Wallace Falls Hike
Sunday July 15th 2007
This is a GREAT hike! It is not very long, the trail is not too hard, the waterfalls are fantastic, and it is under shady trees the entire way. Plus, it is relatively close to Seattle, and since it is a state park (instead of on National Forest land) no forest pass is needed for the parking lot.
Melanie and I must have gotten an early start, because there was no one on the trail ahead of us. We walked all the way to the end, up to the Upper Falls, without passing a soul. But we must have been just ahead of the pack, because we saw plenty of people on the way down. A trail this nice deserves a big population of visitors. If we have any out of town guests who like to hike come for a visit, this is the place to go (or else, the hike to Twin Falls is also ideal.) It must have rained a bit the night before; Melanie commented about how clean and fresh the forest air felt. But the well maintained trail was fine - no sign of mud any where.
The trail begins from a large parking lot and starts alongside the Wallace river. Lots of moss covered trees along the river, lots of ferns all over the grown. The first section of the trail is flat - apparently it follows the route of an old logging railroad. The railroad was just a spur that climbed up the hill, it was used to haul down giant logs. The railroad track is long gone, now the railroad grade is a wide hiking trail, with mountain biking permitted.
Not long into the hike, the trail splits. The hiking trail drops down and continues to follow along side the river, the biking trail continues up along the railroad grade toward Wallace Lake. We followed the trail along the river. Not too long into the hike is a bridge over the North Fork of the Wallace River, which drains from Wallace Lake (I think). The falls are on the South Fork, which apparently has greater water flow. The Lower Falls is a bit further along trail, after a bit of a short climb. If you get tired any where on this hike, don't worry - there seemed to be an extraordinary number of benches along the trail for resting. There is a shelter at Lower Falls, any one who hauled all their picnic gear to the site had a wonderful place to enjoy their lunch. There is a cascade just above the Lower Falls, and another drop below the Lower Falls. There are steep slippery cliffs, so they have put up some fences, along with signs with helpful messages like "Falling can be dangerous".
The Middle Falls is the most spectacular. It is visible from Route 2, which is probably why the trail is so popular. Although we saw the falls in middle of summer, there was still a huge volume of water in the falls. This must really be a spectacular waterfall in mid rainy season! The Middle Falls is 265 feet tall. Because we were the first people on the trail that morning, we had no trouble enjoying the view, but apparently it can get pretty crowded along the fence on nice summer days.
The last section of the trail up to the Upper Falls is rated strenous. There are several switchbacks. At one point, the trail gives you a bit of view of the top of the Middle Falls. This is the only point on the trail where the trees open up enough to allow you to see across the valley. The Upper Falls at the end of the trail. Apparently, there is a route (but not a path) that can be taken from the Upper Falls to Wallace Lake - there is also a sign with a newspaper story about 2 young women who got lost trying to take that route and ended up lost for 2 days in the forest (why not just head downhill??).
We took the branch to the railroad grade on our way back down. There are several signs along the path describing the logging activities of the previous century. The "ruins" of the trestle bridge are just a couple of undistinguished logs stuck into the ground - it must have been one wobbly trestle. The whole round trip is about 6 miles, and the elevation gain is less than 1500 feet. It was an excellent experience.
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