Day Trip Discoveries: Waterfall hikes are most spectacular in spring

Wallace Falls

Enjoy hiking and want a waterfall view as your reward?

Snohomish County has more than 20 spectacular waterfalls that can be viewed on hikes in its Cascade foothills. And spring is the best time to see these waterfalls, rushing and roaring with rain and snow melt run-off.

Two of the most popular waterfalls are both readily reached from trailheads just off Highway 2. Wallace Falls is a dramatically narrow waterfall north of Gold Bar. Bridal Veil Falls puts on its lacey show south of Index. Hike through old-growth forests, enjoy river valley views and be rewarded with stunning waterfall displays at each.

One of the best-known waterfalls in the North Cascades, Wallace Falls is actually several falls. Its upper — and most spectacular — portion plunges 265 feet into a watery amphitheater, then drops over additional tiers of 81 and 25 feet. At the trail’s top, a fenced viewpoint lets you get a close-up view of the upper falls above and a birds-eye view as they hurtle downward.

Drive to Wallace Falls State Park to begin your hike at the trailhead. Arrive early because the trailhead parking lot can fill up, especially on weekends. A Washington State Discover Pass is required.

Wallace Falls, lower falls.

Begin gentle hiking on the trail through old-growth forests, which become increasingly moss-draped as you gain about 1,300 feet in elevation total. At the middle falls, you’ll see impressive views of both the cascading waterfall and the Skykomish Valley below.

Keep hiking upward — the trail’s steepest part — to conquer a half-mile of switchbacks that lead to the upper falls. Here you’re rewarded with a stupendous view of Wallace Falls’ cascading glory.

The trail to Wallace Falls is 5.5 miles round trip and ranked a moderate, family-friendly hike accessible year-round. Dogs are permitted on leash.

Bridal Veil Falls is also a series of waterfalls that flow out of cliff-ringed Lake Serene into the Skykomish River Valley. Its most impressive section features a 150-foot-wide drop with four tiers. The falls form wispy “veils” of cascading water over sheer granite, the most spectacular one plunging 322 feet. Majestic Mount Index looms to the southeast.

Part of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Bridal Veil Falls is a 4.4-mile roundtrip hike– or 7.2 miles roundtrip if you hike onward to Lake Serene and back. The hike begins at a trailhead signed for Lake Serene, off graveled Mount Index Road.

Initially you follow an abandoned road that ascends gradually through moss-draped maples to become a forest trail. At about 1½ miles, the trail forks — take the right fork to climb through a steep rocky stretch toward Bridal Veil Falls. You’ll encounter stair-steps and short switchbacks to reach the viewing areas, which often greet hikers with spray from the falls.

The views are truly stunning. At one spot, you can look up a 100-foot rock face at the streams of watery “veil” cascading down close by. Take extra care with children here.

Bridal Veil Falls is ranked a moderately difficult, kid-friendly hike with 850 feet in elevation gain (1,900 feet if you go on to Lake Serene). Its hiking season is May to November, a Northwest Forest Pass is required, and dogs are permitted on leash. Trailhead parking is limited, so go early or on a weekday if possible.

View at Lake Twentytwo’s outlet. (Photo by Taum Sauk)

On the Mountain Loop Highway near Verlot, the Lake Twentytwo hike offers multiple waterfalls. You pass a series of them hiking to the alpine lake, and then enjoy a stunning view of plumes cascading off Mount Pilchuck’s sheer northern face, the lake’s backdrop.

This hike takes you through wetlands, rainforests and open spaces with mountain views on clear days. It traverses one of the most impressive stands of primeval forest in the region, protected from logging in the 790-acre Research Natural Area. Some of the huge western red cedars measure almost 12 feet in diameter.

You begin the 5.4-mile round-trip hike in forested wetlands and cross small shallow creeks; wear waterproof boots. In a half mile, you cross a little bridge from which you have a view of Twentytwo Creek Falls. Then begin a steady but not too steep ascent, gaining 1,350 feet total in elevation when you reach Lake Twentytwo.

Midway to the lake, you leave the forest and cross a talus slope with views of Whitehorse Mountain and Three Fingers on clear days. Reenter forested terrain and arrive at Lake Twentytwo in its pristine alpine cirque, punctuated by spectacular waterfalls.

Lake Twentytwo is best hiked May to November. A 1.2-mile trail circles the lake, but wait to mid-summer to take it; snow and avalanches off Mt. Pilchuck’s north face pose dangers earlier in the year. The trail is family-friendly, requires a Northwest Forest Pass, and dogs are permitted on leash.

Details: (scroll down for maps and driving directions on the websites)

Wallace Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Lake Twentytwo

Snohomish County waterfalls

— By Julie Gangler

Julie - headshot 2013

Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.

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