This 2.5 mile hike within an hour drive from Seattle features a trail along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River and culminates with a short but steep descent cut through rock to the 70 foot Franklin Falls. Ever the popular hike, the large parking lot can fill up fast, and the final couple hundred feet to the falls can get very congested, but it's a wonderful hike. Franklin Falls flows throughout the year, however in the winter the trail is covered in snow, can be treacherous, and requires a different approach as the road isn't plowed.
From the main parking lot, locate the bulletin board and follow the gravel trail down, taking a left at the trail junction (right will take you on the Wagon Road Trail). Cross the road, walk past the bathrooms to find the trailhead and the official start of the trail, which at this point, is a 2 mile round trip. Follow the well maintained trail through the forest along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, and at the end of the trail descend down a short, steep and often slippery trail cut through rock to the base of the falls. During the summer when the water volumes of the falls are not as high, but still very impressive, you will find ample space to move around by the falls, while in the spring space is limited.
Franklin Falls was one of the first hikes I did after moving to Washington State 20 plus years ago, and it had been at least 4 years since I had done the hike. I figured it was a perfect short hike to do to break up the drive home to Manson from Seattle. There were probably 10 cars in the parking lot when I showed up, not as many as I was expecting. Granted it was morning on a weekday, but the weather was beautiful and I know this hike is a popular one. I made my way down to the end of the lot and started on the gravel path towards the trailhead.
I don't recall the Wagon Road trail being here the last time I visited, but maybe the signage is just more prominent now. I'll have to check it out next time, as it could make for an interesting loop rather than staying on Franklin Falls trail on the way back. I'd also forgotten there were cabins alongside the riverbank at the start of the trail. Pretty scenic place to have a cabin!
Much like my hike to Bridal Veil Falls a couple of days earlier, it was nice being on the west side of the Cascades with the lush green forest, and the sound from the river drowned out any noise from the nearby I-90.There were a couple of muddy spots to navigate in the trail, but otherwise it was a peaceful hike.
I only encountered a couple of groups along the way, and before I knew it, I was at the final descent down to Franklin Falls. Fortunately, there was no one else on the trail and it was easy to get down to the falls. My previous visit had been with my four year old son on a busy weekend, and it took quite a bit of time to get both down and up the rocky section, as it was slippery and there were numerous folks coming both ways.
There was quite a bit of water in the pools around the falls with a lot less space to maneuver than the previous times I had been here. I managed to hop across some rocks so I could get on level ground and get closer to the falls. As I got closer, there was a significant amount of spray hitting me, and it was difficult to get a good picture with my lens getting covered in mist. The falls were impressive as always, and I still marvel at the fact that I-90 is almost right above you, yet any noise is drowned out by the falls.
The hike out was uneventful, passing a couple more groups along the way. It was the perfect hike, with nice weather, beautiful river and falls, and not many people. I came to find out later that they are doing construction on the trail and it will be closed for a good part of the summer. Looks like I hit the trail at just the right time.