Tin Cup Joe Falls

Follow this challenging route up to a hidden and impressive set of waterfalls.
Total Distance: 4.2 miles
Total Ascent: 700ft (600ft in; 100ft out)
Highest Point: 2100ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Our Hiking Time: 3h 30m
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
To get there, take Exit 34 off I-90 and take a left on 468th Ave. Follow the road past the truck stop for about a half-mile until you reach SE Middle Fork Road, also known as Forest Road 56. Turn right and follow the road for a few twists and turns, keeping left when the road splits. After 2.2 miles reach SE Dorothy Lake Road. Take a left, passing the Mailbox Peak Trailhead as you continue 9.9 miles past the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trailhead and across the Taylor River to the junction with FR 5620 (unsigned). Take a sharp right and follow the pothole ridden gravel road 5.4 miles to the Dingford Creek Trailhead. View Google Directions >>
Elusive and a little tricky to find, Tin Cup Joe Falls is a spectacular set of cascades perfect for veterans of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley looking for adventure. The bootpath up to the falls is unmarked and sometimes a little difficult to follow, but the effort to trek up to the falls is well rewarded. From the Dingford Creek Trailhead, drop down to the bridge spanning the Middle Fork and connect to the well-maintained and much loved Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trail #1003. Veer right and follow the trail through the mossy forest for 1.3 miles, crossing over a few boardwalks to arrive at Cripple Creek. Take a few minutes to enjoy the small cascade here and note the Cripple Creek sign before crossing the bridge. Here, on the west side of the bridge you should be able to make out the faint indications of a bootpath leading steeply up the hill, paralleling the creek. Break out the hiking poles and begin your ascent, keeping an eye out for the subtle signs of well-worn vegetation.

While the route is frequently marked with florescent tags, they’re not always there or easy to find. There will be time that the trail will completely disappear or take short detours around blowdowns. When in doubt, follow the creek and the path of least resistance and you’ll find that the path generally reappears. As you continue push upward, a distant roar will begin to grow and after .75 miles of climbing you’ll glimpse a set of falls crashing down over an exposed headwall.

It’s big, loud and dramatic, but this first waterfall only drops about 50 feet. As impressive as it is from the creek level, there’s more here than meets the eye. Big waterfalls lurk in the trees above that are difficult to see from this angle. To reach them, circle wide and scramble up the rocks above short falls to a large rocky plateau. From here, water gushes off 200’ cliffs from three separate channels invisible from the creek below. This little alcove of amazing waterfalls is among the most impressive we’ve ever seen. Take a few minutes to explore the different channels to get the best vantage point to take in the show.

The route up to Tin Cup Joe Falls is sometimes labeled the Derrick Lake Trail, as some adventurous souls scramble about 2000’ up the cliffs to reach Derrick Lake, which feeds the leftmost of Tin Cup Joe’s waterfalls. If you’re looking to give it a try, cross Cripple Creek at the lower falls and look for a path heading up, up, up.

We highly recommend this hike. Although it’s a little rough, most hikers should be able to make it up to the falls if they’re comfortable with a few blowdowns and a little route finding and There’s no serious risk of getting turned around and lost with the creek as your guide, and the elevation gain is significant enough to feel, but not insurmountable. At the same time there are steep, slippery section of trail that hikers should be careful navigating. Note that If the Dingford Creek Trailhead is not accessible, Tin Cup Joe Falls can also be reached from the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trailhead. While the trailhead is much easier to reach, this approach adds a heaping 6.8 miles of hiking to your day. If you have the time or just want the extra trail time, cross the Gateway Bridge and head left, following the Middle Fork Snoqualmie #1003 as it works its way beneath the heavy forest canopy to Cripple Creek.

History

The falls are found on Cripple Creek as waters flow out of Derrick Lake down to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Cripple Creek was known as Tin Cup Joe Creek back in the 1890’s, when mining was big in the Middle Fork Valley. Local miners evidently named the creek in honor of a roving prospector. Later, for reasons we were not able to dig up, it was renamed Cripple Creek. Today, those hiking along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trail #1003 cross the signed Cripple Creek as they continue on to Goldmyer Hot Springs.
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