Wallace Falls

Gold Bar, Washington, USA

About Wallace Falls


Hiking Distance: 5.5 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 3 hours

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

Waterfall Latitude: 47.87481
Waterfall Longitude: -121.64638

Wallace Falls was a very popular waterfalling excursion as it was well within reach of both Everett and Seattle.

It was really a series of three major waterfalls on the Wallace River – called Lower, Middle, and Upper – as well as some intermediate cascades along the way.

Wallace_Falls_017_05262006 - Wallace Falls
Wallace Falls

So on just the waterfall scenery alone, it was understandable why this was one of Washington State’s most popular trails, especially on the weekends.

Of these waterfalls, the most impressive was the Middle Falls (pictured above), which boasted a 260ft drop followed by some additional cascades said to tumble another 100ft or so.

Sometimes this waterfall alone would be referred to as the Wallace Falls though I tended to think of the whole ensemble of waterfalls as such.

The first (lower) waterfall contained a few cascades before making a pair of plunges further downstream.

Wallace_Falls_17_088_07292017 - Full view of Wallace Falls during my second visit in late July 2017
Full view of Wallace Falls during my second visit in late July 2017

The cumulative drop of all the lower tiers (apparently five in all) was said to be 212ft.

The last (upper) waterfall was also said to have five drops, but I was only able to spot two of them, which was said to have a cumulative drop of about 100ft (240ft if you count the unseen drops).

The Wallace Falls Hike

In order to get the full experience of most (if not all) of the Wallace Falls, I had to go on a 5.5-mile round trip hike on the Woody Trail Route.

About 1,100ft of the 1,300ft overall elevation gain on this hike pertained to the stretch between the Middle and Upper Falls.

Wallace_Falls_033_05262006 - Are you up for the hiking distances to experience Wallace Falls?
Are you up for the hiking distances to experience Wallace Falls?

While most people would stop and turn around at the Middle Falls (a 4.2-mile round trip hike), I found the entire hike to be rewarding.

After all, the upper reaches of the trail provided views of the Skykomish River Valley from the top of the Middle Falls (in good weather, of course) in addition to the upper waterfalls.

I managed to experience the entire excursion on two separate occasions.

The first time, I did this hike during a rainy day in late May when the Wallace River swelled and the waterfalls were gushing.

Wallace_Falls_029_05262006 - The Upper Wallace Falls in high flow during a rainy day when I first did this hike in May 2006
The Upper Wallace Falls in high flow during a rainy day when I first did this hike in May 2006

The second time I did this hike was during late July on a warm and sunny Summer day when the falls exhibited a more graceful character while panoramic vistas opened up before me.

Indeed, the differing conditions made for a pretty unique experience each time I’ve done this.

When all was said and done, it took me around 3 hours each time I’ve done this hike.

Wallace Falls Trail Description – hiking from the trailhead to the Lower Falls

From the pretty spacious parking lot at the trailhead, I initially had to walk beneath a clear cut area dominated by high voltage power lines.

Wallace_Falls_17_015_07292017 - The beginning of the Wallace Falls Trail went beneath power pylons and power lines
The beginning of the Wallace Falls Trail went beneath power pylons and power lines

The buzz from the current racing through the transmission lines overhead was a little unnerving.

However, it also provided an interesting panorama by a picnic table just before the trail veered back into the forest.

Almost immediately back in the forest, I encountered a sign with some wise words from the English poet Williams Wordsworth.

Then, the trail had split into the Railroad Grade and the Woody Trail shortly thereafter.

Wallace_Falls_17_032_07292017 - The Woody Trail descending towards a bridge over the North Fork Wallace River in a well-forested setting en route to the Wallace Falls
The Woody Trail descending towards a bridge over the North Fork Wallace River in a well-forested setting en route to the Wallace Falls

I kept to the right to continue on the Woody Trail as it initially descended towards the banks of the Wallace River.

Shortly after the trail bottomed out, there was a signed junction where a spur trail led to the so-called Small Falls Interpretive Site.

It was dry during my latest late July 2017 visit so this was a brief detour.

For much of the next 1.2 miles, the trail gently meandered and climbed amidst a forested canopy.

Wallace_Falls_17_035_07292017 - The end of the detour for the Small Falls Interpretive Trail
The end of the detour for the Small Falls Interpretive Trail

The trees seemed to have mossy hairs growing out of their limbs attesting to how moist this area tended to be.

I eventually reached a picnic shelter and some more signposts pointing the way to the Lower Wallace Falls spur.

Nearby this spur, there was the continuation of the trail towards the Middle Wallace Falls as well as the Greg Ball Trail towards Wallace Lake.

In good weather, I was able to catch my first glimpse of the Middle Wallace Falls further upstream from some intermediate cascades that tumbled before me.

Wallace_Falls_17_062_07292017 - View of the top two tiers of the Lower Wallace Falls with the Middle Wallace Falls plunging in the distance further upstream
View of the top two tiers of the Lower Wallace Falls with the Middle Wallace Falls plunging in the distance further upstream

The spur trail continued descending towards a dead-end beneath the picnic shelter, where the last two plunging drops of the Lower Wallace Falls could be seen.

However, I was upstream from the very last drop so that one was difficult to see satisfactorily.

Wallace Falls Trail Description – hiking from the Lower Falls to the Middle Falls

After having my fill of the Lower Falls, I then backtracked to the main trail.

Next, the trail started to climb for the next quarter-mile before I reached the fenced lookout for the Middle Wallace Falls.

Wallace_Falls_17_072_07292017 - Looking down towards one of the lower tiers of the Lower Wallace Falls
Looking down towards one of the lower tiers of the Lower Wallace Falls

By the time I got up to this lookout, the trail had about 500ft of cumulative elevation gain from the parking lot to this point.

Anyways, this was the vantage point yielding the photo you see at the top of this page.

As you can see, it featured the entirety of the Middle Falls with its impressive 260ft plunge as well as some cascades immediately downstream from it.

These drops blended in with each other when Wallace Creek was rain swollen during my first visit here.

Wallace_Falls_17_091_07292017 - Context of the fenced lookout for the Middle Wallace Falls
Context of the fenced lookout for the Middle Wallace Falls

However, the distinct sections could clearly be seen when I made my return years later in the Summer.

Anyways, with no real opportunity to safely get closer to the bottom of this section, this view was the turnaround point for most hikers.

Pushing forward from here began the steepest part of the hike.

Wallace Falls Trail Description – hiking from the Middle Falls to the Upper Falls

Beyond the Middle Wallace Falls, the trail switchbacked its way towards the top of the Middle Falls.

Wallace_Falls_17_097_07292017 - Beyond the Middle Wallace Falls, most of the 1,300ft elevation gain came from switchbacks like these
Beyond the Middle Wallace Falls, most of the 1,300ft elevation gain came from switchbacks like these

Ultimately, I found myself climbing an additional 800ft when it would eventually reach the Upper Falls.

During this uphill stretch, the trail briefly veered away from the Wallace River as the scenery became more tranquil as a result.

The path was flanked by well-forested terrain with some stepped sections in addition to the switchbacks.

Towards the top of the switchbacks, there were a couple of spur trails leading to two separate lookouts near the top of the Middle Wallace Falls.

Wallace_Falls_17_110_07292017 - View over the Skykomish River Valley as seen from one of the spur trails above the Middle Wallace Falls
View over the Skykomish River Valley as seen from one of the spur trails above the Middle Wallace Falls

The first one focused just on looking down at the main drop of the Wallace Falls.

But the second lookout presented a nice panorama of the Skykomish River Valley as well as a different partial view down at the brink of the Middle Wallace Falls.

The last 3/4-mile stretch of trail beyond continued climbing up more switchbacks in a well-forested setting once again departing from the Wallace River in favor of the temperate rainforest settings.

Eventually, the trail veered back towards the Wallace River where there was another fenced overlook peering right at a pair of the drops of the Upper Wallace Falls.

Wallace_Falls_17_130_07292017 - Looking right down at the Upper Wallace Falls from the end of the waterfalling part of the trail at the 2.75-mile point of the hike
Looking right down at the Upper Wallace Falls from the end of the waterfalling part of the trail at the 2.75-mile point of the hike

In order to see the bottom of this drop (at least without needing to hop the barricade), I had to stand a bit on the fence and look down.

While the trail was said to continue past the Upper Falls towards Wallace Lake, this was my turnaround point.

Some additional signs here also warned of venturing beyond this point too late in the day or being unprepared for wilderness conditions.

Apparently, the next section was where most hikers would get lost, especially if it got dark.

Trail Timing

Wallace_Falls_17_123_07292017 - Having to contend with the morning sun near the Upper Wallace Falls
Having to contend with the morning sun near the Upper Wallace Falls

Back in May 2006 when I first did this hike, I had no trouble with crowds nor finding parking.

Then again, that was because it was raining pretty hard and the trail was quite muddy while the Wallace River was raging with a lot of brown from the erosion of the river’s banks.

In July 2017 when I next did this hike, I had gotten an early start so I also had no trouble finding parking.

However, when I returned to the trailhead at the conclusion of the hike, the parking lot was completely full and there were many more people on the trail.

Wallace_Falls_17_160_07292017 - Getting an early morning start meant that I was one of the few people heading back to the trailhead while many others were going in the other direction towards Wallace Falls
Getting an early morning start meant that I was one of the few people heading back to the trailhead while many others were going in the other direction towards Wallace Falls

The morning sun was also shining directly against me for both the Middle and Upper Falls views so I’d imagine the lighting would be better in the afternoon.

Of course, that would also mean contending with the limited parking and more people on the trail.

So I guess you can’t really have it all on this excursion unless you were willing to stay here all day after an early start.

Authorities

Wallace Falls resides in Wallace Falls State Park near Gold Bar in Snohomish County, Washington. It is administered by the Washington State Parks. For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Wallace_Falls_17_008_07292017 - Starting off my hike to the Wallace Falls during my second time coming here in late July 2017. This photo and the next several photos came from this hike
Wallace_Falls_17_022_07292017 - This picnic table was at a lookout beneath the power pylons and power lines. I decided that I'd check it out more when the lighting would improve on the return hike
Wallace_Falls_17_024_07292017 - Hiking past a sign with some wise saying from William Wordsworth as the trail entered the forest
Wallace_Falls_17_027_07292017 - This trail junction was where the trail split into the Railroad Grade on the left and the Woody Trail on the right
Wallace_Falls_17_029_07292017 - Looking down at the Wallace River as I descended while doing the Woody Trail during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_033_07292017 - A signposted spur trail leading to the Small Falls Interpretive Trail, which was dry during my visit in July 2017
Wallace_Falls_17_037_07292017 - Some rest benches were strategically placed along the Woody Trail for those hikers who would rather take their time on the Wallace Falls hike
Wallace_Falls_17_044_07292017 - For much of the first 1.2 miles towards the Lower Wallace Falls, the Woody Trail stayed true to its name as it meandered amongst temperate rainforest settings like what's shown here during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_047_07292017 - The Woody Trail continuing to meander amongst a pretty thick forest en route to the Wallace Falls as seen during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_050_07292017 - Making it to the signage where the trail branched three ways - towards the Lower Falls on the right, towards the Middle Falls in the middle, and towards Wallace Lake on the Greg Ball Trail on the left
Wallace_Falls_17_054_07292017 - Descending on the spur trail leading to the Lower Wallace Falls during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_055_07292017 - Looking at the state of the stream as I was pursuing the Lower Wallace Falls during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_058_07292017 - Looking back up at the steps that I had descended en route to the Lower Wallace Falls during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_060_07292017 - Looking towards the picnic shelter above the Lower Wallace Falls as seen during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_078_07292017 - These were the first two or three drops of the Lower Wallace Falls
Wallace_Falls_17_069_07292017 - This was the next to last drop of the Lower Wallace Falls as the last drop was further downstream and couldn't be seen cleanly during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_081_07292017 - The impressive Middle Wallace Falls could be seen in the distance from above the uppermost drops of the Lower Wallace Falls during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_090_07292017 - This was the view of the Middle Wallace Falls from its lookout as seen during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_100_07292017 - This was one of the spur trails that I noticed during my ascent above the Middle Wallace Falls during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_102_07292017 - Looking down over the top of the Middle Wallace Falls after taking the first of the short spurs during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_107_07292017 - This was another one of the forks in the trail above the Middle Wallace Falls seen during my July 2017 visit
Wallace_Falls_17_114_07292017 - Looking over the brink of the Middle Wallace Falls from the end of the second spur trail during the long climb on my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_116_07292017 - Looking back down at the signposted fork where the spur trail led to the very brink of the Middle Wallace Falls and the Skykomish Valley Overlook
Wallace_Falls_17_118_07292017 - Continuing on the long ascent beyond the Middle Wallace Falls towards the Upper Wallace Falls on my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_119_07292017 - Beyond the top of the Middle Wallace Falls, the trail continued climbing some steps as well as a few more switchbacks during the July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_122_07292017 - Some steps leading up towards the viewing area for the Upper Wallace Falls
Wallace_Falls_17_131_07292017 - Approaching the lookout for the Upper Wallace Falls. As you can see here, morning was not the best time for photographs here during my July 2017 visit
Wallace_Falls_17_124_07292017 - Finally making it up to the Upper Wallace Falls as seen during my July 2017 visit
Wallace_Falls_17_133_07292017 - After having my fill of the Upper Wallace Falls during my July 2017 hike, it was time to head back to the trailhead
Wallace_Falls_17_138_07292017 - Looking back at some hikers that were making their way up to the Upper Wallace Falls while I was going in the other direction during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_139_07292017 - This was one of the panoramic views that I noticed on the return hike in July 2017, but I believe the mountain that was supposed to be seen here was obscured in haze and possibly smoke from fires hundreds of miles away
Wallace_Falls_17_143_07292017 - Going back across the bridge over the North Fork Wallace River on the return hike in July 2017
Wallace_Falls_17_145_07292017 - Looking back at the footbridge over the North Fork of the Wallace River during my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_147_07292017 - During my return hike from the Wallace Falls in July 2017, I had noticed there were many more hikers going the other way
Wallace_Falls_17_148_07292017 - Making it back to the power lines during my July 2017 hike from Wallace Falls
Wallace_Falls_17_152_07292017 - This was the view beneath the power lines from that picnic table that I had punted on earlier on in my July 2017 hike
Wallace_Falls_17_154_07292017 - Context of the scenic view and picnic area beneath the power lines towards the end of this clear cut stretch as seen in July 2017
Wallace_Falls_17_157_07292017 - Continuing to hike back to the Wallace Falls Trailhead to end my July 2017 visit
Wallace_Falls_001_jx_05262006 - Map sign at the trailhead as seen during my May 2006 hike to Wallace Falls. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery came from that hike
Wallace_Falls_002_05262006 - Sign at the trailhead warning me when sunset was going to happen on this day when I made my soggy hike up to the Wallace Falls in May 2006
Wallace_Falls_003_05262006 - The Wallace Falls Trail bridges over a creek
Wallace_Falls_004_05262006 - The Woody Trail follows the Wallace River for most of the way. As you can see, during my rainy visit in May 2006, the river was swollen
Wallace_Falls_005_05262006 - Sign board near Lower Wallace Falls that I noticed during my rainy May 2006 hike
Wallace_Falls_008_05262006 - Some cascades in the open near the Lower Wallace Falls
Wallace_Falls_010_05262006 - Looking through some foliage towards the largest of the Lower Wallace Falls drops
Wallace_Falls_011_05262006 - This was what the Lower Wallace Falls looked like in a rain-swollen state back on my first visit in May 2006
Wallace_Falls_014_05262006 - This was the Middle Wallace Falls on a rainy day during my first hike in the area back in May 2006
Wallace_Falls_019_05262006 - More zoomed in and long-exposed shot of the Middle Wallace Falls with very thick flow from the rain during my May 2006 hike
Wallace_Falls_023_05262006 - The Upper Wallace Falls sign as seen during my May 2006 hike
Wallace_Falls_030_05262006 - This was how the Upper Wallace Falls looked like in its swollen state when I first saw it back in May 2006
Wallace_Falls_031_05262006 - On the return hike in May 2006, I took the other way on the split trail, which was more lush but narrower (and it might have passed by the Small Falls though I didn't know it at the time)
Wallace_Falls_002_jx_05262006 - Back at the Wallace Falls Trailhead to end my soggy adventure in May 2006

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The Wallace Falls State Park is near Gold Bar.

I’ll describe the driving directions from Issaquah since both times I’ve done this hike, I’ve made the drive from there.

This route also encompasses the more popular starting points in Seattle as well as Everett).

So coming up from Issaquah, I drove west on the I-90 for a little over 7 miles towards the I-405 north near Bellevue.

Note that this junction was about 5.5 miles east of downtown Seattle along the I-90.

Wallace_Falls_17_002_07292017 - Looking towards the Wallace Falls Trailhead where there was a restroom facility, electronic payment kiosk, and some trailhead signs
Looking towards the Wallace Falls Trailhead where there was a restroom facility, electronic payment kiosk, and some trailhead signs

I then followed the 405 north for a little over 11 miles towards the exit 23 to merge onto the WA-522 highway.

Then, I continued on the 522 northeast for about 14 miles towards the US-2 (Stevens Pass Hwy).

Note that this junction between the 522 and the 2 was about 15 miles east of Everett along the US2.

Turning right to go east on US2, it was pretty much surface streets for the remaining 15 miles as it would eventually enter the town of Gold Bar.

Wallace_Falls_17_004_07292017 - The fairly large parking lot at the Wallace Falls State Park Trailhead, which had plenty of parking space when I got my early morning start
The fairly large parking lot at the Wallace Falls State Park Trailhead, which had plenty of parking space when I got my early morning start

Following a brown sign pointing the way to Wallace Falls State Park, I then turned left onto 1st Street before turning right onto May Creek Rd less than a half-mile later.

Continuing on May Creek Rd, I then encountered a fork at about 3/4-mile.

I kept left at this fork to continue the remaining 0.6 miles to the parking lot for the trailhead.

Overall, this drive took me a little less than 75 minutes.

Wallace_Falls_17_161_07292017 - When I returned to the trailhead later that morning, the Wallace Falls State Park parking lot was full. So it was a good thing that I got an early start
When I returned to the trailhead later that morning, the Wallace Falls State Park parking lot was full. So it was a good thing that I got an early start

While the parking lot was spacious, it filled up quickly (especially on the weekends) so I’d recommend getting an early start.

I also had to pay for the Discovery Pass at the electronic kiosk, which costed me $10/car.

As far as I knew, they didn’t accept my Interagency Pass (formerly the National Parks Pass) at this park.

Finally for some geographical context, Gold Bar was 29 miles (a little under 45 minutes drive) east of Everett, 46 miles (about an hour drive) northeast of Seattle. 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.

Longer video showing area around Lower Wallace Falls junction before descending further to another lookout with a more impressive look at the real Lower Falls


360 degree sweep showing the impressive Middle Wallace Falls


Top down view of the Middle Falls and over-the-top angle of the Lower Falls all from the Valley Overlook


Looking against the sun down towards the Upper Wallace Falls as well as a 360 degree sweep

Tagged with: gold bar, snohomish, everett, sultan, wallace falls, state park, washington, waterfall, stevens pass



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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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