Project Nature Blog

Seven Waterfall Hikes for the PNW Family

Some of the best hikes in the PNW include waterfalls for an experience that include all of your senses and inspirational views. Pack up your little hiking partner(s) for a spectacular experience with our list of waterfall hikes for the entire family. Do check Washington Trails Assocation’s trip reports before heading out to check current conditions and never head into the direct stream of a large waterfall to avoid potentially dangerous loose rocks. When wading into shallow pools of water, check for animals and wear sturdy shoes while also keeping a close eye on children. 

Twin Falls

Distance: 3 miles round-trip, 500 feet elevation gain

Conditions: Call 360-902-8844 and check conditions and trip reports on the WTA website

Directions: Drive I-90 east to exit 34 and turn right (south) on 468th Ave. S.E. After half a mile, turn left onto S.E. 159th and continue another half mile to the trailhead. A Discover Pass is required to park.

Ideal for: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids

Twin Falls is a popular family hike with falls that are inspirational year-round. Just 45 minutes away, this hike can be easily accomplished in an afternoon. Kids will love foraging for salmonberries along the conifer forest path which heads alongside the Snoqualmie River’s south fork. The first viewpoint comes up quickly at three-quarters of a mile on the trail and can be a good turn-around spot fo little legs. Continue up another mile for a high footbridge over the river between the two waterfalls. Head down stairs to the lower falls viewpoint while enjoying views of the upper falls. 

Wallace Falls

Distance: 4.8 miles round-trip, 700 feet elevation gain

Conditions: Check conditions and trip reports at WTA.

Directions: From Everett, take US 2 east for 28 miles into the small town of Gold Bar. Turn left onto First street, the signed turnoff for Wallace Falls State Park (it is just before milepost 28.) At a four-way stop, turn right onto May Creek Road and drive 1.5 miles to Wallace Falls State Park. A Discover Pass is required to park.

Ideal for: Energetic preschoolers and older kids

Wallace Falls is one of Washington’s most stunning waterfalls with a trail guaranteed to wear out the kids. The steps, turnpikes and switchbacks were mainly built by high-school kids and provide a great path to the top. The upper, middle and lower falls are a dramatic 265 vertical feet high. The trail begins beneath power lines but on a clear day provide a view of Baring Mountain and Mt. Index. Make sure to take a right onto Woody Trail through a fern-shrouded hemlock forest about 1.75 miles to the lower falls. The path will become mostly stairs and switchbacks at this point up to the middle falls viewpoint and turn-around spot. There is a great picnic shelter right before the middle falls which is the ideal point for lunch. 

Franklin Falls 

Distance: 2 miles round-trip, 400 foot elevation gain

Conditions: Check conditions and trip reports at WTA.

Directions: Interstate 90 east to Denny Creek Exit #47; Follow the signs to Franklin Falls. A National Forest Pass is required.

Ideal for: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids

Located in Snoqualmie Pass, Franklin Falls is a fantastic hike for families with young children. The short and gentle climb ends with a fantastic waterfall. The trail starts just outside of Denny Creek Campground. The extensive trail work done by the WTA means that the trail is pretty safe for even the littlest hikers. Children will need help on the last rocky, narrow trail gouged into the side of the rock, beneath the falls where the stones can get slippery. The falls are actually three separate tiers with a total drop of 135 feet, but only the last drop can be seen from the trail. At 70 feet, the last tier of Franklin Falls is a beautiful sight.

Snoqualmie Falls

Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip, 250 feet elevation gain

Directions: Interstate 90 east to Highway 18 west

Ideal for: Babies in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids. This is one hike that is great for all ages including elderly grandparents. 

The short wide, gravel trail is a great and easy way to get close to the majestic Snoqualmie Falls. The interpretive trail starts at the upper falls viewpoints and continues to the lower falls viewpoint for a great family- and pet-friendly hike. Start at the railed Falls Viewpoint and head down the walkway, make a right and then a left turn to head behind the gift shop and visitor center. Just across the map kiosk is the trail start. You’ll descend approximately for about 0.4 miles. Once at the bottom of the hill, the trail heads past the lower parking lot to a boardwalk along the river. The final, flat 0.3 miles provides a stunning view of the 1000 cubic-feet of water per second that flows from the Snoqualmie River into the 268-foot drop of Snoqualmie Falls. This massive amount of water energy provides electricity for Puget Sound Energy from the hydroelectric plant that has been in place since 1898. 

Boulder River 

Distance: Up to 8.5 miles round-trip, 700 feet elevation gain

Conditions: Check conditions and trip reports at WTA.

Directions: From I-5 take exit 208 onto Hwy 530 and head east toward Arlington. Stay on 530 through Arlington. At 23.6 miles from I-5, turn right onto French Creek Road, just after milepost 41. Follow French Creek Road on good gravel to its end at the trailhead. No parking pass is required.

Ideal for: Wee ones in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids

This gentle hike with three waterfalls and breathtaking river views provide a fun hike with log bridge crossings, rocks and an opportunity to wade in the river. The majestic old-growth forest filled with wildflowers, salmonberries and ferns provide a delightful trail. The Feature Show waterfall has twin ribbons of water-flowing down a mossy rock wall into Boulder River. The last waterfall is at 1.5 miles and is a great place to turn around if hiking with littles. If your hikers are feeling energetic, continue another three miles to the popular picnic spot along the river. You’ll find lush, old-growth forests, sword ferns, cedars and lots of waterfalls along this trail. 

Bridal Veil Falls

Distance: 4.4 miles round-trip, 850 feet elevation gain

Conditions: Check conditions and trip reports at WTA.

Directions: From Everett, take US 2 east for 28 miles to the small town of Gold Bar, then continue 7 miles more. Just before the highway crosses over the Skykomish River, take a right onto Mt. Index Road. After .4 miles on this road, take a right onto a side road signed “Lake Serene Trail.” The parking area is just ahead, and Northwest Forest Pass is required to park.

Ideal for: Ambitious, sure-footed kids ready to travel over rocky streams and up steeper inclines.

The draping waterfalls on this trail resemble a tiered bridal veil and provide a refreshing, misty spray. Pack your rain jackets even on sunny days as you’re sure to get wet below the falls. The beginning of this path is along a gentle old logging road with a mossy forest of conifers, maple and alder. Bring waterproof boots or shoes as you’ll cross a few gentle streams. After 2 miles, you’ll encounter .5 miles of steep switchbacks and cedar stair steps to arrive at the first viewing platform. Continue up more stair steps to a higher viewing platform and then come back the way you came. Remind kids of safety rules near the falls and keep them close. 

Myrtle Falls 

Distance: 1 mile round-trip, 100 feet elevation gain

Conditions: Monitor conditions at this webcam or Mount Rainier National Park’s website.

Directions: The Paradise area and its surrounding trailheads are about 2.5 hours from Seattle. Take I-5 south to Tacoma, then drive east on SR 7 to Elbe. From there, continue on SR 706 through Ashford to the Nisqually Entrance to the park, where you must pay the entrance fee. After entering the park, continue on Paradise Road heading east all the way to the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center and Paradise Inn. The trailhead is located on the north side of the upper parking lot.

Ideal for: Everyone! Stroller and wheelchair friendly

Head to Mount Rainier for amazing views, beautiful waterfall trails and lush wildflower fields. Myrtle Falls is an easy trail, accessible to everyone. Kids will love the whistling marmots and views of real glaciers. Parents will enjoy the ambling path and gorgeous view of Myrtle Falls. The path begins on the northeast edge of Paradise Inn. Head along the trail and make sure to pause to check out the wildflowers. Cross a sturdy footbridge directly above the silky cascade of the falls for a spectacular view. Stay on the trail bridge to look directly down onto the falls, or find the spur trail nearby that takes you down for a closer look. The pavement ends just past the waterfall. For hikers who want more of a challenge, continue on the Skyline Trail (5.5 miles round trip, 1700 feet elevation gain) as it climbs to a high overlook of Paradise Valley. 

By Rebecca Mongrain