As one of northwest Washington’s most popular outdoor destinations, the Wallace Falls Trail—located within Wallace Falls State Park just outside the town of Gold Bar—offers hikers a challenging yet rewarding journey through some of the most stunning scenery in the region.
Climbing roughly 1,300 feet over four miles of well-maintained pathways, the trail hugs the Wallace River, taking hikers past nine distinct waterfalls to a breathtaking summit with panoramic views of the Skyhomish valley.
Wallace Falls Trail History
Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, a substantial portion of the trail is made up of the Wallace Falls Railway Trail, which once saw thousands of logging trains operated by the Great Northern Railroad hauling timber to lumber mills in the region. In 1900, lumber magnate Friedrich Weyerhaeuser acquired 900,000 acres of land from the railroad as the site for the newly-founded Weyerhaeuser Timber Company.
The State of Washington later purchased some of the land, establishing Wallace Falls State Park in 1977. In addition to more than 12 miles of hiking trails, the park offers camping, boating, swimming, fishing, rock climbing and birdwatching opportunities.
Getting to the Trail
To access the park from the Seattle metro area, take I-5 north to Everett and go east on Highway 2 toward to the town of Gold Bar. Take a left onto 1st Street and go four-tenths of a mile to May Creek Road, where you’ll take a right. You should see several signs along the way for Wallace Falls confirming you’re on the correct route.
Once on May Creek Road, proceed 1.3 miles to a Y-intersection. The right fork leads to Camp Huston, while the left fork leads directly into the parking area for Wallace Falls State Park. Plenty of parking is available, but the park tends to be quite busy on the weekends during tourist season, so plan accordingly and arrive early. Do not park along the roadway leading to the parking lot.
Park Facilities and Regulations
The park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk year-round. Visitors are required to purchase a Discover Pass, which permits vehicle access to state parks and recreation lands managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Passes are $10 per day or $30 for an annual pass and may be purchased in a kiosk in the parking lot.
Bathroom facilities are also located adjacent to the parking lot, as well as near the 1.5 mile marker on the Woody Trail.
Be sure to take some time to browse the information located at the kiosks near the bathroom. You’ll learn about the species of trees you’ll spot along the trail, including Western hemlock, Douglas fir and Pacific yew.
You aren’t likely to see an abundance of wildflowers, but edible berries are common along the trail, especially blackberries, red huckleberries, salmonberries and thimbleberries. Several types of ferns, including deer ferns, Western sword ferns and licorice ferns, also thrive in the region.
Dogs are allowed in the park and on the trails at Wallace Falls but must remain on a leash at all times, and this rule is strictly enforced with a significant fine. Pet owners who have failed to obey this policy in the past have resulted in multiple unleashed dogs falling or jumping into the falls and being swept into the water, so for the safety of your pet and other visitors, please respect this guideline.
Navigating the Wallace Falls Trail
Despite its significant elevation gain, Wallace Falls Trail is accessible to hikers of all experience levels. Volunteers from the Washington Trail Association keep the footpath clean and well-maintained, and the views along the way are well worth the challenges posed by the few brief rugged sections.
The trailhead is located just off the parking lot between the information booth and restrooms. You’ll stroll beneath a set of large power lines and bear left into a dense thicket of ancient hemlocks and other trees.
The trail splits at the half-mile marker, with the right fork leading to the pedestrian-only Woody Trail and the left fork heading to the bike-friendly paths of the old Railroad Grade. To conquer the renowned Wallace Falls Trail experience, you’ll take the path on the right.
The Woody Trail winds alongside the wide, dynamic Wallace River, where you’re likely to see fly fishermen casting their lines and visitors relaxing on benches near the shoreline. As the trail parts from the river’s edge, it grows steeper, but footing remains relatively steady. You’ll cross several sturdy wooden bridges and log rails to navigate smaller tributaries of the river and pass the routes leading to the park’s amphitheater and Railroad Grade trail.
Just shy of two miles into the hike, you’ll arrive at the Lower Falls picnic area, which is a good spot to rest, refuel and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the lush forest dotted with ferns, salal and Oregon grape plants. A break in the trees offers excellent views of the cascading water, and a covered picnic shelter with several tables is the perfect setting for lunch or snacks.
Once you’re ready to keep moving, the next trail segment takes you about three-tenths of a mile to the Middle Falls, which features the trail’s most spectacular panoramic views. The trail continues to gradually ascend until a break in the trees reveals the thundering waters of the 275-foot Middle Falls as well as spectacular panoramic views of the valley below.
While some visitors call it quits at the Middle Falls, the most adventurous hikers can continue on to the trail’s summit, traversing steep grades and a half-mile of grueling switchbacks to reach the Upper Falls. When you see the “Valley Overlook” sign, you can step off the path to catch your breath on the tiered benches and take in the view of the Wallace River gorge, the verdant hills of Gold Bar and the Cascade Mountains in the distance.
The trail continues until it’s level with the top of Wallace Falls, where your journey will end at roughly 2.8 miles. Be sure to take time to rest and prepare for the descent, which can be surprisingly difficult on tired legs.
With its shady tree canopy, well-marked pathway and gorgeous views at virtually every point along the hike, the Wallace Falls Trail is a must-visit destination for Snohomish County visitors and locals alike. This popular day hike is appropriate for hikers of all ages and physical abilities, although parties with small children or older hikers may want to limit their trek to the Lower Falls picnic area.
Everyone else is encouraged to dig a little deeper and rise to the challenge of reaching the summit; their tenacity will be rewarded with the unforgettable sights of the Middle and Upper Falls and other picturesque points along the way. Though you’ll be sharing the trail with hundreds of other like-minded adventurers, this hike is one that can easily be completed solo or with a few friends at any time of year.