Wallace Falls State Park
Warning: There is no longer any bus service to Gold Bar. Hopefully service will be restored in the future.
Wallace Falls State Park
Hike Length: 6 miles roundtrip to falls
Elevation Gain: 1200’
Hike Difficulty: moderate
Map: Green Trails Map 142 “Index”
Wallace Falls State Park is one of Washington’s most beautiful and popular hiking destinations. Most hikers head for the main attraction, the great waterfalls on the Wallace RIver, but many other trails are available for those seeking a bit more solitude. The park is located in a secluded river valley tucked in among high Cascades peaks, giving a feeling of remoteness not usual for areas accessible by public transportation. Camping and backpacking are also possible for those wanting more time to explore the park and adjoining wildlands. The bus ride to the park is long but well worth the effort.
R.I.P. bus service to Gold Bar.
It’s about a 30 minute walk from the bus stop to Wallace Fall State Park. From the bus stop on 1st Street, walk north a few blocks to May Creek Road. Turn right (E) and follow May Creek Road to a Y-junction; go left on Ley Road, which soon crosses a bridge over Wallace River and leads to the park entrance driveway. All turns are well-signed. The tedium of the road walking, totaling a long mile, is relieved by inspiring views of Cascade Peaks, especially Mt. Stickney to the north, its rocky face towering almost a mile above where you stand.
The park entrance driveway climbs a hill to a parking lot and and a collection of visitor facilities, including restrooms, information reader boards, and a walk-in campground (elevation 350’). The trail system starts by the restrooms.
The trail initially follows a dull power line right-of-way and gives little clue to the wonders ahead. Shortly, the trail leaves the power lines at a clearing with views east toward precipitous Mt Baring and Mt. Index, both peaks looking positively Himalayan in winter when plastered with snow. Once in the forest, the trailside setting becomes much more natural.
The trail soon splits at a junction; both paths lead to the falls. One option, the Woody Trail. is steeper and more direct. For a short distance, this trail stays close to the river, whose clear, rushing waters beckon the hiker to stop and rest. Then the Woody Trail climbs high above the river, which flows far below in a steep gorge. The other trail option follows an old railroad grade, which climbs wooded slopes at a moderate grade. Along the way, a trail branches off that heads to Wallace Lake. After 2.5 miles, the railroad grade trail rejoins the Woody Trail, which arrives to this same location in a long mile.
The recombined trail to the falls crosses the North Fork of the Wallace River on a bridge, then begins a switchbacking climb above the river. The trail passes by a picnic shelter (elev. 800’) and the first viewpoint of the main Wallace Falls, whose waters plunge 250’ down a sheer cliff--a magnificent sight. Above the picnic shelter, the trail continues climbing to a viewpoint above the falls (elev. 1300’). Most visitors are content to stop here, which is about 3 miles from the trailhead.
If you want more more of a workout, you can keep following the trail beyond the main falls. The path becomes rougher as it climbs past the upper falls and up a forested slope to an old logging road (elev. 1700’). Going right (SE) on the road soon brings you to edge of the river; the bridge that once spanned it is gone. Going left (NW), you will reach Wallace Lake after about 3 miles. Along the way, in a short half mile from the river, a decaying side road branches off toward Wallace Basin. One could possibly backpack into the basin and camp overnight somewhere along the river. You’ll probably be alone; few people ever go there.
Energetic hikers can make a 13 mile loop visiting both Wallace Lake and the waterfalls. Good navigation skills are required. Take an accurate map and allow a full day to do this. A backpack camp is located at Wallace Lake; contact the park for details.
Other Sights along the Community Transit 270 line.
You may enjoy stopping to visit the historic downtown of Snonomish, which is filled with antique stores and restaurants. The CT 270 bus goes right by the old town district on 2nd Street. Also in Snonomish is the start of the Centennial Trail, a paved, multi-use “rails to trails” path heading north to Lake Stevens and beyond. See Hike 39 for a description of this trail.