There are many popular hikes in the greater Seattle area. Typically, the most popular ones are those closest to the city (makes sense). Those hikes closest to the city are also the ones that typically lose snow quickly due to their lower elevation. So for those of us who do not have easy access to snowshoes (yes, I know you can rent them, but that involves a lot of pre-thought), we’re kind of stuck doing these, shall I say, well-traveled hikes.
Don’t get me wrong, Wallace Falls is beautiful and absolutely worth seeing. I grew up doing Wallace Falls, so due to nostalgia, I still find it worth writing about, but be warned: parking is limited, especially on sunny weekends. Memorial Day Weekend a few years ago cars were parked a good mile away from the lot. The trail is full of people who are less-than-prepared (I kid you not, we saw someone hiking in Ugg boots) and ill-informed of trail etiquette. If that is a pet peeve of yours, then I’d say do the far-less traveled, longer (8-14 miles depending on route) Wallace Lake hike stemming from the same trailhead in times when options are limited due to snow (or travel further).
However, nostalgia combined with the fact I haven’t actually done the falls in years convinced me to join my friend Casey on this hike. If you do get a spot in the parking lot, there’s an actual bathroom (read: NOT a pit toilet!) and a kiosk to purchase one-day parking (similar to a meter you find for street parking in Seattle) for those who do not have a Discover Pass. Once you depart the parking lot for a very brief jaunt under power lines before entering the forest. When you do reach the multiple possible junctions with the trails to get to the lake, fear not, there are maps on signs to guide you (or just remember to keep right for the falls). As you begin the hike, you’re along a river, that minutes ago was water gushing down the falls. You can actually see the falls well from Highway 2, so it’s no surprise that there are multiple views of cascading water from various vantage points.
On this particular day, I did not escape the rain, but between the tree cover, a nice waterproof quick-drying hat, and my rain cover for my pack, we survived pretty dry still. The hike is more of a roller coaster than a hill, with many ups-and-downs in elevation. If you choose to do this hike with kids, it’s nice that there are so many little view points, some even with benches and one spot with covered picnic tables–if you need to turn around for whatever reason, you still get in plenty of views of the falls without going to the end of the hike. There are plenty of wooden bridges, but none seemed slick (or my hiking shoes just did their job).
As we climbed closer to the top of the falls, the sun started struggling to come out. The weather throughout all five-plus miles was typical Washington spring weather, which means anything and everything–hail, sprinkling rain, heavy rain, partly sunny, sun. There was one valley outlook next to the falls that I’m sure on a clear day one can see for miles, but thanks to the wind, we had a constantly changing view of mist, clouds, sun, and more clouds.
I don’t know if I would classify Wallace Falls as a good ‘rainy day’ hike or not, but it is great for those wanting to avoid snow and not travel too far from home.
Distance (according to WTA): 5.6 miles
Elevation (according to WTA): 1300 feet
Parking: Discover Pass or one-time $10 fee
Bathrooms: Flush toilets at trailhead