Our Hiking Time: 2h 15m
Total Ascent: 400ft
Highest Point: 2500ft
Total Distance: 5 miles
Location: N 47° 3.0240, W 121° 34.5540
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Over the years, we’ve driven down Highway 410 many, many times. On almost all of these excursions, we pass the little roadside pullout perched on the banks of the White River. Invariably, the viewpoint is populated with a few parked cars and some curious travelers craning to get a good look at Skookum Falls as it tumbles 250ft over a cliff and down toward the river. Recently, we decided it was time to stop passing the waterfall by and finally went to get a closer look, along the Skookum Flats Trail #1194.
“Skookum” is a popular adjective in Chinook Jargon. It can mean many different things depending on the context, though it is usually positive. Associated with strength and power, it is likely that the waterfall was named for its height and impressive flow during the annual snowmelt. For veterans of this trail, the suspension bridge that once connected Skookum Flats to the Buck Creek Trail #1169 is still out. The Forest Service has yet to replace the bridge since it was destroyed by a storm in the winter of 2006.
The route meanders alongside the White River on its way to Skookum Creek. As the name suggests, Skookum Flats involves little in the way of elevation gain, instead it takes a hiker on a gentle tour beneath looming Douglas fir, past mossy rocks and fallen trees, while providing ample opportunity to take in the river and the Snoquera Palisades. The popular trail is wide and flat, free of rocks and roots. Its popularity also ensures that windfalls and debris felled by the storms that frequent the area are quickly removed.
At about the two-mile mark, the sound of rushing water begins to overpower the noise of the river. Catch glimpses of falling water through the leaves as you approach Skookum Creek. Just across the water, a sign points uphill with the simple word “Falls.” The bootpath up to the base of the Skookum Falls is rough and spray from the falls can make the path slick. Use caution if you choose to get a closer look. If you’re craving some more distance, you can continue on another two miles to the end of the trail and the site of the bridge washout.
The low elevation of this trail makes it an ideal hike in the winter when other trails are buried under the snow. However, if you want to see the waterfall flowing in full force, you’re better off coming in the late spring during the melt. Of course, the ease of this trail makes it a good choice for young hikers as well as trail running. If you’re heading out to Skookum Flats, keep in mind the trail also very popular with mountain bikers, so be ready to share the trail during the summer.
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 25 miles to Huckleberry Creek Road (FR 73). Turn right onto FR 73 and follow for a half-mile to the trailhead on the left just beyond the bridge. -Nathan
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