Sol Duc Falls

Olympic National Park, Washington, USA

About Sol Duc Falls


Hiking Distance: 2 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2011-08-22
Date last visited: 2021-06-22

Waterfall Latitude: 47.95075
Waterfall Longitude: -123.81564

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Sol Duc Falls probably was the one waterfall that best embodied the rainforest feel of Olympic National Park as far as we were concerned.

Nestled within a lush evergreen rainforest full of ferns and moss-covered old growth trees, this 40-50ft triple waterfall on the Sol Duc River seemed like an appropriate fit for its surroundings.

Olympic_Peninsula_182_08222011 - Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls

It certainly seemed like the most popular waterfall in the Olympic Peninsula, especially with photographers as we had seen post cards or large format posters capturing this subject in long exposure.

The first time we visited Sol Duc Falls was during a Summer rain in August 2011, where the overcast skies really seemed to bring out the vibrant greens of the rainforest.

The second time we visisted this waterfall in June 2021, it was under sunny conditions though the forest cover seemed to have provided ample shade throughout the excursion.

Personally, I felt that the Sol Duc Falls experience was enhanced under the rainy or at least overcast conditions than it was under sunny weather.

Olympic_Peninsula_192_08222011 - Looking down over the brink of Sol Duc Falls from its closest overlook
Looking down over the brink of Sol Duc Falls from its closest overlook

It was almost as if the overcast skies and the moisture in the air brought out the colors (especially the greens) of the rainforest even more thanks to the more even distribution of sunlight.

Furthermore, when it was sunny (and warm) on our second visit under sunny skies, I swore it felt muggier because of the humidity resulting from the Olympic Peninsula’s high annual rainfall (typically over 100 inches of rain per year).

By the way, I’ve also seen this waterfall referred to as the Soleduck Falls, which was actually the accepted spelling until the State of Washington Board on Geographic Names officially changed it in 1992.

Even the trailhead signage still referred to the trail leading to Sol Duc Falls as the Soleduck Trail.

Sol_Duc_Falls_085_06222021 - Sol Duc Falls producing a bold rainbow in its mist during a sunny day on our June 2021 visit
Sol Duc Falls producing a bold rainbow in its mist during a sunny day on our June 2021 visit

According to the park service literature, the word itself was said to be a Quileute (or Quillayute) word meaning “magic waters”.

The Soleduck Trail to Sol Duc Falls

The straightforward hike to Sol Duc Falls from the fairly large parking lot (see directions below) was about 1.6 miles round-trip according to the traihead signage.

That said, my GPS logs indicated that we had hiked about 2.2 miles round-trip or 1.1-mile in each direction.

It was a wide, gently-undulating path along the forest floor so we almost always were in the shade of the lush forest canopy.

Sol_Duc_Falls_013_06222021 - Julie and Tahia surrounded by lush old-growth trees and numerous ferns (always a sign of a high rainfall area) along the Sol Duc Falls Trail
Julie and Tahia surrounded by lush old-growth trees and numerous ferns (always a sign of a high rainfall area) along the Sol Duc Falls Trail

Because the Olympic Rainforest is one of the oldest old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest (some trees have taken root up to a 1000 years ago), we saw numerous trees with very wide trunks.

A few fallen trees even exhibited numerous rings providing evidence of their age (something our daughter did attempt to count albeit unsuccessfully).

Indeed, when we first came here in August 2011, it was easy for Julie to imagine Edward and Bella (from the Twilight saga) flying amongst the tall trees above us.

In my case, it was easy for my eyes to wander upwards as I would gaze forward following the trail contour before letting the vertical lines from the trees take over my imagination and play tricks with my mind.

Sol_Duc_Falls_019_06222021 - Looking up at the tall trees seemingly closing in on the skies as seen from the Sol Duc Falls Trail
Looking up at the tall trees seemingly closing in on the skies as seen from the Sol Duc Falls Trail

At about the half-way point of the trail, there was a footbridge over a side creek feeding the Sol Duc River with an attractive cascade that seemed to compel many hikers to pause.

And after around 3/4-mile from the trailhead, we encountered a trail fork where the left branch continued along the Sol Duc River Trail while the right branch descended towards the Sol Duc River itself.

Shortly before the trail reached a footbridge traversing the Sol Duc River, we noticed an intriguing log cabin, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1939 shortly after Olympic National Park was established.

On the footbridge over the river, this was where we got our first (and perhaps most satisfying) views of the three-pronged Sol Duc Falls.

Sol_Duc_Falls_104_06222021 - Checking out the log cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corp
Checking out the log cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corp

Due to the mist it tended to throw up in its narrow gorge, we’ve found that the bridge tended to be quite muddy.

On the other side of the bridge, a short spur path on the left led to additional mist-laden lookouts providing us with an even closer perspective of the waterfall’s brink.

The vast majority of people turned around at Sol Duc Falls, but more ambitious hikers could backtrack to the bridge and then continue south to pursue highland lakes.

For example, Hidden Lake could be reached in another 1.4 miles or Deer Lake could be reached in another 3 miles or so.

Olympic_Peninsula_179_08222011 - Looking downstream from Sol Duc Falls at the Sole Duck River meandering amongst the lush greenery of the Olympic Rainforest
Looking downstream from Sol Duc Falls at the Sole Duck River meandering amongst the lush greenery of the Olympic Rainforest

However, both times we’ve visited this waterfall, we were content to return to the trailhead, and we wound up completing the hike in a leisurely 1-2 hours.

Authorities

Sol Duc Falls resides in Olympic National Park between Forks and Port Angeles in Clallam County, Washington. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Sol_Duc_Falls_003_06222021 - Approaching the end of the parking lot and trailhead for the Sol Duc Falls during our June 2021 visit
Sol_Duc_Falls_005_06222021 - Going past some trailhead signage on our June 2021 visit, which I wasn't sure was there during our August 2011 visit
Sol_Duc_Falls_011_06222021 - Julie and Tahia surrounded by ferns and lots of shade on a warm day in late June 2021
Sol_Duc_Falls_022_06222021 - More context of Julie and Tahia surrounded by tall old-growth trees along the Sol Duc Falls Trail in late June 2021
Sol_Duc_Falls_026_06222021 - Crossing over a footbridge fronting a small cascade at around the half-way point of the hike to Sol Duc Falls
Sol_Duc_Falls_029_06222021 - The Sol Duc Falls hike was quite busy when we did it in late June 2021
Sol_Duc_Falls_038_06222021 - Despite the sun, this section of the Sol Duc Falls Trail seemed to be very green during our late June 2021 visit
Sol_Duc_Falls_109_06222021 - Context of the CCC-built log cabin and the descent towards the bridge over the Sol Duc River
Sol_Duc_Falls_044_06222021 - Context of the footbridge fronting the Sol Duc Falls as seen during our late June 2021 visit
Sol_Duc_Falls_051_06222021 - Sol Duc Falls as seen during our June 2021 visit
Sol_Duc_Falls_055_06222021 - Portrait view of Sol Duc Falls as seen during our June 2021 visit
Sol_Duc_Falls_065_06222021 - Someone using a rest bench across from the lookouts close to the Sol Duc Falls during our June 2021 visit
Sol_Duc_Falls_078_06222021 - Looking back across one of the lookouts near the brink of Sol Duc Falls towards the footbridge spanning the Sol Duc River
Sol_Duc_Falls_088_06222021 - Looking back at the footbridge and lookout area for Sol Duc Falls from the continuation of the trails leading to Deer Lake
Sol_Duc_Falls_131_06222021 - Going back through the rainforest as we made our way back to the trailhead
Sol_Duc_Falls_135_06222021 - Returning to the fairly spacious parking lot for Sol Duc Falls when we ended our June 2021 visit
Sol_Duc_Falls_002_jx_08222011 - Julie entering the forested terrain for the Sol Duc Falls on our first visit in August 2011. The remaining photos from this photo gallery were taken on that first visit
Olympic_Peninsula_164_08222011 - On the early part of the hiking trail leading to Sol Duc Falls
Sol_Duc_Falls_003_jx_08222011 - The lush rainforest scenery all along the trail to Sol Duc Falls during our August 2011 visit
Olympic_Peninsula_165_08222011 - Julie in rain gear on the trail to the Sol Duc Falls flanked by tall trees during our August 2011 visit
Olympic_Peninsula_166_08222011 - It was easy to gaze upwards towards the top of the trees while hiking to Sol Duc Falls
Olympic_Peninsula_169_08222011 - A little brown bridge contrasting the green as we crossed some creek en route to Sol Duc Falls
Olympic_Peninsula_168_08222011 - Examining the creek from the foot bridge en route to the Sol Duc Falls in August 2011
Olympic_Peninsula_170_08222011 - Julie dwarfed by the tall trees flanking us while hiking amongst the Olympic Rainforest towards Sol Duc Falls
Olympic_Peninsula_171_08222011 - Following the railings as we approached the bridge fronting Sol Duc Falls
Sol_Duc_Falls_007_jx_08222011 - Julie photographing me getting wet while checking out Sol Duc Falls in August 2011
Olympic_Peninsula_186_08222011 - The Sol Duc Falls itself as seen from the far side of the bridge
Olympic_Peninsula_189_08222011 - Looking down to where the Sole Duck River had split before making its plunge as the Sol Duc Falls
Olympic_Peninsula_195_08222011 - Looking downstream towards Julie standing on the footbridge right in front of the Sol Duc Falls
Olympic_Peninsula_197_08222011 - Context of the viewpoints near the brink of Sol Duc Falls
Olympic_Peninsula_200_08222011 - More angled look from the footbridge towards the Sol Duc Falls below
Olympic_Peninsula_206_08222011 - Context of other onlookers checking out the Sol Duc Falls during our August 2011 visit
Olympic_Peninsula_208_08222011 - Looking downstream from the footbridge fronting Sol Duc Falls
Olympic_Peninsula_209_08222011 - Making it back to the signs by the trailhead for Sol Duc Falls to end our visit in August 2011


The trailhead for Sol Duc Falls is at the very end of the Soleduck Road (or Sol Duc Hot Springs Road), which is about 1.5 miles beyond the busy Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.

There is an entrance fee station along Sol Duc Hot Springs Road.

Sol_Duc_Falls_001_jx_08222011 - The parking lot at the trailhead for Sol Duc Falls
The parking lot at the trailhead for Sol Duc Falls

The turnoff for Sol Duc Hot Springs Road is about a little over 8 miles west of the Storm King Visitor Center turnoff along the US101.

It was pretty much just west of where Lake Crescent ended.

It’s also about 28 miles west of Port Angeles or 28 miles east of Forks along the same highway.

For context, Port Angeles was about 57 miles (over an hour drive) northeast of Forks and 82 miles (or 2.5 hours drive including a ferry ride [so it would take more time than this]) from Seattle.

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Downstream to upstream sweep while standing atop the footbridge over the Sol Duc River in a sunny day


Checking out more direct views of Sol Duc Falls from the lookouts beyond the footbridge


Top down sweep starting with the falls then ending downstream from the bridge


Right to left sweep starting upstream of the falls and ending downstream of the falls as seen from one of the adjacent overlooks


Top down sweep of Sol Duc Falls then sweeping to the left ending at the wooden railings

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Tagged with: olympic, national park, clallam, port angeles, washington, peninsula, waterfall, lake crescent, rainforest



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Sol Duc Falls – Olympic National Park January 4, 2011 4:47 am by Roger Weight - After a short hike, I reached Sol Duc Falls in the heart of the Olympic National Park. It was the second week in July, and the weather was nice and sunny. Had it not been sunny, my picture would have been quite different. As it is, it has lots of highlights where the sun shown… ...Read More

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