Walupt Falls

Packwood / Randle / Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington, USA

About Walupt Falls


Hiking Distance: about 3 miles round-trip scramble
Suggested Time: allow 2-3 hours

Date first visited: 2021-06-21
Date last visited: 2021-06-21

Waterfall Latitude: 46.43136
Waterfall Longitude: -121.49788

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Walupt Falls (also called Walupt Creek Falls) was an unusually-shaped 220ft waterfall that was definitely unique among the waterfalls that we saw in the state of Washington.

Due to its size and unusual shape, I found it to be one of the more alluring waterfalls in the state of Washington, and that’s saying something considering how many other waterfalls this state harbors.

Walupt_Falls_053_06212021 - Walupt Falls or Walupt Creek Falls
Walupt Falls or Walupt Creek Falls

Apparently this waterfall reminded some people of Union Falls because Walupt Falls was introduced to us under the context of Yellowstone’s Cascade Corner gem.

I suspect this association was likely due to the wide fan shape coupled with waterflow going in different directions on the way down.

However, the similarities pretty much end there as I didn’t have to hike nearly 16 miles with river crossings in grizzly country like I did for Union Falls.

Yet Walupt Falls presented its own set of challenges despite its shorter hiking length because of its unmaintained path.

Union_Falls_242_08122017 - Does Walupt Falls remind you of Union Falls?
Does Walupt Falls remind you of Union Falls?

Case in point, it involved lots of scrambling, paying real close attention to hints of past use, and a rather tricky traverse of Walupt Creek in high flow.

Indeed, I definitely had to earn my visit despite the modest round-trip trail distance of 3 miles, and it still took me a solid 3 hours to complete to cover this distance while still properly experiencing all it had to offer.

Looking back at my experience here, I’d recommend that only experienced hikers or parties with at least one experienced hiker in it should partake in this adventure to minimize getting lost as well as to reduce the chances of injury.

Hiking to Walupt Falls: What to Expect

Walupt Falls isn’t a conventional hike in that you could just show up on a lark after reading about it on AllTrails and expect success without preparation.

Walupt_Falls_009_06212021 - Someone left behind a series of colored ribbons tied to overhanging branches acting as breadcrumbs suggesting the scrambling route, especially when traversing the high-flowing Walupt Creek
Someone left behind a series of colored ribbons tied to overhanging branches acting as breadcrumbs suggesting the scrambling route, especially when traversing the high-flowing Walupt Creek

Indeed, you really have to treat this excursion like a scramble though I’m sure the “trail” might become more obvious as more people find out about this place on the interwebs and start “blazing trails” with repeated use, so to speak.

It’s easy to get lost if you haven’t been here before, and having a GPS app definitely kept me oriented (I used my premium version of Gaia GPS during my visit in June 2021).

In addition, I wore Keens so I didn’t have to worry too much about getting my feet and legs wet on the crossing of Walupt Creek.

However, I did worry about deeper water (possibly going higher than my chest) so I brought my trekking poles for good measure as far as trying to maintain my balance with the extra two “legs”.

Walupt_Falls_012_06212021 - Due to the high flow of Walupt Creek during my June 2021 visit, it was very sketchy trying to figure out a proper traverse of Walupt Creek without ruining my camera and other equipment, especially given the amount of overgrowth and slippery logs
Due to the high flow of Walupt Creek during my June 2021 visit, it was very sketchy trying to figure out a proper traverse of Walupt Creek without ruining my camera and other equipment, especially given the amount of overgrowth and slippery logs

After all, I still didn’t want to have any of my electronics ruined by water.

Finally, I wore long-sleeves, long pants, and a good hat just in case I encountered poison oak overgrowth, any ticks given the scrambling nature of this hike, and some passive protection against mosquitoes.

As for timing the visit, I made my attempt towards mid- to late-June.

Admittedly, this probably wasn’t optimal due to the high degree of snowmelt (and mozzies), but I’d imagine Walupt Creek has healthy flow through the Summer and Fall thanks to Walupt Lake acting as its source.

Walupt_Falls_017_06212021 - Trying to follow any hints of prior use within the remote Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Trying to follow any hints of prior use within the remote Gifford Pinchot National Forest

As far as logistics, I had to budget at least a half-day for this excursion due to the lengthy drive to get here as well as giving myself at least 2-3 hours to do the hike itself and enjoy it.

Hiking to Walupt Falls: The Scramble & Creek Crossing

From the unmarked “trailhead” (see directions below), I then went across the road and followed a pretty well-used trail for about the first 0.1- to 0.2 miles.

However, it didn’t take long before the obvious trail pretty much disappeared and I had to look for hints on where to go next.

This coincided with following colored ribbons, which someone was kind enough to leave behind for others to follow.

Walupt_Falls_016_06212021 - This ribbon nearby one log that I could stand on was surrounded by lots of overgrowth, which attested to the rather sketchy nature of the scramble to get across Walupt Creek
This ribbon nearby one log that I could stand on was surrounded by lots of overgrowth, which attested to the rather sketchy nature of the scramble to get across Walupt Creek

The ribbons primarily acted as a route suggestion to get me past the river-like Walupt Creek, which involved a lot of balancing on logs or taking advantage of larger logjam jumbles.

However, the orientation of the logs to facilitate the crossing wasn’t guaranteed, which was why having Keens or any other kind of water shoes was helpful, especially if you don’t want to ruin hiking boots by submerging them completely in water.

Even with the colored ribbon hints and trekking poles to better balance on the logs, it took me some time to figure out the best route to traverse the creek.

But once I was on the other side of the creek, I’d go so far to say that the hardest part of this hike was pretty much over.

Hiking to Walupt Falls: Keep Up With The Faint Use-Trails

Walupt_Falls_020_06212021 - The Walupt Falls use-trail went past some fallen trees, which made following the trail-of-use even trickier
The Walupt Falls use-trail went past some fallen trees, which made following the trail-of-use even trickier

Once on the north side of Walupt Creek, I noticed faint use-trails that followed Walupt Creek’s flow in the downstream direction.

I especially had to pay close attention to hints of prior use around any fallen trees or some gap between low-lying vegetation.

There were also some false trails along the way as I’d imagine there might be more than one way that people have gone, which might throw off the disoriented hiker.

At roughly 0.2-mile beyond the Walupt Creek Crossing (or roughly 0.7-mile from the trailhead according to my GPS logs), I did encounter a lone colored ribbon.

Walupt_Falls_004_iPhone_06212021 - This was the lone colored ribbon that I saw once I got well past the series of them at the Walupt Creek Crossing
This was the lone colored ribbon that I saw once I got well past the series of them at the Walupt Creek Crossing

Given that it was the only one that I saw after the creek crossing, its odd placement made me wonder whether there was an easier traverse of Walupt Creek over here, but I just stayed focused and continued following the faint use-trail downstream.

I did have some help when I was passed by a hiker who had gotten a later start than me, and he seemed to have been here before given how quickly he was moving.

So I followed him as far as I could while still taking pictures along the way, and that kept me going at a pretty good pace until he left me in the dust.

Other than that, as long as you’re going in the downstream direction, I didn’t find this section to be too difficult as long as I remained focused on staying on the “path”.

Walupt_Falls_005_iPhone_06212021 - One of a couple of intermediate waterfalls on Walupt Creek that I encountered on the way to Walupt Falls
One of a couple of intermediate waterfalls on Walupt Creek that I encountered on the way to Walupt Falls

At around a half-mile beyond the Walupt Creek Crossing (or a quarter-mile beyond the last of the colored ribbons that I saw), I spotted a could of intermediate waterfalls on Walupt Creek.

In addition to being scenic landmarks worth a pause, they were also useful landmarks letting me know my progress (especially when I have to come back the same way on the return scramble).

Finally at around 0.6-mile beyond the last of the colored ribbons I saw (or around 0.9-mile beyond the Walupt Creek Crossing), I pretty much would reach the Walupt Falls, but I was only near its top.

There was still the final descent to get to the end of the scramble.

Hiking to Walupt Falls: Finding Different Ways To Experience The Falls

Walupt_Falls_012_iPhone_06212021 - Looking down across the Walupt Falls from somewhere near its brink
Looking down across the Walupt Falls from somewhere near its brink

Nearby the brink of Walupt Falls (I knew this was the right waterfall given how far it had to drop), I reached a fork in the trail where the path on the left went even closer to the brink of Walupt Falls.

Keeping right to stay the course, there was another “fork” in an open part of the “trail” yielding a more partial profile view of Walupt Falls with the context of its watercourse further downstream.

It was here that I saw how far the hiker that passed me had gone (as he was way down in Walupt Creek looking back towards Walupt Falls), and that gave me the visual clue of where I needed to be in order to get to the end of this scramble.

At around 1.1 miles from the Walupt Creek Crossing (or 0.8 mile beyond the last of the colored ribbons I saw), I reached an unsigned trail junction.

Walupt_Falls_139_iPhone_06212021 - This was the unsigned trail junction where I went left to continue the steep descent to the bottom of Walupt Falls. I don't know where the trail on the right goes, but the people I met at the bottom said it doesn't go to the falls
This was the unsigned trail junction where I went left to continue the steep descent to the bottom of Walupt Falls. I don’t know where the trail on the right goes, but the people I met at the bottom said it doesn’t go to the falls

From here I went left, which quickly descended a steep path while the path on the right turned out to go away from Walupt Falls and was not the trail to take.

During the steep descent I spotted another informal spur path that traversed what seemed to be a seasonal stream before reaching a rather sketchy outcrop with an in-your-face look right at Walupt Falls.

Continuing the steep descent, the terrain involved carefully descending on a combination tree roots (there was even one part where someone had set up a rope though I didn’t use it) and an even steeper decline.

But once I got to the bottom, I found myself right at the banks of Walupt Creek right where it joined with the Cispus River.

Walupt_Falls_018_iPhone_06212021 - This was an in-your-face partial look towards the upper half of Walupt Falls after scrambling across a seasonal stream to get to a rather sketchy and precarious rock outcrop
This was an in-your-face partial look towards the upper half of Walupt Falls after scrambling across a seasonal stream to get to a rather sketchy and precarious rock outcrop

From the vantage point down here, I was pretty much looking against the late morning-midday sun so I’d imagine early to late afternoon would be optimal in terms of photographing the falls on a sunny day.

Walupt Creek had very high flow so I couldn’t confidently wade into the creek to get even closer to the base of the falls, but the views from here were enough to satisfy my viewing needs.

Overall, it took me about 90 minutes to get to this point, and it took me another hour to return to the car (after spending a solid hour at this spot to enjoy the falls).

I had a hard time back at the crossing of Walupt Creek, which was punctuated by me falling on my bottom into the creek (but luckily not dunking any of my electronics).

Walupt_Falls_046_iPhone_06212021 - Context of Walupt Falls along with Walupt Creek's confluence with the Cispus River to the right of it
Context of Walupt Falls along with Walupt Creek’s confluence with the Cispus River to the right of it

So that further illustrated the non-trivial nature of this hike and scramble.

Authorities

Walupt Falls resides in Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Packwood in Lewis County, Washington. Even though it sits in the USDA Forest Service jurisdiction, this is not an official trail. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_003_iPhone_06212021 - Following the NF-21 Road towards Walupt Lake when I just left the US12
Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_007_iPhone_06212021 - I had to take my time on the NF-21 Road because it was riddle with pretty deep potholes
Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_008_iPhone_06212021 - Following the signs for Walupt Lake on the NF-21 Road
Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_009_iPhone_06212021 - Following the NF-21 Road with glimpses of Mt Adams in the distance
Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_010_iPhone_06212021 - This was the signed turnoff where the NF-21 Road intersected with the NF-2160 Road
Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_011_iPhone_06212021 - The NF-2160 Road was surprisingly paved given that it took some bumpy driving on the NF-21 Road to even get here!
Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_012_iPhone_06212021 - Still following the signs along the NF-2160 Road towards Walupt Lake
Walupt_Falls_001_06212021 - Finally arriving at the unsigned trailhead for Walupt Falls. There were some additional cars that showed up and parked across the NF-2160 Road just as I gearing up to get started
Walupt_Falls_002_06212021 - Looking back at the NF-2160 Road and the other parked cars as I started hiking to Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_003_06212021 - Initially, the Walupt Falls Trail was pretty straightforward to follow
Walupt_Falls_004_06212021 - But shortly after this ribbon tied around a fallen tree, the trail rapidly started to disappear
Walupt_Falls_005_06212021 - One of the colored ribbons that someone graciously left behind to act as breadcrumbs on how to navigate through the scramble, especially the upcoming crossing of Walupt Creek
Walupt_Falls_008_06212021 - Unfortunately with the notoriety comes the litter, and it appears that Walupt Falls is heading in that direction despite it being non-trivial to reach
Walupt_Falls_013_06212021 - Looking across parts of Walupt Creek, which was surrounded by overgrowth, and that make this traverse even trickier because they conspire to hide any hints of where people have gone before
Walupt_Falls_002_iPhone_06212021 - Trying to figure out which of the rotting waterlogged logs were worth crossing on my way across Walupt Creek
Walupt_Falls_015_06212021 - When I saw that a couple of log crossings were a bit too sketchy (and slippery since the creek was running OVER them) I changed my strategy and used this logjam to get most of the way across Walupt Creek instead
Walupt_Falls_021_06212021 - Once I got past the Walupt Creek Crossing, it was more or less smooth sailing, but I did notice this seemingly out-of-place ribbon that wasn't grouped with the rest of the ones I saw earlier (this was roughly 0.2-mile from the rest of the ribbons by the Walupt Creek Crossing)
Walupt_Falls_022_06212021 - This hiker overtook me and was going really fast.  Clearly he knew where he was going and was likely not his first time here
Walupt_Falls_024_06212021 - Still following the faint use-trail as it skirted alongside Walupt Creek
Walupt_Falls_027_06212021 - More intermediate rapids alongside Walupt Creek as I kept following the use-trail towards Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_029_06212021 - One of the intermediate waterfalls on Walupt Creek that I noticed on my Walupt Falls adventure
Walupt_Falls_034_06212021 - Another intermediate waterfall on Walupt Creek seen during my adventure to Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_039_06212021 - Looking down over the Walupt Falls from somewhere near its brink
Walupt_Falls_045_06212021 - Looking across the upper part of Walupt Falls as I sought a better look at it from up here
Walupt_Falls_050_06212021 - During the steep descent towards the bottom of Walupt Falls, I encountered some spur 'trails' leading to other views of Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_054_06212021 - This was probably the cleanest view of Walupt Falls that I could get from partway down the steep descent to the waterfall's base, but I really had to be careful not to get too close to the edge because it was a sheer drop
Walupt_Falls_056_06212021 - Looking across a small seasonal stream that led me towards that sketchy upper view of Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_120_06212021 - Another look back at the steep 'trail' with the seasonal stream near the informal upper view of Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_060_06212021 - Continuing the steep final descent towards the base of Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_117_06212021 - In the steepest or most eroded parts of the descent, someone had set up this rope to facilitate the scramble to the base of (or climbing back up from) Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_063_06212021 - Finally making it down to the base of Walupt Falls where I rejoined that larger group of hikers that pulled up to the trailhead just when I was getting started
Walupt_Falls_078_06212021 - As you can see, the lighting in the late morning wasn't the greatest when it came to trying to photograph Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_080_06212021 - Looking downstream towards the end of the Walupt Falls scramble, which deposited us right at the banks of Walupt Creek right in front of the falls and the confluence of the creek with the Cispus River
Walupt_Falls_086_06212021 - Looking towards most of the group as they were starting their steep climb to return to the trailhead after having their fill of Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_094_06212021 - Context of Walupt Falls and the continuation of the Cispus River to its right
Walupt_Falls_112_06212021 - Even after the group left, I wasn't alone as this guy was busy taking tripod shots in the harsh light of the Walupt Falls
Walupt_Falls_123_06212021 - After having my fill of Walupt Falls, it was time to make the steep climb back up
Walupt_Falls_131_06212021 - Then I had to backtrack along the faint use-trail alongside Walupt Creek to eventually get back to the crossing of Walupt Creek
Walupt_Falls_132_06212021 - Still following the faint use-trail back to the Walupt Creek Crossing
Walupt_Falls_135_06212021 - Context of the use-trail and an intermediate waterfall on Walupt Creek
Walupt_Falls_142_06212021 - Eventually, when I started to see colored ribbons again, I knew that this was where I had to make the crossing to get back across Walupt Creek. This was the first log I had to balance myself on to make progress
Walupt_Falls_141_iPhone_06212021 - Even once I got across Walupt Creek, I still had to regain the 'trail' by following the colored ribbon hints again
Walupt_Falls_142_iPhone_06212021 - When I finally got back to the parked car, it was just my rental car and one car that perhaps belonged to that other guy that was still there


Walupt Creek Falls sits in a remote part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Packwood between Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens.

Since I drove here from Seattle, I will describe the route I took accordingly.

Similarly, I’d imagine you can also drive up here from Portland since it’s more or less a similar driving distance as that from Seattle.

Driving from Seattle to Walupt Horse Camp

Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_001_iPhone_06212021 - Heading south on the I-5 from Seattle
Heading south on the I-5 from Seattle

From Seattle, I drove about 36 miles south on the I-5 then I went east on the WA-512 for about 2 miles to the WA-7 Parkland Spanaway exit.

Turning right onto WA-7, I then went nearly 42 miles on the WA-7 towards the US12 by the town of Morton (note I departed from the route to Mt Rainier at Elbe to stay on the WA-7 after 35 miles from the WA-512).

Then, I drove about 31 miles east on the US12 towards Packwood (ignoring my Garmin DriveSmart which kept insisting on taking the WA-131 south from Randle), and then taking the NF-21 Road on the right (about 2 miles southwest of Packwood).

Once on the unpaved and potholed riddled NF-21 Road, I then followed the signs for Walupt Lake, which led me about 16 miles towards its junction with the NF-2160 Road.

Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_006_iPhone_06212021 - Having to deal with lots of Potholes on the NF-21 Road towards Walupt Lake
Having to deal with lots of Potholes on the NF-21 Road towards Walupt Lake

Turning left onto the surprisingly-paved NF-2160 Road, I then took it just under 4 miles to the informal trailhead for Walupt Falls, which was just past the signed turnoff for the Walupt Horse Camp (which you don’t take).

Overall, this drive took me about 3 hours.

Driving from Portland to Walupt Horse Camp

From Portland, I would head north on the I-5 for about 76 miles towards the US12 exit towards Morton.

Then, I’d drive east on the US12 for about 62 miles before turning right onto the NF-21 Road and following the remaining directions as given above.

According to GoogleMaps, this drive would take around 2.5 hours.

Drive_to_Walupt_Falls_014_iPhone_06212021 - The trailhead for Walupt Falls is just beyond this signed turnoff for Walupt Horse Camp along the paved NF-2160 Road
The trailhead for Walupt Falls is just beyond this signed turnoff for Walupt Horse Camp along the paved NF-2160 Road

As for geographical context, Packwood is about 73 miles (about 90 minutes drive) west of Yakima, 70 miles (under 2 hours drive) south of Puyallup, 108 miles (over 2 hours drive) south of Seattle, and 141 miles (over 2 hours drive) northeast of Portland, Oregon.

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Right to left sweep from near the brink of Walupt Falls


More profile view of Walupt Falls from cliffs nearly eye level with the brink of the falls


In your face sweep of Walupt Falls framed between trees


Right to left sweep of Walupt Falls and the rushing creek before focusing on the falls itself


Context of Walupt Falls with some onlookers as seen from the edge of the calm and shallow part of the creek


Right to left sweep starting from the downstream confluence and ending with close-up panning of the falls itself

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Tagged with: walupt lake, walupt horse camp, gifford pinchot, packwood, randle, cispus river, lewis county



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