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.
Location: Southwest Washington - Lewis River Region
Length: 4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 90 feet
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.
Liberty Lake Regional Park - Liberty Creek Falls
Location: Spokane Area/Coeur d'Alene
Length: 3.2, one way
Elevation Gain: 350 feet
Location: Olympic Peninsula - Hood Canal
Length: 1.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
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.
Location: Olympic Peninsula - Northern Coast
Length: 1.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
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.
Escure Ranch - Towell Falls
Location: Eastern Washington - Potholes Region
Length: 6.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 530 feet
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.
Location: Mount Rainier - Highway 410
Length: 11.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
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.
Whatcom Falls Park
Location: Puget Sound - Bellingham Area
Length: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Location: Snoqualmie Pass - North Bend area
Length: 3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
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.
Dry Creek Falls
Location: Southwest Washington - Columbia River Gorge
Length: 5.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 530 feet
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.
Capitol State Forest - Mima Falls
Location: Olympic Peninsula - Olympia
Length: 6.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 650 feet
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.
Location: Southwest Washington - Vancouver Area
Length: 3.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 190 feet
Boulder River Trail
Location: North Cascades - Mountain Loop Highway (Darrington)
Length: up to 9 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
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.
Location: Eastern Washington - Okanogan Highlands
Length: 7.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 40 feet
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.
Angel Falls Loop
Location: South Cascades - White Pass/Highway 12
Length: 6.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal
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.
Location: Central Cascades - Entiat Mountains
Length: 1.7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
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.
Location: Central Washington - Wenatchee
Length: 12 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 625 feet
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.