Feature Show Falls cascades into the Boulder River. Credit: Krystal Hamlin/Flickr CC
Waterfall hike: Boulder River
Where: Find the Boulder River east of the City of Arlington, about a 90-minute drive from the Seattle area.
Stats: Up to 8.5 miles round trip; 700-foot elevation gain; no pass required to park
Contact: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District, 360-436-1155
Kids will love ... gazing at the massive trees! The Boulder River Wilderness contains one of the last remaining lowland old-growth forest river valleys in the Cascades, with huge specimens of western red cedar, Douglas fir and western hemlock.
This low-elevation, low-effort hike takes you into a phenomenal old-growth wilderness, and because the trailhead is primitive (i.e., there’s no privy), it’s also free to access.
Follow the trail as it meanders through a carpet of ferns and mosses, all nicely shaded by a thick canopy. From the start, you’ll hear flowing water as the trail tracks marvelously close to its namesake, the beautiful Boulder River. The forest receives about 150 inches of rain per year, though well-built puncheon, turnpike and water bars help keep standing water off the trail, and log bridges help you safely cross the many small streams.
Several waterfalls plunge into the river from the steep cliff opposite the trail. The first is Boulder Falls. The trail’s highlight is a mile and a quarter in: Feature Show Falls, a colossal twin-curtain waterfall that streams down the mossy cliff wall. There’s a nice bench here where you can sit and take it all in. Just beyond, a rocky side trail leads down to the river for a perfect lunch spot. For a short hike, turn around here. Otherwise, continue through the verdant wonderland all the way to the trail’s end, then return the way you came.
Getting there: From Interstate 5, take exit 208 onto State Route 530 to Arlington. Continue east for 20 more miles. At milepost 41, turn right onto Forest Service Road 2010 (French Creek Road) and drive 3.7 miles to the trailhead.
More hikes like this: If your kids don’t mind a little elevation gain to reach one of the most stunning waterfalls in the state, the trail to Wallace Falls (off U.S. Highway 2 near Gold Bar) should be on your list, as it leads to a multi-tiered cascade that plunges and tumbles its way over a cliff, sending mist in every direction. On the Olympic Peninsula near Lake Crescent, Marymere Falls is a short jaunt up steps and bridges fashioned from old-growth logs to the 90-foot cascade, which dramatically drops from a notch in a high cliff.
Next stop: a peak-bagger hike
Image credit: Krystal Hamlin/Flickr CC