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Winter Waterfall Hikes

From half-frozen crystalline plunge-pools to gossamer cascades, waterfalls hold a special allure in winter.

What is it about waterfalls that's so magnetic? Perhaps the idea that every time you visit them, they are different, transformed by seasons and unceasing motion into something new.

When they come crashing down in spring fat and hurried with snow runoff their power stirs a rush of adrenaline. But in winter, waterfalls hold a different allure. While the crash of their long drops from cliffs and steep hillsides can still drown out all other sounds, their winter temperament is undeniably a gentler one. From half-frozen crystalline plunge-pools to gossamer cascades, seeking out a waterfall is a sure way to entertain out-of-town guests, spark the imagination of kiddos, break up a long drive or find a few, meditative moments of peace on trail.

So, pick a hike, pack a thermos of hot tea or cocoa, watch your step on slick trails, go find your own falling water. It's probably a good idea to review our winter safety tips, too.


Moulton Falls

Location: Southwest Washington -- Vancouver Area
Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 90 feet

The falls in early spring. Photo by Cagey.

In winter, a brisk walk along a lush riverbank accompanied by the sound of rushing water can be the perfect pick-me-up. Get your nature fix on this picturesque and accessible hike along the Lewis River. On your way, enjoy northwest greenery, peek-a-boo views of the creek, and historic relics.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Liberty Lake Regional Park - Split Creek Loop

Location: Spokane Area/Coeur d'Alene 
Mileage: 4.06 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 350 feet

Liberty Creek Falls spilling through the forest
Liberty Creek Falls spilling through the forest. Photo by snbess. 

Liberty Lake Regional Park has one of the most popular trails within the Spokane County Parks system, and with the rehabilitation of the Split Creek Trail, the system just got an upgrade. As you head out from the parking area, follow the trail along Liberty Creek where several small drops in the creek are a preview of what's to come. After passing through a cedar grove and climbing for a short section, rest up and watch the falls spill from the forest. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Murhut Falls

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Hood Canal
Mileage: 1.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 250 feet

Beautiful Murhut Falls provides a beautiful view on a quiet trail. Photo by Shane Welch Photography.

This hike just off the Duckabush Road gives hikers a gorgeous payoff for very little sweat paid out. Because the trail is on a former logging road, the grade is gentle, and at under a mile, it's the perfect leg-stretcher for little ones and adults alike. In the spring, enjoy the vibrant pink hallway created by Pacific Rhododendrons in bloom, but be prepared for company on this route.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Marymere Falls

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast
Mileage: 1.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet

The trail to Marymere Falls is great for the whole family, and the reward at the end -- a gorgeous waterfall! Photo by DraxPlunkett.

These year-round falls are a short and easy hike from the Olympic National Park Storm King Visitor Center on Lake Crescent. If you're traveling from far away and can't enough of Olympic cascades, it might be worth tacking on an additional stroll at the paved path to Madison Creek Falls, too.

Note: Marymere and Madison are both within the National Park, so your pup will have to stay at home or in the car for these winter waterfall walks.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Escure Ranch - Towell Falls

Location: Central Washington - Potholes Region
Mileage: 6.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 530 feet

Towell Falls. Photo  by Kari_S.

A waterfall in the middle of the desert? It’s true. Great volumes of water tumble from Rock Creek onto the basalt rock that is the foundation of this landscape. Enjoy expansive views and towering basalt mesas, until you come to fast-moving Towell Falls.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Skookum Flats

Location: Mount Rainier Area -- Chinook Pass
Mileage: 7.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet

In deep winter, you might be treated to a frosty vision of the falls off of the Skookum Flats trail. Photos by cascasesandipas.

The Skookum Flats Trail meanders alongside the White River between the Dalles and Silver Springs Campgrounds, just outside the northeast entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. As the name suggests, Skookum Flats involves little in the way of elevation gain, taking hikers on a gentle tour through old-growth forest with plenty of river views and peek-a-boo views of Skookum Falls after a few miles.

Note: The bootpath up to the base of Skookum Falls is rough, and spray from the falls can make the path slick, especially when it ices over. Use caution if you choose to get a closer look.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Whatcom Falls Park

Location: Puget Sound and Islands -- Bellingham Area
Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 50 feet

A wintry Whatcom Falls
A wintry Whatcom Falls. Photo by Pribbs. 

Just a mere 100 yards from the parking area and visitors are met with a stunning combination of attractions. A beautiful stone bridge built in 1939 by the WPA spans Whatcom Creek and puts visitors in direct view of Whatcom Falls. Keep it short and sweet by turning around here or get to the other side of the bridge and see what else this neighborhood park has to offer.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Snoqualmie Falls

Location: Snoqualmie Pass -- North Bend Area
Mileage: 1.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 250 feet

Snoqualmie Falls in winter light by dragonfly. Photo by puroticorico.

The 0.7-mile interpretive trail from the upper falls viewpoints to the lower falls viewpoint is family- and pet-friendly (though quite steep) and teaches the basics of the flora and fauna near Snoqualmie Pass. While not exactly a wilderness experience, it is a powerful local landmark with deep meaning to the Snoqualmie Tribe. It's worth a visit and a great spot for an outing with visitors who don't think of themselves as hikers.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Dry Creek Falls

Location: Southwest Washington -- Columbia River Gorge
Mileage: 4.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 860 feet

Dry Creek Falls is one of many gorgeous falls in the Columbia River Gorge. Photo by Nick Wood.

When it comes to waterfalls, our neighbors in Oregon have some of the most spectacular, including the iconic Multnomah Falls. But so many easy-to-access waterfalls can make for crowds even in the off-season. Escape the multitudes at Multnomah and head for Dry Creek, further east in the Gorge and a little bit off the beaten path.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Capitol State Forest - Mima Falls Loop

Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Olympia
Mileage: 6.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 650 feet

Mima Falls in February. Photo by Geo_Hiker.

With a huge selection of trails within its boundaries, Capitol State Forest offers miles of loop options for curious hikers. But only a couple take you to Mima Falls, located in the southeast corner of the forest. Visit the falls, but be sure to leave time for the Mima Mounds, surreal earthen mounds nearby that have been the subject of much scientific speculation.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Lacamas Park

Location: Southwest Washington -- Vancouver Area
Mileage: 3.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 190 feet

The waterfall seen through the leaves.Woodburn Falls dances down the rocks in Lacamas Park during the late summer. Photo by hnwood. 

This local park is a two-for-one when it comes to waterfalls. The smaller Woodburn falls dances down the rocks and the bigger Lower Falls tumbles. With over six miles of trails, these two falls can either be the main attraction or serve as highlights on a longer loop hike. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Boulder River Trail

Location: North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
Mileage: 8.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 700 feet

Two spectacular waterfalls tumble down the cliffs and into the Boulder River. Photo by hikingshen.

Towering old-growth trees in an unspoiled river valley with exquisite waterfalls — this is the subtle beauty of Boulder River. It's truly one of the best winter hikes if you're looking for an easy but rewarding day. Just a bit over a mile up the trail are two glorious waterfalls, which is where most people stop, but the path continues another four miles before disappearing at a ford of the Boulder River, where you'll turn around and go back.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Similkameen

Location: Eastern Washington -- Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range
Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 40 feet

Even in winter, Similkameen is a fascinating destination for hikers. Photo by Striker.

The Similkameen Trail has it all -- interpretive signage, a suspension bridge, river views, and of course, a gorgeous waterfall. No matter the season, Similkameen Falls makes an impression on hikers, and with wildlife bustling and flora bursting all around you, it makes for a fantastic hike.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Angel Falls Loop

Location: South Cascades -- White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley
Mileage: 3.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1100 feet

Angel Falls. Photo by Mirek Kohout..jpeg
Angel Falls in winter light. Photo by Mirek Kohout. 

A wonderful feature of the Cispus Learning Center, the Angel Falls Loop passes several lovely cascades in the vibrant green forest of the South Cascades. Take the short, mile long trail to Covel Creek Falls, or continue the full six miles that pass Angel Falls and wind through mosses and trees.

> Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide


Silver Falls 

Location: Central Cascades -- Entiat Mountains/Lake Chelan
Mileage: 1.7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 600 feet

Top of the falls with a view of the bridge across the top. Photo by Bob and Barb..jpeg
Top of the falls with a view of the bridge across the top. Photo by Bob and Barb. 

Often filled with families of all ages, this trail allows visitors to observe the power of water as it makes its way down towards the Entiat River. After just under half a mile of climbing stone staircases, visitors will come to the final falls where they can pause to take in the wonder. A bridge crosses over the top of the falls to offer a unique vantage before hikers loop back down a steep section to the beginning of this hike. 

Note: In winter, when the snow falls, this trail will most likely be inaccessible to cars, because the road is not plowed all the way to the trailhead. Check recent trip reports or call the Entiat Ranger District for current conditions. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Ancient Lakes

Location: Central Washington -- Potholes Region
Mileage: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 625 feet

A cloudy day at Ancient and Dusty Lakes. Photo by Ash99.

From the famous Palouse Falls to the falls at Frenchman Coulee, the dramatic landscapes in central Washington make impressive backdrops for water features. Ancient Lakes is a popular destination in spring and summer, making a winter trip an even better idea. The falls can be both frozen or running, depending on recent weather, so go prepared for a bit of snow or some early season mud.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide