A snowy endeavor in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
This weekend we headed to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to visit Franklin Falls. Located along I-90, just before the slopes of Snoqualmie Pass, it’s about an hour’s drive from Seattle. This is one of the most visited waterfalls in the state. It’s easy to understand why once you see it.
The Parking Situation
It was a mess. At least when we visited. The area was full of snow and the road was plowed just enough for two vehicles to barely pass side by side. After driving about a mile down NF-5800 is when cars began parking on the side of the road. We continued driving, not knowing what to expect. We assumed the parking lot was obviously full but figured we’d drive up to it and then turn around at that point and find a spot on the side of the road heading back, like the rest of the people. We never reached the parking lot.
Turns out the road was closed a bit further up. Well, technically not closed, just not plowed. Luckily for us there was one spot on the side of the road available right at the end there. We parked and headed out on foot.
We ended up parking a little over a 1/2 mile from the trailhead. We walked along the knee-deep, snow covered road. We passed Denny Creek Campground on our left. There were plenty of others out there; a lot of them wearing snowshoes. We had our regular hiking boots which, for the most part, worked fine.
Shortly after passing the campground there was a second road to the left. Some people headed that way, others went straight. We didn’t see any signs and decided to go straight. Turns out that the trailhead was down the road to the left. Luckily for us, going straight eventually met back up with the trail about 1/2 mile down. We finally got off the road and onto the trail. It was about another 1/2 mile to the falls from here.
When we arrived the precipitation was rain mixed with snow, before long turning to steady snow. The trail was not bad despite the deep snow. The temperature was hovering right around freezing or just above. This made for some slippery spots as the top layer of snow had some melt and slush. Mostly we tried to stay in the visible footprints before us. The tricky parts were when stepping aside for others to pass and sinking up to our knees or more.
We had peek-a-boo views of the South Fork Snoqualmie River along the latter part of the trail and crossed over a few creeks.
There were dogs and children and numerous other people coming and going on the trail. The descent just before the falls, maybe the last 200 feet was a bit treacherous. It was quite slippery and narrow.
There were some parents with small children returning from the falls up this slippery part and they truly struggled. Between poor footing and trying to keep the little ones upright, it wasn’t fun to watch. One mom said, “We got in over our heads bringing kids.” We smiled and gave them a wide berth to pass. All the dogs we saw seemed to be having the time of their lives. Leaping and yipping and running. Some of the dogs were on tethers, but many were not. There were plenty of spots of yellow snow along the way, presumably from all the dogs.
This is a three-tier falls but only the last tier is visible. Still pretty spectacular as it’s a 70-foot fall. We’ve seen many photos of the falls and the more recent ones showing long, majestic icicles. The temperature was warmer while we were there. While there was plenty of ice, honestly we were a bit disappointed that it wasn’t like the pictures we’d seen. We don’t want to downplay it, Franklin Falls is beautiful. We’re just spoiled :) We’ll return some time when the temperatures are colder.
We hung around at the bottom near the falls for about 10 minutes, took pictures and investigated as much as seemed safe. There were probably 15 other people here, so taking pictures was a bit tricky. The snow was falling vigorously now and the hike in had left us rather wet. Before we got too cold we started back. The hike back was uneventful.
There’s something peaceful about trekking through falling snow, at least if you’re properly equipped. The snow covered trees and snow packed trail made for serene surroundings. The fall is sizable in height and dumps a significant amount of water to the pool below. The icicles along the periphery are a beautiful blue hue.
This was a great hike. We’d have done well to bring micro-spikes for our shoes, but even without those we made it. This is a heavily trafficked area, so not really a place to go for solitude. Parking was a chore and leaving was tricky as people seemed almost oblivious to our vehicle.
All that aside, the positives far outweigh any hardship with this hike. We loved it. The snow on the ground, the snow falling from above, a beautiful waterfall and people and pets all around enjoying the wonder that is Washington! Go, chase this waterfall!
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