After hiking the waterfalls trails of Mount Rainier National Park this first Tuesday in June afternoon, we see that the WAZE GPS on my iPhone indicates we have 2+ hours of driving to our Comfort Inn and Suites in Everett, WA, north of Seattle. Of course we are dreaming if we think we are getting through Seattle during the evening rush hour without paying a price. Seattle is big time. Oh, except v. the New England Patriots! Ba-da-boom!
Of course, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC have horrible traffic. But today Seattle is holding its own at rush hour. Driving north on the I-405, we are three lanes of dreadlock with two HOV lanes racing by us. You see in Seattle, the HOV lanes often come with a price. Today it is $7.50 for the pleasure of whisking by us, the masses swamped in traffic. Such a monetary incentive helps with the traffic for the well-to-do. Today we are the well-to-don’t.
Finally enduring an hour of stop and no go, we arrive at our motel in Everett, WA, making it our base of operations for the next four days. It’s an ideal location as we seek out waterfalls in the mountains to the east and trails in the islands of Puget Sound to the north. At the same time, we will avoid the traffic congestion of the Seattle metro area by hiking north of the city.
Today we head out route 2 through the small towns of Monroe, Sultan, and Startup to our destination in Gold Bar, the home of the Wallace Falls State Park. Widely known in this part of the country, Wallace Falls has three dramatic falls, Lower, Middle, and Upper that are among the most popular in the state. It’s the first week of June so we find the parking lot 20% full. This would not be the case on the weekends in the summer. Mob city is what we hear.
Paying $10 to the state of Washington gives us the golden opportunity to hike the trails past these falls. Our hike begins on a wide hard packed gravelly trail under massive high tension towers. But that’s only for a few hundred yards before we turn left into the forest on the Woody Trail.
It is the evergreen of this Evergreen State. The massive cedars, the spring green rampant ferns, and the well maintained trails give off a Disney vibe, in all the best sense of the word: well-cared for, organized, and prepared for visitors.
The lushness distracts us from the 1300’ of elevation gain that we will have over the next three miles. With three previous days of hiking in Washington State in the books, I continue to ice my left Achilles and do the stair exercises to strengthen it. Though Hannah hikes ahead, no longer does my Achilles feel tender; I just know it’s there.
The trail is usually hard-packed dirt but with the constant climb, we step over and on rocks and roots in the trail. No lie, it’s a workout, but one with a big payoff.
With the sound of crashing water in the distance, we come upon the first of three dramatic falls, the Lower Falls. With our grandson Owen’s Woodstock and Max’s Blue Elephant along for the hike, we have the joy of the Lower Falls to share with them.
Though we are joined by families and college kids in groups, we are never slowed in our climb up and feel the joyous nature of hikers knowing how fortunate they are. Heading up the mountainside of Mount Stickney, we arrive at the fencing at the overlook to the thundering Middle Falls.
The climb is relentless, there is no getting around the 1300’ of elevation gain. Stepping over and on stones and roots, we can just imagine how busy these trails are on the weekends. We celebrate with a pear and oranges upon our arrival at the Upper Falls.
The well-maintained part of the trail ends at this point as we follow the blue blazes of the rougher, steep trail further up the mountain to the railroad trail. There we have a 100 yard walk to the bridge across the falling Wallace River. Beyond is a sign saying that you are leaving Wallace Falls State Park and with no longer any trail maintenance. Heading back to the trailhead, we have no interest in bushwhacking, as we have taken 90 minutes to get to this point.
On our descent, we wonder how this hike is only rated 4.05 out of 5. It is stunning and worth the trip from Seattle, as long as you avoid the weekends. It’s a 5.0 of 5! Absolutely!
Click here for more details of the Wallace Falls trail.