Thanks to its significant annual precipitation and abundance of volcanic mountains, Washington is a waterfall-hunter’s paradise, with falls large and small scattered throughout the state. In addition to the lush forests and panoramic views you’ll encounter when visiting many of the Evergreen State’s most popular parks and hiking trails, chances are good you’ll get a glimpse of at least one waterfall while you’re there.
Note: The buttons to learn more about each waterfall takes you to the incredible site “World of Waterfalls”, the definitive database of waterfalls worldwide.
Top 10 Waterfalls in Washington
Though waterfalls are plentiful in Washington, not all falls are created equal. During your travels around the state, use the list below to ensure you don’t miss any of the top 10 waterfalls in Washington. In no particular order, these are our favorites.
Comet Falls (Mt. Rainier National Park/Pierce County)
Located in the majestic Mt. Rainier National Park, Comet Falls—and the challenging hike to reach them—reward explorers with spectacular scenery crowned by a 300-foot cascade of rushing water.
As you hike along the 3.8-mile Comet Falls trail, your sense of anticipation will build as you trek alongside the churning whitewater creek that cuts through smooth rock to culminate in the massive waterfall. Along the way, you’ll also spot several smaller waterfalls as well as tranquil alpine meadows and dense forests.
To get to the trailhead, take the west entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, which is about 13.5 miles east of Elbe on State Route 706. Stay on the road for 10 miles until you see signs for the Comet Falls Trail parking lot. After about one-third of a mile on the trail, you’ll cross a bridge over Van Trump Creek, where you can look downstream to catch a glimpse of Christine Falls.
At just over a mile, a crib ladder takes hikers up a rock face to rejoin the trail. After another half-mile, you’ll notice a sign reading “Comet Falls 200 feet.” Though you’ll only get a glimpse of the main attraction at this point, you will be treated to the sight of the impressive three-tiered Bloucher Falls flowing from the east tributary of the creek.
After crossing the East Fork on a footbridge, the trail resumes to the left, with the massive Comet Falls appearing shortly thereafter through the trees. After another quarter-mile on the trail, you’ll be able to take a side spur to get closer to the thundering spray of Comet Falls. This beautiful falls is one of the best waterfalls in Washington.
Falls Creek Falls (Gifford Pinchot National Forest/Skamania County)
This 220-foot, three-level waterfall is located in southwest Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, about 15 miles north of Carson off Wind River Highway. The hike to the falls is relatively easy, with a few brief steep section. The well-maintained trail parallels the creek for the first mile and meanders through a stand of old-growth forest for the second mile.
Beginning at the end of Road 3062, this trail follows Falls Creek, climbing through a 30 to 60 year old forest for about 1 1/2 miles. Eventually, the trail grows steeper and more rugged as it approaches the cable suspension bridge over a rock gorge, where you’ll see the churning white waters of Falls Creek.
Keep going a bit further to reach the base of one of the most incredible waterfalls in Washington. The falls create quite a spray, so expect to get wet as you admire their beauty.
Marymere Falls (Olympic National Park/Clallam County)
This 90-foot waterfall near Port Lake Crescent is the tallest waterfall in Olympic National Park. The falls are accessible via a well-maintained dirt trail that takes hikers past dense old-growth forest packed with alder, cedar, fir and hemlock trees, providing tranquil views and excellent shade.
A scenic river crossing provides excellent views of the creek’s path as it descends from Aurora Ridge to form the waterfall, then meanders on to join Barnes Creek.
With minimal elevation gain, the 1.8-mile trail is appropriate for trekkers of all ages and experience levels, and its proximity to Highway 101 makes it a popular stop for visitors. This makes it one of the most highly-trafficked waterfalls in Washington.
Myrtle Falls (Mt. Rainier National Park/Pierce County)
Though it’s not an especially tall or powerful option as far as waterfalls in Washington go, Myrtle Falls offers visitors an iconic setting, with the white-capped peak of Mt. Rainier as its distinctive backdrop. As a result, the trail is often crowded with both professional photographers and smartphone-armed tourists aiming to capture this captivating scene.
To get to the falls, start at the Paradise parking lot and traverse the Skyline or Golden Gate trail east for four-tenths of a mile. It’s a pleasant hike lined with colorful wildflowers and verdant foliage.
You’ll cross the small bridge over Edith Creek Basin and head left to reach the viewpoint for Myrtle Falls. After taking in the view and collecting your photos, you can either get back on the trail to head back to the parking lot or take one of the many connecting routes for a longer hike.
Access to Myrtle Falls is largely dictated by seasonal weather; though the water flows all year, significant snowfall can make the trail hard to reach from November well into early summer. Be sure to check current trail conditions before planning your trip to the park.
Narada Falls (Mt. Rainier National Park/Lewis County)
Like Myrtle Falls, this enchanting waterfall is located in the Paradise section of Mt. Rainier National Park; however, Narada Falls is not only significantly taller, but also multi-tiered, with a horsetail fall in its top tier that spreads into multiple streams down the rocks.
The best location for viewing Narada Falls is from a spot below the roadway, which can be reached via a short but steep hike that’s virtually always wet and slippery due to seepage from the water-saturated ground as well as mists from the falls. Due to these conditions, proper footwear with good traction is essential.
From the Narada Falls parking lot, the trailhead is located just across the bridge near the comfort station, which includes a lounge with seating as well as restroom facilities. The trail descends rapidly, with a railing for the first 200 feet to provide additional support. After rounding the switchback, you’ll proceed another quarter-mile to the viewing point at the base of the falls. The best views are at midday, when the high sun fully illuminates the rushing water and the surrounding rock formations.
The trail drops at a constant rate. There is a railing along the first 200 feet, where ferns and blueberries may encroach from the uphill side. Round a switchback and continue the remaining 400 feet to the obvious viewpoint. The falls are best seen after mid-morning, when they can be fully illuminated on a sunny day.
If you’d like to continue hiking once you’ve spent some time appreciating the waterfall, you can join the Wonderland Trail for three- and five-mile loop options that take you past Reflection Lakes on the hike to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Washington.
Palouse Falls (Franklin/Whitman Counites)
Dating back more than 13,000 years, Palouse Falls represents one of the last remaining active waterfalls from the Ice Age. The falls formed as the Palouse River cuts through a narrow channel in the rock and plummets 200 feet into a churning pool of water before continuing through a basalt rock gorge to join the Snake River.
The falls have become an iconic destination in the state, and after local students spearheaded a campaign to designate Palouse Falls Washington’s official state waterfall, the state legislature passed a bill doing exactly that in 2014. The falls’ appearance changes dramatically with the seasons, drawing photographers and artists year-round to capture the majesty of the rushing water.
Within Palouse Falls State Park, visitors have several options for viewing the waterfall. The most direct view is at the lower viewpoint, accessible via a set of stairs near the main parking lot. Visitors who take the paved interpretive path can see the falls at the end of their journey, while the highest viewpoint is located at the Fryxell Overlook just past the secondary gravel parking area. This last location offers a panoramic vista that includes not only the falls, but the vast Palouse River Canyon.
When visiting the state park, keep in mind that cell service is virtually nonexistent, and staff is limited at best, so be prepared to be self-sufficient while at one of the most intense waterfalls in Washington.
Snoqualmie Falls (King County)
This massive 268-foot waterfall near Seattle has earned the status of Washington’s most popular and powerful falls, drawing more than 1.5 million visitors each year and providing Puget Sound Power and Light with sufficient force to generate substantial amounts of electricity.
Novice hikers and families with young children may wish to view the falls via the interpretive trail that runs between the upper falls and lower falls viewing areas. At less than three-quarters of a mile, the trail is well-maintained and provides a wealth of information about native plant and animal species in the region as well as Native American culture and history.
The wide gravel pathway is lined with a variety of trees, including western hemlock, red cedar, Douglas fir, bigleaf maple and alder, and they provide a spectacular show of color during the fall season. One of the most powerful waterfalls in Washington, you can’t go wrong having Snoqualmie Falls on your waterfall bucket list while in the state.
Sol Duc Falls (Olympic National Park/Clallam County)
The Sol Duc Falls are one of many natural wonders found in Olympic National Park, which includes imposing mountain peaks, towering old-growth forests, alpine lakes and a plethora of wildlife. It is one of the most unique waterfalls in Washington, especially with its location in the middle of the only rainforest in the continental United States.
To reach the falls, locate the trailhead past the Sol Duc Hot Springs and Resort. The broad, well-maintained trail takes hikers through the shade of a thick tree canopy and across a bridge over a small stream, with the falls appearing into view less than a mile from the trailhead. Based on recent precipitation levels and snow melt, the falls may split into several channels as they drop 48 feet into the canyon below.
Spray Falls (Mt. Rainier National Park/Pierce County)
This enormous waterfall in Mt. Rainier National Park stands out for its size and shape, as its waters twist dramatically more than 350 feet along their descent in a horsetail pattern. Though the hike to reach the falls is somewhat challenging, the views are well worth the effort.
The trailhead is located at the Mowich Lake walk-in campground, and it follows the Wonderland Trail for the first third of a mile before descending across Lee Creek into a dense stand of noble fir and mountain hemlock.
Just over a mile into your hike, look out for the short spur to reach the Eagle Cliff viewpoint, where you’ll spot the 14,000-foot peak of Mt. Rainier as well as Spray Creek Canyon. About a half-mile past this point is the turnoff for Spray Falls, whose wide swath of churning water tumbles down the red-tinted andesite rock face.
If you’ve got the energy, stay on the trail to complete a series of demanding switchbacks to reach Spray Park, where the stunning scenery includes subalpine meadows painted with lupine, pink mountain heather, gentian and western bistort. You may even catch a glimpse of a bear wandering through this tranquil oasis, so stay on alert and keep your distance if you do encounter one.
Hikers hoping to add miles to their trek can continue as the Spray Park Trail climbs to an elevation of 6,400 feet, culminating in a ridgeline that divides Spray Park from its eastern neighbor, Seattle Park. This spot is also an excellent venue for viewing and photographing the majestic Mt. Rainier, making it one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Washington.
Wallace Falls (Snohomish County)
This waterfall is technically three falls in one, consisting of Lower, Middle and Upper Falls sections accessible by the well-maintained out-and-back Woody Trail, which is impressively scenic in its own right.
The trail includes a modest elevation gain of 1,300 feet, mainly between the Middle and Upper Falls, making it challenging but doable for most hikers. Despite this, the difficulty to beauty ratio makes it by far one of the most incredible waterfalls in Washington state.
The Wallace Falls Trail begins just off the parking lot between the information booth and restroom facilities. Initially, the trail passes under a set of large power lines before curving left into a grove of ancient hemlocks. The trail splits after half a mile, with the path on the right leading to Wallace Falls and the left fork heading to the old Railroad Grade, a popular destination for cyclists.
Past the fork, the trail meanders alongside the Wallace River until it takes you to the first significant climb. As you ascend, you’ll pass secondary trails for the Railroad Grade and Amphitheater trails, continuing on the Woody Trail until you reach the Lower Falls picnic area about two miles into your hike.
Take a moment to admire the cascading water and then keep going to reach the even more impressive Middle Falls section, where a fenced lookout features panoramic views of the falls as they plunge more than 250 feet down the rock face.
A series of grueling switchbacks separates the Middle and Upper Falls, and persistent trekkers will be rewarded for their efforts with access to two additional lookouts near the top of the Middle Falls before reaching the end of the trail at 2.8 miles, where a fenced overlook provides access to the twin drops of the Upper Falls. Take the time to soak in the fruits of your labor before making the scenic descent to the trailhead.