Franklin Falls

Snoqualmie Pass / Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest / North Bend, Washington, USA

About Franklin Falls


Hiking Distance: about 3 miles round-trip out-and-back; 2.7 miles loop
Suggested Time: about 1.5-2 hours

Date first visited: 2021-06-20
Date last visited: 2021-06-20

Waterfall Latitude: 47.42485
Waterfall Longitude: -121.43274

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Franklin Falls is a powerful and mist-throwing waterfall right underneath the I-90 highway by the scenic Snoqualmie Pass.

What stood out most to us about this 70ft gusher on the South Fork Snoqualmie River was its popularity.

Franklin_Falls_171_06202021 - As much of the extent of Dry Falls that I could see
As much of the extent of Dry Falls that I could see

Upon visiting this waterfall, we could appreciate why this excursion attracted crowds.

After all, we went on a roughly 1.5-mile well-maintained trail (at least 3 miles round-trip) that pretty much followed along the South Fork Snoqualmie River as it was lined with cabins nestled in a cool, evergreen forest.

About half-way up the trail, we encountered a lookout with an intermediate waterfall called the Denny Camp Falls according to my surveyed Gaia GPS map.

Besides, it probably also benefitted from being close enough Seattle and its suburbs, and couple that with the fact that we made our June 2021 visit on a Saturday morning.

Franklin_Falls_037_06202021 - It got quite busy at the Franklin Falls Trail as evidenced by this crowd of people gathered around the restroom facility near the trailhead
It got quite busy at the Franklin Falls Trail as evidenced by this crowd of people gathered around the restroom facility near the trailhead

Of course, popularity means lots of people, and made us a bit nervous during our visit due to the COVID-19 risk.

There’s a mix of masked and unmasked visitors, and with the threat of increasingly contagious variants of the coronavirus, that made us seek alternative ways to do this hike, which I’ll get to later.

Hiking to Franklin Falls via the Franklin Falls Trail

From the main parking lot (see directions below), we actually had to backtrack about 1/4-mile to get to the actual Franklin Falls Trailhead, which was right across from handicapped parking spots and just past a busy restroom facility.

Once on the trail, it immediately skirted alongside the rushing South Fork Snoqualmie River while generally climbing.

Franklin_Falls_042_06202021 - The Franklin Falls Trail pretty much skirted alongside the South Fork Snoqualmie River for most of its length, but it was also quite busy throughout the hike
The Franklin Falls Trail pretty much skirted alongside the South Fork Snoqualmie River for most of its length, but it was also quite busy throughout the hike

Roughly a half-mile along the trail, we encountered a fenced lookout revealing the bottom part of the Denny Camp Falls, which also flowed on the South Fork Snoqualmie River.

Beyond this waterfall, the trail continued to skirt above the flow of the river while revealing more cascades and rapids (many of which were unseen or difficult to see through overgrowth).

At about another 3/4-mile beyond the Denny Camp Falls lookout (or roughly 1.2 miles from the actual trailhead), we encountered a signed trail junction with the Wagon Road Trail.

There was actually signage at the park recommending taking the Wagon Road Trail back to the start, and we kept that in mind when we would be coming back from Franklin Falls.

Franklin_Falls_083_06202021 - Looking upstream at the Denny Camp Falls, which was around the half-way point of the Franklin Falls Trail
Looking upstream at the Denny Camp Falls, which was around the half-way point of the Franklin Falls Trail

At roughly 0.1-mile beyond the Wagon Road Trail junction, we finally descended towards Franklin Falls, which was quite crowded because there was very limited viewing space.

The trail actually kept continuing along a narrow and slippery ledge alongside the South Fork Snoqualmie River thanks to spray from the base of Franklin Falls, but just about all people (myself included) went no further into the spray zone.

It took us around an hour to get from the trailhead to the Franklin Falls, which was about average given the relatively easy, family-friendly trail (for the most part until the viewing area at the end).

However, on the return hike, we did have a choice of going back the way we came or taking the Wagon Road Trail, and we ultimately opted to do the latter.

Returning from Franklin Falls via the Wagon Road Trail

Franklin_Falls_134_06202021 - Context of the gushing Franklin Falls, which was beneath the I-90
Context of the gushing Franklin Falls, which was beneath the I-90

The Wagon Road Trail was a more “inland” forested route that hugged closer to the one-way Franklin Falls Road than the more scenic South Fork Snoqualmie River.

For that reason, we found the trail to be delightfully peaceful and quiet because it lacked people.

Therefore, we were better able to breathe the air as we didn’t have to breathe through our masks, and for that reason alone, I appreciated the forest service’s advice on doing the loop hike in this manner.

At roughly 300ft from the trail junction between the Franklin Falls Trail and the Wagon Road Trail, we encountered some trail signage, which also happened to be near the one-way Franklin Falls Road (NF-58).

Franklin_Falls_190_06202021 - An interesting sign board that we encountered on the Wagon Road Trail, which was also probably the closest entry point to the Franklin Falls itself provided you knew to park way out here along the one-way Franklin Falls Road
An interesting sign board that we encountered on the Wagon Road Trail, which was also probably the closest entry point to the Franklin Falls itself provided you knew to park way out here along the one-way Franklin Falls Road

The presence of this entry point to get to the waterfall suggested to me that if we had the foresight to park this far along the NF-58 Road, then the hike might only be as little as a quarter-mile round-trip!

That said, since we saw nobody do this (even though it was suggested in the Gregory Plumb book), I suspected that the authorities might have prohibited parking here.

Nevertheless, continuing on the Wagon Road Trail, we pretty much went gently in a downhill direction among a well-shaded grove of tall trees.

At about 0.6-mile from the Franklin Falls Trail and Wagon Road Trail junction, we would traverse the NF-58 Road (there was white paint in a pseudo-crosswalk pattern) to continue the trail.

Franklin_Falls_228_06202021 - Crossing the one-way Franklin Falls Road via the Wagon Road Trail, where painted lines resembled a cheap 'crosswalk' to keep us on track
Crossing the one-way Franklin Falls Road via the Wagon Road Trail, where painted lines resembled a cheap ‘crosswalk’ to keep us on track

We’d encounter yet another similar road junction another 1/4-mile or so before continuing down the final stretch as the road paralleled the NF-58 Road.

Finally after roughly 30 minutes or so of doing the Wagon Road Trail, we ended the hike pretty much right back at our parked car, which was only a few paces from the third intersection with the NF-58 Road.

Indeed, with the relatively easy hiking, well-shaded terrain, and gushing river, this hike seemed to be the perfect antidote for the heat wave that the Pacific Northwest was about to face the following weekend of that trip.

Authorities

Franklin Falls resides in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest near Snoqualmie Pass in King County, Washington. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Franklin_Falls_003_06202021 - Looking back in the direction we drove from, where there were already lots of people parallel parking in any available space alongside the Franklin Falls Road
Franklin_Falls_004_06202021 - Looking in the opposite direction from where we were parked just as more cars were starting to show up and park beyond the formal parking area
Franklin_Falls_009_06202021 - Entering the main parking lot for Franklin Falls though technically in hindsight, we didn't have to go away from the actual trailhead to even get started from this lot
Franklin_Falls_020_06202021 - At the start of the more formal trail shortly as some people descended from the main parking lot
Franklin_Falls_022_06202021 - Some trail signage helping us stay oriented. Note that we had noticed many more of these types of signs
Franklin_Falls_025_06202021 - The parking situation was quite tense as we made our way towards the actual Franklin Falls Trailhead
Franklin_Falls_028_06202021 - Julie and Tahia making their way through this well-shaded trail towards the actual Franklin Falls Trailhead
Franklin_Falls_031_06202021 - Going past some interesting cabins or structures along the path to the Franklin Falls Trailhead, but these weren't toilets
Franklin_Falls_038_06202021 - Julie and Tahia approaching the Franklin Falls Trailhead, which was directly opposite these handicapped parking spots
Franklin_Falls_044_06202021 - Some people were enjoying this spot by the South Fork Snoqualmie River along the Franklin Falls Trail
Franklin_Falls_047_06202021 - Traversing some planks and mini-bridges in the more wetter spots along the Franklin Falls Trail
Franklin_Falls_058_06202021 - Julie and Tahia still on the generally ascending Franklin Falls Trail as it was quite well-shaded throughout its 1.5-mile stretch
Franklin_Falls_071_06202021 - There were always lots of people on the Franklin Falls Trail so we actually had to put on our masks given the close proximity of everyone
Franklin_Falls_073_06202021 - Tahia and Julie continuing to ascend the Franklin Falls Trail as the South Fork Snoqualmie River was further down below to the left of us
Franklin_Falls_081_06202021 - Context of Julie and Tahia going by the lookout for the Denny Camp Falls
Franklin_Falls_082_06202021 - Focused look at the Denny Camp Falls
Franklin_Falls_087_06202021 - More gently uphill hiking on the Franklin Falls Trail
Franklin_Falls_089_06202021 - Surprisingly, some parts of the Franklin Falls Trail went alongside the one-way Franklin Falls Road
Franklin_Falls_091_06202021 - Another look back at the context of the Franklin Falls Trail and the Franklin Falls Road
Franklin_Falls_093_06202021 - Julie continuing along this planked section of the Franklin Falls Trail
Franklin_Falls_096_06202021 - Julie and Tahia continuing to hike through the lush forest along the Franklin Falls Trail
Franklin_Falls_100_06202021 - Looking down at some of the rapids or cascades on the South Fork Snoqualmie River as seen from the Franklin Falls Trail
Franklin_Falls_104_06202021 - Another look at more cascades on the South Fork Snoqualmie River along the Franklin Falls Trail
Franklin_Falls_111_06202021 - Tahia and Julie continuing on the uphill Franklin Falls Trail flanked by tall trees so we remained mostly in the shade
Franklin_Falls_112_06202021 - Tahia and Julie still ascending on the Franklin Falls Trail in a lush setting
Franklin_Falls_116_06202021 - Julie looking over this railing along the Franklin Falls Trail though I didn't remember anything special about this spot
Franklin_Falls_122_06202021 - This was the signed trail junction with the Wagon Road Trail as we were near the Franklin Falls
Franklin_Falls_126_06202021 - Julie and Tahia finally approaching the Franklin Falls
Franklin_Falls_130_06202021 - The final descent towards the very busy viewing area for Franklin Falls
Franklin_Falls_139_06202021 - Context of Franklin Falls with the westbound I-90 highway to the topleft
Franklin_Falls_164_06202021 - People trying to squeeze by along this narrow ledge to get closer into the spray zone for Franklin Falls
Franklin_Falls_166_06202021 - Portrait view of Franklin Falls as I continued to get even closer into the moist spray zone
Franklin_Falls_167_06202021 - Looking back at people making their way back from the spray zone for Franklin Falls along the narrow and slippery trail
Franklin_Falls_175_06202021 - Context of people trying to get closer to Franklin Falls providing a sense of scale of that waterfall's size
Franklin_Falls_181_06202021 - Contextual look at the viewing area for Franklin Falls along with the ledge trail continuing into the spray zone
Franklin_Falls_188_06202021 - After having our fill of Franklin Falls, Tahia wanted to use my trekking poles
Franklin_Falls_193_06202021 - The Wagon Road Trail was serene and devoid of lots of people so we could breathe more easily by not having to breathe through our masks
Franklin_Falls_201_06202021 - Julie and Tahia continuing on the Wagon Road Trail
Franklin_Falls_213_06202021 - Julie and Tahia still on the Wagon Road Trail
Franklin_Falls_241_06202021 - When we got to the second crossing of the Franklin Falls Road, we thought for a moment that our car was supposed to be somewhere around here, but it turned out that we still had a little more on the Wagon Road Trail to go
Franklin_Falls_248_06202021 - Julie and Tahia finally making it back to the spot nearby where we parked to end both the Wagon Road Trail and the overall Franklin Falls experience
Franklin_Falls_017_iPhone_06202021 - It was still quite the scenic drive along the Franklin Falls Road as it was about to deposit us by the Snoqualmie Pass


I’ll first describe the directions from Seattle before describing the directions from Ephrata (which was where we had stayed the night before our visit to Franklin Falls).

Driving from Seattle to Franklin Falls

From Seattle, we basically would have to drive east on the I-90 for about 45 miles towards Snoqualmie Pass.

However, before reaching the pass, we would exit the I-90 at exit 47 for Denny Creek / Asahel Curtis.

Franklin_Falls_035_06202021 - The Franklin Falls Road is one-way traffic, which perhaps better controls the traffic flow given this waterfall's popularity
The Franklin Falls Road is one-way traffic, which perhaps better controls the traffic flow given this waterfall’s popularity

Then, we’d head north towards Franklin Falls (I recalled there were signs for it at this point), and we’d take the NF-9034 east towards the NF-5800 Road (Franklin Falls Road).

We’d follow these narrower forest service roads for roughly 2.5 miles before reaching the Denny Creek Camp, where the road became a one-way road shortly thereafter.

We wound up driving this one-way road for roughly a quarter-mile beyond the commotion at the Franklin Falls Trailhead where people were already parallel parking on the left.

There was also a more formal parking lot with marked spaces, but that filled up real fast while also lacked shade which most of the informal parallel parking spaces had.

Franklin_Falls_011_06202021 - The very busy parking lot for Franklin Falls, but it turns out that it's ok to parallel park along the left side of the narrow road that led us here in the first place so there's actually plenty of parking
The very busy parking lot for Franklin Falls, but it turns out that it’s ok to parallel park along the left side of the narrow road that led us here in the first place so there’s actually plenty of parking

This was where we started our hike, but as more people showed up, they ultimately parked further along the one-way Franklin Falls Road (some may have parked far enough away to have added an additional mile in each direction!).

Driving from Ephrata to Franklin Falls

Coming from Ephrata, we had to drive south for 18 miles to reach the I-90 west.

From there, we drove for roughly 104 miles towards the Denny Creek exit (and not the Snoqualmie Pass exit, which our GPS kept insisting on).

Once we got off the I-90 ramp, we’d then follow the directions as above to the Franklin Falls Trailhead.

Drive_from_Ephrata_to_Franklin_Falls_008_iPhone_06202021 - At first our Garmin DriveSmart 50 GPS made us go through Snoqualmie Pass towards the wrong end of the one-way road to Franklin Falls
At first our Garmin DriveSmart 50 GPS made us go through Snoqualmie Pass towards the wrong end of the one-way road to Franklin Falls

By the way, the reason why you don’t want to get off at Snoqualmie Pass is that the Franklin Falls Road is one-way and you’d be going right to the exit of that one-way road.

Fortunately, if you do make this mistake, there’s signage telling you to return to the I-90 and to get off at the Denny Camp exit.

For some context, Snoqualmie Pass is about 117 miles (under 2 hours drive) west of Ephrata and 54 miles (under an hour drive) east of Seattle.

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360 degree sweep from the busy viewing area revealing the falls towards the end


Semicircular sweep from the spray zone closer to the base of Franklin Falls

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Tagged with: snoqualmie pass, north bend, mt baker, snoqualmie national forest, king county, i-90, snoqualmie river



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