Don’t pack up the hiking boots yet. There are still some lower elevation trails out there that are usually snow-free and are perfect for a December hike. It’s also the perfect time to take on some of the trails that are so packed in the summer, you need to be at the trailhead by dawn to get a parking spot. Case in point: Wallace Falls. Located in Gold Bar, a relatively short drive up U.S. Route 2, this gorgeous hike is a cattle trail in summer and fall, but is perfect for a winter hike. The elevation gain is mild, only 1,300 feet. It’s good for all ages too. The hike to the Lower Falls is fairly easy, but those looking for more challenge can do the final switchbacks up to the Upper Falls. They’ll be rewarded for their efforts!
The trailhead starts from Wallace Falls State Park (just a couple of miles off of U.S. Route 2), where a ranger station (with gift shop!) and well-maintained restrooms will welcome you. The first section of the trail is a wide gravel road. You’ll pass through a field with some not-so-scenic power lines and towers that will have you questioning your choice of trail - not to worry. You’ll quickly pass into the forest and be greeted by a sign with an inspirational quote from Wordsworth: “Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.” While the trail has a few spurs, stick to the well-marked Woody Trail for the best views. (The Old Railroad Grade trail is more for mountain bikers). You’ll follow the Wallace River, a tributary of the Skykomish River. There is a great view with sign where the North Fork and the Main Fork of the Wallace River come together - it’s even more impressive when the water is really flowing as it is now and in early spring.
The trail winds its way along the river and with several footbridges (watch your step, they are slippery when wet) and up to the Lower Falls, where there is a picnic shelter and nice views. If you’re up for it, press on to the Middle Falls, which has better views of the 265 foot falls. If it’s a clear day, you’ll also get some great views of the valley from several points. You’ll see why this hike is one of the most popular on Instagram - the waterfall is absolutely stunning. Looking for even a little more thigh burn? Head on up the switchbacks for the final push to the end of the trail: Upper Falls, 2.7 miles from the trailhead. Here you can see the small Upper Falls which empties into a small clear pool before the big plunge that the crowds come to see.
This hike also makes for a great stop on the way to Stevens Pass or Leavenworth. You’ll be making the most of the mountains before the snow really hits.
Discovery Pass Required. Keep the dogs on leashes here - some have been known to go over the falls when looking for a swim.