Our Hiking Time: 2h 30m
Total Ascent: 900ft
Highest Point: 3400ft
Total Distance: 3.8 miles
Location: N 47° 2.3820, W 121° 33.1860
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
With the sun making an appearance, this week we decided to head back out to SR 410 to explore Snoquera Falls. This gentle 4-mile loop to a somewhat secluded waterfall with only moderate elevation gains was exactly the speed we were looking for.
Snoquera Falls is situated near a Boy Scouts of America campground now known as Camp Sheppard. But, before Harry J. Sheppard purchased the land from the federal government in 1947, it was a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) basecamp. From this site, the CCC built roads and structures in Mt. Rainier National Park as well as the Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The men serving in the camp dubbed it “Snoquera” a combination of Snoqualmie and the Employment Recovery Act (ERA) that paid their wages. Even before the Great Depression, beginning in the 1890s, the area was a regular stop along the wagon road leading up to Starbo Copper Mine, which pulled metal out of Mt. Rainier for over 50 years.
The trail begins at the Camp Sheppard parking lot, immediately plunging into the forest and weaving through the outskirts of the camp. Ignore the amphitheater and nature trail, and instead push on to the signed trail junction less than a quarter-mile down the path. We recommend taking a right for a counter-clockwise approach to this loop – mostly because you get to the waterfall a little faster this way. Despite being a little rocky and narrow, the trail is well-maintained and free of blow downs. On our trip out, we passed trail crews hard at work repairing damage from a rockslide near the falls.
Travel beneath mossy, second-generation forest and through the occasional talus field as you switchback up the trail. Once you reach the falls, you have a choice: you can continue over the creek to a rough path hugging the cliffside up to the base of the waterfall or you can watch the water tumble hundreds of feet down the rock face from a distance. Up close it’s difficult to get a feeling for the waterfall as a whole, but what you can get near is worth the extra effort. There’s enough room at the top to have a snack, enjoy the crashing water, and look out over a sea of evergreens stretching out into the distance. Keep in mind that Snoquera Falls are snow-driven, and during high summer they will be reduced to a trickle, and will not be as impressive as they are during the spring and fall.
This was a great hike that we would recommend to almost anyone. It’s not often that such an impressive waterfall is so easily accessible – although the short route up to the base of the falls is a bit of a scramble. The short climb up to the base of the falls somehow feels much more remote than it actually is. As an added bonus, you can hike this trail nearly year-round, with the falls putting on a different show depending on the season. A popular destination for sledding in the winter and camping in the summer, you can minimize the company by trying this hike in the spring.
To get there, take I-5 south to Highway 18 Exit 142A. Follow Highway 18 into Auburn and take the SR 164 exit. Head left on SR 164 through Enumclaw to SR 410. Head left onto SR 410 for 32 miles to Camp Sheppard just past the Dalles campground. -Nathan
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