Total Ascent: 300ft
Highest Point: 400ft
Total Distance: 1.8 miles
Location: N 47° 47.3633, W 122° 55.7516
Required Permit: None
The Olympic Peninsula offers everything from sandy beaches to windswept peaks and there are all manner of hiking trails to access those destinations. Some of those trails are difficult to reach, while others can be found just off the highway. This hike is in the latter category. The trails at Falls View offer a rhododendron-lined tour of a river canyon and a front row seat to a waterfall tumbling down 200ft into the Big Quilcene River. As an added bonus, these short and easily accessible trails can be explored any time of year.
Falls View Campground is situated on a bluff above the Big Quilcene River and likely owes its existence to its namesake waterfall. We weren’t able to dig up much in the way of the history behind the building of this campground, although we did find that the area is sometimes referred to as Fallsview in older guides and reference books. For the record, US Board of Geographic Names lists the official name of the campground as “Falls View.” While the falls themselves have been christened Falls View Falls or sometimes Campground Falls, the stream that creates the cascade has gone unnamed.
This hike is actually two separate trails, the Falls View Loop Trail #848 and the Falls View Canyon Trail #868. Both trails begin from the campground. The Falls View Loop trail clocks in at about a tenth of a mile, and leads out to a viewpoint overlooking Falls View Falls before looping back to the parking area. Take a few minutes to wander down this trail to get an idea of the canyon you will soon be descending into. Once you return to the trailhead, head toward the Falls View Canyon Trail, which quickly switchbacks down to the riverside to a view of the base of the falls.
From the canyon floor the trail wanders through a young forest of fir and alder rising out of a thick underlayer of fern and salal. The roar of the river is never far as you progress along the narrow trail, which splits after about three-quarters of a mile. Head right and continue onward to the far reaches of the trail to find a calm section of the Big Quilcene River. Here the water pools at the end of a series of rapids, and the shore provides plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the river. Once you’re done exploring the rocks, return to the trail and follow it as it loops back toward the campground. This section of trail is a little further away from the river, and it passes quickly. Before you know it you’ll reconnect with the trail and the river and find yourself climbing up the canyon wall to the trailhead.
While this pleasant river walk isn’t the most spectacular trail in the Olympic National Park, it does manage to pack both panoramic views of a big waterfall and access to a rushing river filled with moss-covered boulders into less than 2 miles of trail. This makes it a great addition to a day of short hikes or a nice way to stretch your legs while traveling on to your final destination. There is a bit of a climb into and out of the canyon, but hikers of all ages should be able to tackle these trails without a lot of difficulty. Falls View Falls is somewhat seasonal, and is best viewed in the winter and spring when waters are at their highest. In warmer years, the falls can dry up completely. If you’re going in the winter, the campground may be closed - simply park outside the gates and hike the short distance to the trailhead.
To get there, take I-5 south through Tacoma to Exit 132B SR 16 toward Bremerton. Continue on SR 16 for 27 miles to merge with SR 3 North. Follow SR 3 to the Hood Canal Bridge, taking a left over the bridge onto State Route 104. Follow SR 104 as it merges onto US 101 and continue 13.4 miles to Falls View Campground. Turn right and find the trailhead in the day use area of the campground. -Nathan
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