If you’re looking for a relatively easy hike near Seattle that doesn’t skimp on the view, look no further than this gem. While popular throughout the year, the winter months take Franklin Falls to a whole new level. Depending on where you begin, the trail will run you about 3 miles round trip. The elevation gain is fairly minimal, save for a few jaunts up (and down when you reach the falls), making this trail suitable for any skill level.
A few tips to make it a smooth trip //
- While I hate to start off on such a sour note, this situation was not only infuriating, but also incredibly dangerous, so it’s topping the list: Don’t attempt this drive without a proper vehicle. I repeat: DO NOT DRIVE YOUR HONDA CIVIC/SCION X-BOX/2-DOOR KIA/MINIVAN/CHRYLSER SEBRING/ETC.ETC. ON THIS FOREST ROAD. Not only will it be physically impossible for you to navigate the snowy, icy, one lane road, but you’ll give the rest of us a raging migraine while we wait nearly two hours for you and the rest of your ill-equipped vehicle compadres to get unstuck or maneuver around you while your car is sliding sideways. These roads are no joke — you need to be comfortable with (and skilled at) driving in snowy conditions. Two hours to drive 2.5 miles on a bluebird day is unacceptable. Either hitch a ride with someone with all-wheel drive, or hoof it from the bottom of the forest service road. End rant.
- Get an early start. Franklin Falls is off of exit 47 on I-90. We had no trouble with the above situation upon arrival (we reached the trailhead shortly before 8am). We were the first of a small handful of cars to arrive. Parking was a breeze. There was very little trail traffic at this point, so we got to enjoy the early hours of the morning without too many humans.
- Wear layers. As you can see, there’s a lot of snow right now. Temperatures are hanging right around the high twenties/low thirties, so dress warm. Once you’re moving, you’ll likely work up a sweat, so peeling outer and mid-layers off should make for easy climate control.
- Wear appropriate footwear. Waterproof hiking boots or snow boots with YakTrax or spikes were perfect for the terrain. It should go without saying that a snow-covered trail will be slick and wet and unpredictable. I can’t tell you how many silly humans I saw in Chuck Taylors, Vans slip-ons (this same guy was wearing SHORTS), and rain boots. If that’s how you roll, count on face planting at least once.
- Poles were helpful in a couple of areas, mainly the steep jaunt down to the falls.
- Stay up on your trail etiquette. It makes the journey so much more enjoyable (and safe) for everyone. And for the love, people…SMILE and SAY HELLO to fellow hikers. We’re all out here for the same incredible experience — let’s show one another our happiness.
- Know where you’re going. There are some misleading directions, so be sure to follow the appropriate ones in your appropriate snow vehicle in your appropriate footwear with your appropriate gear and your appropriate attitude. (Washington Trails Association is a great resource for trail conditions, directions, and reports)
For your preparedness, patience, politeness, and pizzazz, you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a waterfall…