Franklin Falls (and the change of seasons)

I hiked to Franklin Falls with a friend recently; we left the trail and enjoyed some good, old fashioned creek-scrambling. This is a short and easy hike if you stick to the trail, good to take family on or introduce non-hikers to the trail, and not one I’d normally write about here. People come from the desert east of the Cascades to escape the sun, to see lush old growth cedars and Douglas-firs, and water. Normally, I prefer heading east to escape the trees and enjoy some sun.

We parked at the trailhead, which won’t be possible in a month. Cold rain poured down all around us as we stepped out of the car and put on our packs. As the day wore on the rain turned to snow, and slowly began to gather on the evergreen boughs. We hiked along the knife edge of the change of the seasons from winter to fall.

South Fork, Snoqualmie River

South Fork, Snoqualmie River

The trail starts at a dirt parking lot on a spur forest service road, and immediately enters the woods next to the river. We were happy to be able to cut right to the chase; when the winter storms come, the road will only be plowed to the last house, and the last mile and a half of the approach will require snowshoes. It won’t be long now.

Snow falling on the river

December (2012) snow falling on the river

This photo, from a snowshoe trip last winter, shows the river from one of the booth paths leading from the trail to the rocky shore.

Along the first quarter mile of the trail are a handful of cabins, which I assume are operated by Mount Baker / Snoqualmie National Forest, but they’re soon lost to a (temporary) feeling of solitude. Heading up the trail, we passed a number of boot paths leading to the shore. Soon the trail begins to rise up above the water, leaving hikers to peer down a gorgeous ravine to the cascades below. This has mesmerized me for years.

South Fork, Snoqualmie River, through the ravine

Ravine, Fall 2012

One of the more captivating views from the hike: pools and cascades in the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. This is a sheer drop, but a faint boot path leads to the bottom nearby.

We left the trail at every opportunity, including a trip down a sleep and muddy bank, aided by a rope and prusik. Without getting too wet, we hiked up and down the rocky shore, to a confluence which we took to be Denny Creek feeding into the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. But there were impasses, and we returned up to the trail.

South Fork, Snoqualmie River

Bottom of the ravine, Summer 2013

A scramble from another trip lead to a cold but pleasant swimming hole.

The trail winds on, and we left it several more times. Eventually it comes to the waterfall, a small basin with steep walls on all sides except for the river itself. Ironically, the freeway I-90 is in full view from this otherwise lovely spot. In the summer this area makes for excellent wading, and good picnicking if you don’t mind the crowds.

Franklin Falls on a rainy day

Fading fall color, Franklin Falls, Autumn 2012

Franklin Falls in the snow

Franklin Falls, Winter 2012/13

Franklin Falls is about a 75 foot drop.

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