Hikes and Stories

Otter Falls: Don’t Let The Weather Stop You

It looked like the best day for me to get outdoors this weekend was coincidentally the worst weather day.  But did that stop my friends and I? Never!  We are definitely not fair weather hikers…and we don’t let things like downed trees on the road stop us from our destination!

This is a trail off the I-90 corridor east of Seattle, WA, and just outside the town of North Bend.  I don’t hike in this area often because it tends to draw a large number of hikers but we headed up early on a rainy, gray day so we were pretty certain there would not be a mob of other people. There had been quite a wind storm the night before so being the first ones up the road meant getting to help clear debris.  My friend, Mark, carries just the right tools in his car for this and with everyone’s help we were on our way.

Because the road is barricaded about a quarter mile from the actual trailhead, we parked at the junction for the Middle Fork Road and FR 56 (to Dingford Creek), walking the short distance up to where the Snoqualmie Lake trail starts about 8:15am.  The road runs along the Taylor River here and you can see where the Quartz River flows in from the north.  With the rainy weather we have been having, the rivers were gorged and raging.

The trail starts where the decommissioned roads crosses over the Taylor river on a bridge and then continues along the river on a wide flat path.  The better viewpoints for the river are near the beginning, the further you go in the more distance there is between the trail and the water.  Unfortunately, this didn’t mean there wasn’t water to look at or deal with.

There were multiple stream crossing and running down the trail and if you add the slop of wet winter snow on the ground, it wasn’t long before most of us had damp feet despite wearing rain pants and gaiters. The first significant creek crossing was a little over 1 mile in and poles were helpful as we rock hopped across to stay on course.  This continued the 3.4 miles until we arrived at the next bridge and first major set of waterfalls at Marten Creek at 9:35am.

After admiring the view of the water rushing underneath us, we took a side trail up on the left for a view of the creek cascading through a small chute in the rock. The force of the water hitting the walls filled the air with mist and spray glistened on the log debris and moss clinging to the surrounding trees.


We didn’t stay long because stopping meant cooling down so we continued back down to the trail and on toward our official goal of Otter Falls.  There were a few more stream crossings and more sloppy snow to maneuver the next 1.6 miles to the junction.

There isn’t a sign where we turned for the falls, probably because it is not an official trail but more of a boot path up.  A pile of rocks on the ground and a few more stuck in a tree at the turn was the only indication there was anything more to see in this patch of forest.

The trail was steep and slippery with snow and pine needles but easy to follow as we made our way up just a few hundred yards to where the forest opens up and an impressive granite rock face greets you with ribbons of water cascading down over its face. There was a small sliver of beach around the pool of water at the bottom and we quickly made our way over to briefly drink warm tea and munch down lunch. The section of the waterfall visible to us was 500ft high but its entire height is actually 1200ft. I’ve been told you can scramble up along the side but we didn’t today (and folks have died getting too high and close).

After just 20 minutes at the falls, we packed back up and made our way to the main trail again.  We weren’t quite done and turned left to continue .5 miles more to yet another wide bridge over Big Creek that flowed aggressively down from Dream Lake and stood in its spray momentarily before heading in the reverse direction to return the 5.5 miles to our cars.  By this time we were no longer alone and passed about 20 more hearty souls out for some end of the year nature exploration like we were.

By the time we got back to the cars at 1pm, we had logged just over 11.5 miles and I was feeling pretty happy about it because although that is not a long distance for me, it is the longest I have done since my injury and the weight of the pack on my shoulder had not left me sore at the end.  It, also, confirmed I was due for new waterproof boots which we promptly headed out to the last hour of the REI garage sale to pick up after enjoying some yummy thai food and warm jasmine tea (to wrap our cold fingers around) in North Bend with our hiking companions!

For more details on this hike, click over to THIS page.  If you would like more hikes on the I-90 corridor, THIS is the page to check out. And if you are wondering what it looks like if you continue on the trail to Snoqualmie Lake and beyond, there are pictures and details at Lake Dorothy, Bear, Deer and Snoqualmie.

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5 thoughts on “Otter Falls: Don’t Let The Weather Stop You

  1. That looks like a tasty (and well deserved) bowl of noodles! 😀

    I really like hiking on less than perfect days. I never want to get started, but once you’re outside it is sooo worth it! That waterfall is stunning!

      1. YES!! Me too!

        Or if it’s just us then I might not set an alarm, then we sleep in too long to go out (oops!)

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