Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie / Issaquah, Washington, USA

About Snoqualmie Falls


Hiking Distance: almost roadside; 1 mile round trip (to base)
Suggested Time: 30 minutes (to base)

Date first visited: 2006-05-26
Date last visited: 2017-07-29

Waterfall Latitude: 47.54186
Waterfall Longitude: -121.8379

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Snoqualmie Falls was easily the most popular and most visited waterfall that we have been to so far in the state of Washington.

However, we think the adjectives spectacular and powerful should also be thrown in there as well.

Snoqualmie_Falls_007_08262011 - Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls

And this was despite the fact that the Puget Sound Power and Light Company managed to divert some of the Snoqualmie River’s flow for the purposes of hydroelectricity.

So even though this waterfall was in a compromised state, it was still an awesome sight with its gushing year-round flow.

We could only imagine how wild this 268ft waterfall must have been during its wilder days before regulation.

The Popularity of Snoqualmie Falls

Given all these factors, I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising that this waterfall was so popular.

Snoqualmie_Falls_17_011_07292017 - Approaching the very crowded upper viewing decks for the Snoqualmie Falls on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of Summer
Approaching the very crowded upper viewing decks for the Snoqualmie Falls on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of Summer

After all, it was merely a half-hour or so of driving from Seattle to get here (depending on the severity of the traffic).

Moreover, we had a pretty easy time checking out the falls from its well-developed walkways and viewing platforms that allowed us to view the falls from above as well as from below.

In fact, we even witnessed some road rage as people were competing for limited parking space.

In one instance, one person managed to snag a parking spot right in front of someone who was patiently waiting for the prior occupant to pull out.

Snoqualmie_Falls_17_013_07292017 - Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Lodge in the late afternoon on a warm Summer's day in 2017
Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Lodge in the late afternoon on a warm Summer’s day in 2017

Indeed, things can get pretty tense when something like this is so popular.

Experiencing Snoqualmie Falls from the bottom

In addition to the obvious upper lookouts near the Salish Lodge, we also went further downstream from the falls.

That was where we managed to find a steep-but-well-developed trail that led us to the lower parking lot as well as some hydro infrastructure.

There were also a few relics alongside the trail, which the kids loved and the adults loved to use as photo ops.

Snoqualmie_Falls_035_05262006 - Looking back at the riverside trail leading to the bottom lookout for Snoqualmie Falls
Looking back at the riverside trail leading to the bottom lookout for Snoqualmie Falls

Beyond the hydroelectric facilities, the trail became a boardwalk along the banks of the Snoqualmie River.

Eventually, the trail terminated at a lookout with a direct view towards the base of Snoqualmie Falls.

Meanwhile, the walk between the upper lookouts and the lower lookout was said to be a half-mile in each direction.

While the view from here wasn’t close enough to be totally bombarded with the spray from the falls, it was noticeably cooler down here.

Snoqualmie_Falls_17_058_07292017 - View from the bottom of Snoqualmie Falls
View from the bottom of Snoqualmie Falls

Plus, this different perspective at the river level was certainly worth the exercise and the experience.

Timing A Visit To Snoqualmie Falls

As for the timing during the day to photograph this waterfall, our experience has shown us perhaps morning wouldn’t be the best time to visit.

That was because the falls was easily shrouded in fog and mist in the morning.

Conversely, we happened to be here on at midday on a sunny late August day in 2011 when the sun was right on top of us.

Snoqualmie_Falls_018_05262006 - Snoqualmie Falls barely visible through the morning fog during our first visit in 2006
Snoqualmie Falls barely visible through the morning fog during our first visit in 2006

That pretty much left the gorge darkened by shadows while the gorge rim was washed out in the sunlight.

On our third visit in late July 2017, we arrived late in the afternoon where the falls started to become completely shaded by the neighboring cliffs.

So given these observations, if it was a sunny day, the best photographic conditions would probably be in the mid-afternoon.

Changes at Snoqualmie Falls

In our first visit in 2006, we pursued the base of Snoqualmie Falls as we followed a pretty naturesque trail towards a boardwalk going past some hydroelectric facilities that appeared to still be in use.

It was far less crowded and more primitive back then.

Snoqualmie_Falls_034_08262011 - On our second visit to Snoqualmie Falls in 2011, we were unable to access the lower trail along the Snoqualmie River
On our second visit to Snoqualmie Falls in 2011, we were unable to access the lower trail along the Snoqualmie River

On our second visit in 2011, the lower area was inaccessible as it was in the midst of some pretty extensive construction to completely make over the facility and public access.

When we returned for a third time in 2017, it looked like the work was complete.

Even though it still seemed like the lower parts of the Snoqualmie Falls complex remained far less busier than its upper counterparts, it appeared to be better able to handle the increased visitor numbers.

There was even a separate trail leading to river itself for an opportunity to cool off on hot days.

Snoqualmie Falls Developments

Snoqualmie_Falls_17_004_07292017 - The Salish Lodge perched above Snoqualmie Falls
The Salish Lodge perched above Snoqualmie Falls

The building at the topleft of Snoqualmie Falls (as shown in the photograph at the top of this page) was the Salish Lodge and Spa.

It certainly seemed pretty upscale though we didn’t dine and stay there.

It did seem to be a pretty popular spot to have weddings, which was definitely the case on our last visit here in late July 2017.

Moreover, something that was interesting was that there was a stream gauge indicator in the lobby area indicating what the flow of the Snoqualmie River was.

Snoqualmie_Falls_17_045_07292017 - The lower trail passed before this imposing diversion pipe heading right towards a building to the right of the trail
The lower trail passed before this imposing diversion pipe heading right towards a building to the right of the trail

Apparently, the area around Snoqualmie Falls continues to be developed for additional housing.

Not everyone is on board with the ongoing developments, especially from the Snoqualmie Tribe.

While politics are not the focus of this website, you can read more about their grievances at this website.

Authorities

Snoqualmie Falls is near Issaquah in King County, Washington. It is administered by the city of Snoqualmie. For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit their website or Facebook page.

Snoqualmie_Falls_17_003_07292017 - Tahia going across the pedestrian footbridge linking the visitor parking lot with the Salish Lodge and the upper viewing decks for the Snoqualmie Falls. This photo and the next several ones were taken in late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_007_07292017 - Looking back across the parking lot for the Salish Lodge during our Snoqualmie Falls visit in late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_015_07292017 - View of the Snoqualmie Falls with the Salish Lodge from the main lookout during our visit in late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_016_07292017 - A close-up view of Snoqualmie Falls and its large plunge pool in late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_023_07292017 - Julie and Tahia looking for the newly renovated trail leading to the bottom of Snoqualmie Falls during our most recent visit in late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_027_07292017 - Tahia on the trail leading down towards the bottom of the Snoqualmie Falls during our visit in late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_030_07292017 - Looking along power lines cutting across the trail leading to the bottom of Snoqualmie Falls during our late July 2017 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_037_07292017 - The trail to the bottom of Snoqualmie Falls on our late July 2017 visit was more like a typical trail though it did thin out the crowds somewhat as some people weren't up for the hilly half-mile hike in each direction
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_042_07292017 - During our late July 2017 visit, there were a few hydroelectric relics put alongside the lower trail to educate visitors on what it took to harness the power of flowing water to create electricity
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_051_07292017 - Beyond the diversion pipes, we then descended a few more steps while skirting by this building en route to the bottom of Snoqualmie Falls on our late July 2017 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_055_07292017 - Then, the lower trail followed along this boardwalk towards the view of the base of Snoqualmie Falls as seen during our late July 2017 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_064_07292017 - Finally making it to the rather crowded lower lookout for Snoqualmie Falls on our late July 2017 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_069_07292017 - Tahia heading back along the boardwalk towards the lower parking lot after having had her fill of the lower view of Snoqualmie Falls during our late July 2017 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_073_07292017 - Tahia continuing to walk back towards the hydroelectricity relics on the walk from the lower lookout for Snoqualmie Falls in late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_020_iPhone_07292017 - Looking towards the waiting area at the lower parking lot for Snoqualmie Falls as of late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_17_078_07292017 - Looking down towards the parking lot immediately in front of the Salish Lodge from the pedestrian footbridge in late July 2017
Snoqualmie_Falls_001_08262011 - A stream gauge indicator from within Salish Lodge seen during our August 2011 visit to Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie_Falls_002_08262011 - Midday or early afternoon look at the Snoqualmie Falls in late August 2011
Snoqualmie_Falls_015_08262011 - Looking right at the Snoqualmie Falls in pretty high volume during our late August 2011 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_017_08262011 - A close-up view of Snoqualmie Falls with pretty high volume in late August 2011
Snoqualmie_Falls_018_08262011 - Some signage seen during our visit to Snoqualmie Falls in late August 2011 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_021_08262011 - Looking at some big plans being made to make over the Snoqualmie Falls area as seen in this sign during our August 2011 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_001_05262006 - This was our first look at Snoqualmie Falls during a foggy morning in May 2006. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery came from that day
Snoqualmie_Falls_006_05262006 - Looking right at the big drop of Snoqualmie Falls during our visit in May 2006
Snoqualmie_Falls_011_jx_05262006 - The parking lot for the Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls as seen in May 2006
Snoqualmie_Falls_012_jx_05262006 - Sign indicating the parking lot hours during our May 2006 visit
Snoqualmie_Falls_021_05262006 - Snoqualmie Falls in high flow when things started clearing up a bit later in the morning in May 2006
Snoqualmie_Falls_023_05262006 - Another look at the morning fog starting to clear up at Snoqualmie Falls during our visit in May 2006
Snoqualmie_Falls_028_05262006 - Snoqualmie Falls in late morning around Memorial Day 2006 under the typical overcast and drizzly weather that seemed to be the norm around here
Snoqualmie_Falls_030_05262006 - This was how the bottom of Snoqualmie Falls looked like on Memorial Day Weekend in 2006
Snoqualmie_Falls_033_05262006 - A closer look at Snoqualmie Falls from its base in May 2006

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As mentioned earlier, it’s about a half-hour’s drive east of downtown Seattle to the Snoqualmie Falls (hopefully there’s not too much traffic en route).

The approach we took was to take the I-90 east past Issaquah and eventually towards the ramp for Snoqualmie Parkway / Hwy 18 (Snoqualmie Falls is well-signed).

Issaquah_001_jx_05252006 - Traffic on the I-90 as we were approaching the suburb of Issaquah from Seattle
Traffic on the I-90 as we were approaching the suburb of Issaquah from Seattle

We then turned left to go north and followed this road for the next 3.8 miles before turning left at the three-way intersection with Railroad Ave (Hwy 202; or 1st Ave SE).

Shortly thereafter, we took the third exit at a roundabout to continue on Hwy 202 or Railroad Ave.

Just a short distance further was a turnoff for parking in front of the Salish Lodge on the left or the main visitor parking lot on the right.

If you’re parking at the visitor lot, you don’t need to walk cross the road as there’s a sheltered pedestrian bridge traversing over Hwy 202.

One time we didn’t notice the pedestrian bridge and actually did make the crossing by foot.

Snoqualmie_Falls_17_002_07292017 - Lots of people circling around competing for parking spaces at the upper parking lot across the Hwy 202 from the Salish Lodge on a Saturday afternoon in the Summer of 2017
Lots of people circling around competing for parking spaces at the upper parking lot across the Hwy 202 from the Salish Lodge on a Saturday afternoon in the Summer of 2017

That’s something we wouldn’t recommend given the rather high rate of traffic on the Hwy 202 and the blind turns from oncoming traffic in either direction.

Another thing we noticed was that if it gets too hectic at the main parking area across the street from the Salish Lodge, it was also possible to continue driving further west on the Hwy 202 for about 1.6 miles before turning left onto 372nd Ave SE.

Then, we’d continue driving on the side road for the next quarter-mile before keeping left onto SE Fish Hatchery Rd and driving the remaining half-mile to the Lower Parking Lot for Snoqualmie Falls.

During our visit, we noticed quite a few open parking spaces while people were stressing out competing for limited spaces at the Upper Parking Lot.

Snoqualmie_Falls_17_021_iPhone_07292017 - Looking back at the lower parking lot where there were still a handful of parking spaces
Looking back at the lower parking lot where there were still a handful of parking spaces

The only drawback to parking down here was the uphill hike to reach the upper overlooks, but if you’re planning to visit both overlooks regardless, then it really doesn’t matter which lot you park at.

Finally for some geographical context, Seattle was 173 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) north of Portland, Oregon, 143 miles (about 2.5 hours drive not counting border crossing delays) south of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and 1,137 miles (17 hours drive) north of Los Angeles, California.

360 degree sweep from the familiar crowded overlook for the Snoqualmie Falls


Brief semi-circular sweep showing the base of Snoqualmie Falls and the contex of the lookout


Fixated on the falls in motion. Note the construction above the falls. This is part of a bigger plan to completely renovate the area which currently impacts visitation. Work is said to be completed in 2013


Right to left sweep of the falls in high flow (2011) starting downstream then ending at the falls with a little zoom-in action for a closer look

Tagged with: seattle, issaquah, snoqualmie, renton, bellevue, 90, washington, waterfall, king, salish



Visitor Comments:

Name of Waterfalls (Snoqualmie Falls) February 14, 2009 5:23 am by Linde - Do you know the name of the waterfalls in this picture? Thanks & Regards Linde ...Read More
Snoqualmie Falls October 6, 2008 9:28 am by Dr.V.K.Kanniappan - Hi, I went to Seattle during 2002 along with my wife to visit my son working for Tata Consultancy Services, at Seattle. I was 58 years old during my visit. I had the opportunity to visit the Snoqualmie Falls. I felt very enchanted and happy. After reading this article, I feel like visiting US again… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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