Falls & Lake Loop
joined me for a lower elevation
hike to Wallace Falls and Lake. This is a hike I do most winters. The
lake is at only 1844' and often has little or now snow in the winter.
Last December I hiked the loop to the falls and the lake and found a
new bridge under construction. It is above the upper falls viewpoint.
The boot path climbs up to an old road. Left goes to Wallace Lake.
Right has ended at a missing logging bridge just before the river drops
over the upper falls. Plans to connect the Wallace Lake State Park
trails to new trails coming in the Reiter ORV and hiking trails system.
I meant to come back earlier to see the new bridge. It was past time.
Kim and I headed out of North Seattle at 7:45 am. By 8:45 am we were at
the trailhead located just outside of Gold Bar off Highway 2. There
were a dozen or so cars in the lot already. It rained most of the night
and early morning but it was dry when we started out. Dry but cold. It
was in the mid to upper 30s all day. Fortunately, the wind was very
light. The route begins under the power lines. Just before going into
the forest there is a great view of Mt. Baring and
Mts. Index and
Persis. Not so much today. No Baring and just a little of Persis. The
snow level was near our elevation on the south side of the valley. It
was quite a bit higher on the north side where we were hiking. At the
first junction we went right on the Woody Trail along the Wallace
River. We came down on the other option, the Railroad Grade Trail.
The river had a good flow though nothing like the recent flood levels.
Several faster parties passed us along here. We enjoyed the trail and
views of the river. There are a few ups and downs. We passed the two
side trails that go up to the Railroad Grade then dropped to the bridge
crossing the NF Wallace River. Much of the elevation gain on the whole
hike comes in the next few miles or less to the top of the upper falls.
A steep climb brought us to the covered picnic spot. There is a nice
view of the cascades and the middle falls. I always stop for photos
here. Heading on up the trail we met several groups already heading
down. We stopped at the middle falls viewpoint then headed up to the
upper falls viewpoint. A good water flow but the mist was nowhere near
to reaching the viewpoint. After a short stop we followed the short
boot path turns to trail up to the old road. A right turn quickly took
us to the new bridge site.
Last December there was only the frame with no decking and vertical
posts with no railing. Now it is finished. The railing is very high. A
shorter person will not be able to see over the top. The builders did
put a lower railing on the downstream side in the middle. Much better
for short folks to take photos. I will come back later to explore the
old road/trails on the other side of the bridge. After a food break we
headed off on the road to Wallace Lake, some 2.4 miles away. When I
first hiked this old road in the late 1980s it was long abandoned.
Narrow, grassy, and muddy in many places. It is much different now.
More logging was returned it to a freshly graveled road much of the
way. It is still dirt to the edge of the state park. Since my last
visit logging has reached the park boundary.
A new spur turns to the left. There is not yet a sign here. The main
road/trail goes to the right. As we came out of the woods there was
snow on the road. Just a little at first then enough to cover the road.
It looked like winter but it was not deep enough to slow us down much.
We passed a hiker here going in the opposite direction. The only person
we saw between the middle falls and the Railroad Grade several hours
later. Once away from the falls the trails are not very busy. At most
there was a couple of inches of snow. When we left the road for the old
dirt spur to the lake the snow was nearly all gone. At the late outlet
we found a brand new bridge. It was not there last December. Steel with
wooden decking. Time for a last food and water break at the outlet
before heading down.
In order to bring in the new bridge, the old dirt spur road that leads
down to the Greg Ball Trail was covered in a thick layer of gravel. The
soft dirt is now hard rock. With the middle section between falls and
lake returned to gravel road and now this section, the route is getting
to be hard on the feet. Mine were not happy. We soon reached the lower
gravel road, took a right turn, and in short order were at the top of
the Greg Ball Trail. The upper part of this trail can be muddy. After
all the recent rain I expected it to be mushy. It was not bad at all.
We were most of the way down when we finally saw another hiker. At the
bottom of the trail we met up with the Railroad Grade Trail. It was
starting to rain at that point but a few minutes later it stopped. I
carried an umbrella all the way around the loop and never used it.
On the grade we met a few more groups heading up. This route is longer
than dropping down to the Woody Trail but it is smooth, gently graded,
and not as crowded. We left forest at the power line corridor and there
was still no view of Mt. Baring. We had a little sunshine during the
hike but it was all cloudy once again. We did have a partial view of
towards Persis though the top was in the clouds. The last bit of gravel
road and we were back at the trailhead. By 3:45 pm we were ready to
head out. I thought we might be early enough to miss the ski traffic.
It was wide open turning onto Highway 2. Within a few miles we reached
the backup. Stop and go all the way through Sultan. It added about 45
minutes to the drive home but was far from the worst I have seen on
As mentioned, this is a favorite winter hike. We had a taste of fresh
snow but just enough to cover the ground without slowing us down much.
It was cold all day but never below freezing. The forecast rain held
off all day long. Without a trip to the far end of Wallace Lake the
loop was 10 miles with 1700' of elevation gain. A good long trip on
just about the shortest day of the year. We had only 8:25 between
sunrise and sunset. After documenting the building of the new Murat
Bridge I was eager to check out the finished bridge above the upper
falls. I paced it off at roughly 124' long. About 76' shorter than the
Tiger Mountain bridge but still a very long one. Kim and I had a great
day on the trail.
Click on thumbnails to get
Cloudy Mt. Persis
NF Wallace River Bridge
NF Wallace River
Above Upper Falls
Along New Bridge
Bridge Last December
Snow On Road/Trail
Map Near Lake
Easy Crossing This Time
New Lake Bridge
Greg Ball Trail
Turkey Tail Fungi