10 Great Waterfall Hikes near Seattle

There is something calming, soothing, and magical about waterfalls, especially when surrounded by ripe green forests or a snowy winter wonderland. I love waterfall hiking in winter and spring to see falls in their full glory, to practice my waterfall photography, and to have some fun—How many can I see?!—during the rainy season.

Seattleites have access to dozens of waterfalls in the Cascades and Olympics. While you could travel hours to a waterfall hike—I sure have!—sometimes it is nice and just more doable with your schedule to stick closer to home.

In that spirit, here are ten of my favorite waterfall hikes off Interstate 90 near Seattle. Many are featured in my book Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle and I've noted page numbers where that’s the case. Please take care of the waterfalls and trails while you’re out by Leaving No Trace. Happy waterfall hunting!

1. North Fork Falls, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, exit 13

0.5 mile round-trip, 100 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Winter - Spring  

Passes/Fees: none

The first four hikes on this list are on Cougar Mountain, 15 miles southeast of Seattle. Since Cougar Mountain has a relatively low elevation compared to the Cascade foothills and Cascades further east on I-90, it’s a great option for hiking in winter and spring (although true, the plants are a bit bare without their leafy summer coats :). North Fork Falls is a sweet, family-friendly waterfall hike along the historic Coal Creek Trail. Begin your hike at the Red Town Trailhead and carefully cross Lakemont Boulevard. Pick up the Coal Creek Trail and descend northwest into the forest for a quarter mile to North Fork Falls on your right.

2. Coal Creek Falls, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, exit 13

2.5 miles roundtrip, 400 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Winter - Spring  

Passes/Fees: none

Coal Creek Falls is a multi-step waterfall surrounded by Douglas fir, alder, and cottonwood on Cougar Mountain. This hike begins at the Red Town Trailhead and climbs southeast on gently rolling trails to the falls. Click the link above for the 2.5-mile route or see page 90 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle for a 3.5-mile loop option.

3. Far Country Falls, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, exit 13

2.9 miles round-trip, 325 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Winter - Spring  

Passes/Fees: none

Far Country Falls is a partially hidden, lace-like waterfall just over a mile's hike south from the Red Town Trailhead on Cougar Mountain. See pages 87-90 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle for this 2.9-mile loop on the Wildside and Red Town Trails with an Extend the Hike detour to Far Country Falls. A lovely alternative is to take the Licorice Fern Trail to Far Country Falls, a quiet and ferny 3.8-mile round-trip hike that passes through Far Country Creek.

4. Doughty Falls, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, exit 15

4.8 miles roundtrip, 1600 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Winter - Spring  

Passes/Fees: none

Doughty Falls is a lightly flowing, seasonal waterfall on the south side of Cougar Mountain. It is a great choice when you have seen all the Cougar Mountain waterfalls and are looking for something new and challenging. This hike starts at the Jim Whittaker Wilderness Peak Trailhead and ascends steeply northwest on the Whittaker Wilderness Peak Trail to a network of junctions near Long View Peak: Be sure to bring a map! Doughty Falls is off the Deceiver Trail; see the links above.

5. Snoqualmie Falls, Snoqualmie, exit 25

1.4 miles round-trip, 310 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Year-round

Passes/Fees: Parking fee in main parking lot, free parking in the overflow lot nearby

Snoqualmie Falls is the Seattle area’s most famous waterfall, stretching 268 feet tall as it drops into a plunge pool along the Snoqualmie River. It’s a great option when you need to get out of the house for a burst of waterfall bliss. You can walk right up to the upper falls viewpoint and interpretive displays from the upper falls parking lots, hike 1.4-miles round-trip to the lower falls viewpoint, or park in the lower lot and explore from there. See the link above and pages 122-123 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle for more details.

6. Teneriffe Falls, Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area, exit 32

5.4 miles round-trip, 1585 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Spring

Passes/Fees: Discover Pass

Thanks to the new Mount Teneriffe parking lot (open 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.) and new connector trail to the Teneriffe Falls Trail, access to this somewhat rough and rocky trail to a pretty fan waterfall is more manageable than ever. The trail can be icy and snowy in winter and spring, so check trip reports on www.wta.org before you go. See the link above and pages 128-131 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle for more info.

7. Twin Falls, Olallie State Park, exit 34

2.5 miles round-trip, 600 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Year-round

Passes/Fees: Discover Pass

twin falls.jpg

A Seattle crowd-pleaser, Twin Falls is a series of mesmerizing cascades—one 135 feet tall—along the South Fork Snoqualmie River in North Bend. Highlights, besides the waterfalls, are the peaceful river views, plentiful salmonberries, and an 80-foot bridge over Twin Falls Gorge. See the link above and pages 132-134 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle for more details.

8. Weeks Falls, Olallie State Park, exit 38

1.2 miles round-trip, 25 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Year-round

Passes/Fees: Discover Pass

In spring, Weeks Falls rages through protruding boulders in the South Fork Snoqualmie River, about two and half miles upstream from Twin Falls. Begin at the South Fork Picnic Area and take the Weeks Falls Trail 0.6 miles east to the falls. Alternatively, you can drive to a small parking lot and take a short, ADA-accessible trail to the falls. See pages 137-138 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle for more details.

9. Keekwulee Falls, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, exit 47

3.8 miles round-trip, 850 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Spring – Fall

Passes/Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Keekwulee Falls is a great choice when you’ve already done the Denny Creek waterslide (2.4 miles round-trip), but maybe don’t have time or don’t want to go as far as Melakwa Lake (8.8 miles round-trip). Instead, hike 0.7 miles beyond the waterslide on the Denny Creek Trail to Keekwulee Falls, a 171-foot tall waterfall that flows down a rocky gorge along Denny Creek in the shadow of Denny Mountain. Snow and ice are typical in winter and spring, so it is a good bet to check trip reports on www.wta.org before you go, or wait for snow to melt out in spring. See the link above and pages 164-167 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle for more details.

10. Franklin Falls, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, exit 47

2.4 miles round-trip, 375 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Spring – Fall

Passes/Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Franklin Falls, like Snoqualmie Falls and Twin Falls, is a popular Seattle area waterfall, and for good reason! Beginning on the Franklin Falls Trail, you are treated to a forested trail next to rippling cascades along the South Fork Snoqualmie River leading to an open-air gorge and 70-foot tall waterfall. Forest Road 58, a feeder road to the trailhead, closes when there is treacherous snow and ice. Check road conditions and the latest trip reports on www.wta.org if you do plan to give it a go in wintry conditions. When the road closure is in effect, it adds extra distance to the hike from the road closure to the trailhead. For more details, see the link above and pages 168-171 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle.

Bonus:

11. Humpback Creek, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, exit 47

0.5 mile round-trip, 125 feet elevation gain, Map

Seasons: Spring – Fall

Passes/Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Humpback Creek, located along the Annette Lake Trail, has multiple small cascades in its wide creek bed. It is a great option to wake up those legs if you’re driving through Snoqualmie Pass or to pair up with Franklin Falls. Begin at the Annette Lake Trailhead and hike 0.25 miles south on the Annette Lake Trail to a wooden bridge and this Humpback Creek vista. The trail and trailhead can be covered in snow in winter and early spring, so check road and trail conditions if you plan to visit then. To learn more, see the link above and pages 161-163 in Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle.


Thanks for checking out these waterfall hikes near Seattle! If you have happen to be visiting San Francisco or reading this from the Bay Area, here are 10 beautiful waterfall hikes near San Francisco I wrote about on Modern Hiker.

If you enjoyed this post, please like it and share it by clicking on the share button below! For more more waterfall hikes and ideas, pick up a copy of Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle.

Happy hiking!

Melissa :)

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about waterfall photography, I found this article especially helpful.

10 great waterfall hikes