Our Hiking Time: 3h 15m
Total Ascent: 1150ft
Highest Point: 1500ft
Total Distance: 6.3 miles
Location: N 47° 52.5120, W 121° 38.7900
Required Permit: Discover Pass
The slow recovery of a sprained ankle is keeping us from our usual lofty heights, but is also providing us with an opportunity to explore some hikes we would normally overlook. This week we made it out to Wallace Falls State Park to do a little tromping around. We have not been to a Washington State Park since we visited Olallie back in January – it was good to do a hike a little closer to civilization for a change.
Created in 1975, Wallace Falls State Park covers almost five thousand acres of mountains, lakes, and forest. The many features dubbed “Wallace” in the area were named for Joe and Sarah Kwayaylsh, Skykomish tribe members among the first homesteaders to settle nearby. Around the 1920’s the area was logged extensively and a railroad was built to haul timber back to Seattle. The tracks are long gone, but the grade remains and is a popular for biking and trail running.
The trail begins under buzzing powerlines, but quickly ducks beneath the shelter of second-generation forest. Shortly after entering the woods, the trail diverges; the old railroad grade veers left, and to the right the Woody Trail hop-scotches up the river stopping at prominent cascades along the way. The Woody Trail was named in honor of the late senator Frank Woody, who was a stalwart advocate for the Youth Corps that helped build the trail.
The winding path is short and well marked – a map indicating where you are at is occasionally posted along the trail and at picnic shelters near the falls. There are a few hills along the way, but they should not pose much of a challenge. The pounding of thousands of feet along this popular trail keeps the path flat and wide, and the constant vigilance of trail advocates keep it in good shape. Even on the chilly, rainy day we hiked this trail there were many other folks on it, so expect some company – though the close proximity to the river blankets most of the hike in the din of rushing water lending a feeling of isolation.
The falls themselves are impressive. Each of the lower, middle and upper falls are upwards of 200’ drops, creating an exciting scene. Often what you can see from the trail isn’t ideal, but closer looks require a precarious scramble out on slick rocks high above the river, which have been wisely barricaded behind railings and warning signs. Once you reach the upper falls, you have the option of taking the railroad grade back the parking lot, making the trip a loop.
This hike is absolutely accessible to the whole family and is great for a short jaunt out to see a little nature. Those looking for a hike should probably skip this for something a bit more challenging – this is more of a stroll – but it certainly has some big rewards for little effort. If you’re looking for something more, there is a lot of park to explore – a hike out to Wallace Lake, for instance, is a 12-mile commitment that might satisfy more adventurous appetites.
To get there, take Highway 2 east to Gold Bar and follow the copious signage directing you to take a left on First Street and beyond to Wallace Falls State Park. In recent years, the park was charging an entrance fee, though this practice seems to have gone by the wayside. Park and hit the trail! -Nathan
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