a-half miles of trails shrouded in fir and maple trees, you can spend hours reliving a “Where the Wild Things Are” fantasy. The park is also a haven for bicyclists. For those of use that aren’t hikers or bikers, the park provides an off-leash dog area, a basketball court, a kid-friendly playground, a Whirlpool Falls swimming hole, a fish hatchery and a beloved fishing spot for locals called Derby Pond. Before you head to Bellingham’s Aslan Brewing Co. for a post-hike beer, check out the historic stone bridge built in 1940 from reclaimed Chuckanut sandstone.
Distance: 4.0 miles roundtrip
Cascade Falls – Olga, Wash.
Situated on Orcas Island in Moran State Park, Cascade Falls is the tallest waterfall in the San Juan Islands archipelago. You can catch a glimpse of the pitching waters by taking the ferry boat from Anacortes to Orcas before driving the horseshoe-shaped highway to the park. The tumbling falls plunge into Cascade Creek, which forms a ravine and eventually makes its way to the chilly and vast waters of the northern Pacific Ocean. Moran State Park is an exceptional destination, as the land boasts some of the only remaining old-growth forests in the San Juan Islands. It is a relatively easy hike, just three miles out and back, though it can be extended to include a trip to the nearby Rustic Falls, Cavern Falls and Hidden Falls. Once you’re finished exploring the park, take a scenic drive to Matia Kitchen & Bar and dig into a plate of their unparalleled sourdough noodles.
Distance: 3.0 miles roundtrip
Narada Falls – Paradise, Wash.
Narada Falls may be the most approachable destination in Mount Rainier National Park, proving that you don’t need to be Tenzing Norgay to enjoy Washington’s favorite rugged landscape. The two-tiered waterfall is located on the road from Longmire, Wash., to Paradise, Wash., and is famous among tourists and seasoned waterfall enthusiasts alike. Excursionists who visit Narada Falls on a sunny day can watch as the water drops 168 feet from the top tier and 20 feet from the lower level, creating a rainbow in the lingering mist at the base of the chute. Experienced hikers looking for a challenge can take the steeper trail to the bottom of the falls and enjoy glimpses of wildlife like deer, chipmunks and squirrels. However, any who take this trail should tread lightly during the wetter months as the ground can become slippery. Conversely, visitors who’d rather stay off the trails all together can enjoy a tremendous view of Narada Falls from the comfort of the parking area.
Distance: 0.2 miles roundtrip
Twin Falls – North Bend, Wash.
Beautiful and serene, Twin Falls is the tallest waterfall on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River and is a treasured destination among nature-loving Seattleites. The trail leading to the rolling linn is in Olallie State Park and offers hikers a more middling challenge than some of the easier treks on this list. Still, at just two-and-a-half miles out and back, you can’t beat the opportunity to marvel at the lush growth forests and bedew rocks surrounding the surging upper and lower cascades. Elsewhere, the park offers mountain bikers 20 rugged miles of trails to ride and top-rated cliff areas for rock climbers trying to beat Alex Honnold’s most recent record. Once you’ve worked up a sweat, head over to Twede’s Cafe, a retro diner featured in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” and order a slice of cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.
Distance: 2.6 miles roundtrip
Wallace Falls – Gold Bar, Wash.
Wallace Falls is located in the central Cascades, with nine gleaming falls for hikers of all skill levels. The mossy forests of Wallace Falls State Park are rich with well-maintained trails that attract crowds year-round, so we recommend an early arrival if you want to enjoy the tranquility that strolling beside the swift Wallace River allows. The lower and middle falls are best suited for novice hikers and overlook the vast Skykomish River Valley. The upper falls are a more difficult challenge with a steep elevation of roughly 1,450 feet. Visit Wallace Falls in the late spring or summer to take advantage of activities like kayaking, freshwater fishing and swimming. Pro tip: reserve one of the park’s five cabins for your weekend expedition.
Distance: 5.6 miles roundtrip