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9 Kid-Friendly Waterfall Hikes for Seattle-Area Families

Rambles alongside a roaring cascade, for every age

Published on: May 22, 2017

Franklin Falls

Kid-Friendly Waterfalls

The Cascade mountain range is named for them — hundreds of waterfalls, big and small, that cascade down streams and plunge over cliffs, carrying huge amounts of water from winter rains and melting snow.

A giant roaring falls is a five-senses experience, while gentle cascades down a mountain stream will lull you to a tranquil rest.

Safety tips: Waterfalls are beautiful but can be dangerous, especially in spring conditions when there has been lots of rain.

Never venture into the direct stream of a large waterfall, as loose rocks often tumble down with the water. Never climb up waterfalls, and don’t let children jump from high rocks into a waterfall’s pool.

If children wish to wade into a shallow backcountry pool or stream to cool off or look for critters, make sure they’re closely supervised and wearing sturdy shoes that can handle loose, slippery rocks.

Most important, always check conditions of trails and roads before your hike — one of the best resources available is Washington Trails Assocation's trip reports, where you can get the most current conditions.

Read on for nine kid-friendly hikes to waterfalls in Western Washington that never disappoint.

Franklin Falls, Snoqualmie Pass

Important note: As of May 2017, the road to Franklin Falls remains closed. 

Distance: Two miles round trip, 400 feet elevation gain, Northwest Forest Pass required to park.

Info: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Franklin Falls Trailhead.

Conditions: Check current conditions and trip reports at the Washington Trails Association website.

Kids will love: Actual ruts of pioneer-era wagon wheels on this history hike.

Highlights: From the trailhead, this short, easy trail runs alongside the old wagon track that led early settlers over the Cascades to lower Puget Sound. The falls are one mile in, but the whole path is scenic as it hugs the south fork Snoqualmie River. There is a dropoff on one side of the trail as you near the falls, occasionally fenced but sometimes not. Hold tight to little ones.

Your hike in finishes with a short, rocky ascent up to the base of the impressive falls, which spill from the top of a sheer rock face and send a fine mist into the air. Watch safely from the edge of the waterfall’s pool without venturing in; loose rocks sometimes tumble down with the water.

The forest service keeps the Franklin Falls trail well maintained, but on the soggiest of days you may be dodging puddles, so wear waterproof shoes. The rocky path near the falls may be icy in winter and not suitable for small kids.

Directions: From Seattle take I-90 east to exit 47. Turn left (north), cross the overpass then make a right when the road comes to a “T”. After a quarter mile, turn left on Denny Creek Road (FS58). Follow this road 2.5 miles to just past Denny Creek Campground and turn left onto a paved road. Parking is on the left and the trailhead is on the right. Note: This is a popular hike and the lot fills up quickly.

This article was originally published in March 2014 and updated in May 2017.

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