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snoqualmie falls
Snoqualmie, WA

For hikers in the Northwest, spring is a restless season, more about anticipation than fruition. One weekend in April after discovering that snow still covered the trails along I-90 we stopped at Snoqualmie Falls.

We were already hungry when we pulled into the parking lot. I remembered picnic tables here so we brought our backpacks full of lunch and drinks. We crossed the overhead footbridge from the parking lot. The Salish hotel perched at the top of the falls was to the left. We turned right toward the viewing area.

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls and Puget Sound Electric facility

The Upper Observation Area

Winter was still becoming spring in Snoqualmie. The Japanese Cherry trees had not quite bloomed. The day was a little bit grey but not overly cold, wet or windy.

We walked along the sidewalk and passed a photographer adjusting a bride’s dress. Visitors, some dressed up and others dressed casually lined the railing to look at the falls, but it was not overly crowded. We joined them to enjoy the beauty of Snoqualmie Falls.

On the day we visited, the water was at a normal level for the season. Still, the force with which the falls spilled over the crest was evidenced by the thick mist enveloping the pool at the bottom.

Wanting to get closer we walked toward the river trail. We discovered the picnic tables. Placed out of sight of the waterfall, they were not the least bit inviting. We were hungry, but we kept going.

Snoqualmie Falls

Salish Lodge from the base of Snoqualmie Falls

The River Trail

We hiked to the base of the 270 feet tall Snoqualmie Falls on the half mile of steep but finished trail referred to as the River Trail.

At the bottom, we passed the Puget Sound Electric (PSE) hydroelectric facility. This part of the trail was a bit bizarre. The electric facility reminded us of a high security detention facility or possibly a bomb shelter. Even the footbridge was completely enclosed in chain link fence. It occurred to me as I passed by, that an interpretive station explaining the purpose of the facility might be a good PR move on the part of PSE.

We followed the footbridge out to another viewing area. Here too the presence of PSE was more ominous than inclusive. Large signs warned visitors to stay on the wooden footbridges and viewing areas. According to signs, the water level might surge unexpectedly. After seeing pictures of the falls at flood stage, I can understand the danger. Reaching the beach required climbing over a railing and down a rocky ledge. Despite the warnings, people were climbing down to get closer to the falls.

Snoqualmie Falls

Kayak at Snoqualmie Falls

The Rest of the Way
I decided as soon as I saw the falls from below that walking to the bottom was worth the hike back up. The falls were beautiful, the spray felt wonderful on my face and the air had the fresh scent of mist. This is where we decided to have our picnic.

We spent perhaps an hour eating lunch and watching our fellow visitors. Then it was time to climb the hill. Since this was the first hike of the season my usual struggle with elevation gain was intensified, but following the wisdom learned from other hikers I kept climbing, however slowly, instead of stopping to pant and rest. On the way down, the trail had seemed quite long. Going back up it was steep, but it seemed shorter. Somewhere along the way, the endorphins did their work. I ended up at the top and feeling wonderful.

After a rest at the picnic tables, we were ready to head home.

written by Dianne Bengtson
photography by Dianne Bengtson

Be aware:

Hiking trails are closed for construction. Reopening scheduled in 2013.

River trail elevation gain is 300 ft over 1/2 mile.

No dogs

Crowded on weekends in nice weather

In the know:

Puget Sound Electric (PSE) maintains a power facility at Snoqualmie Falls and provides public access to the falls.

Free parking, free admission

Wheelchair access to upper falls

Porta-potties at the entrancee and the base of the River Trail.

Portfolios Northwest

Salish Lodge


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