Don’t want to Hike? Park at the lower parking lot.
The short trail to the base of Snoqualmie Falls during high water levels is really more of an experience than a true hike. The trail is a tourist stroll on a nice day, but the falls often are at their most dramatic during bad weather.
I had never seen the waterfall when rivers were on flood watch. Last Friday, many other people had the same idea. The observation deck was jammed with observers, several with cameras. The roar from the waterfall made conversation impossible and photography a challenge as wind-driven mist soaked those of us who braved the observation deck.
The shelter vibrated from the force of the thundering falls. It was a bit scary — one child burst into tears and had to be escorted away. On such a day, one can see why the Snoqualmie Indians believed the falls to be a spiritual place.
Snoqualmie Falls is the most famous waterfall in our state. It is 268 feet high with the width ranging from 50 to 150 feet, depending on water levels.
The nature trail to the river begins a few yards from the observation platform and it is well-signed. Though very short, the trail is scenic as it descends through old trees to the powerhouse and views from below. The trail continues behind the powerhouse (this section is enclosed with fencing) to a boardwalk that leads toward the base of the falls. At the powerhouse, look through the windows to view the turbines generating power.
In summer months, hikers often continue from the end of the boardwalk and boulder-hop for a closer look at the waterfall, but for now, the trail ends at the end of the boardwalk — it is unsafe to go beyond that point. Last week the mocha-colored river was high enough that it flowed beside the boardwalk and around the trunks of the deciduous, lichen-encrusted trees near the riverbank.
According to Michael Fagin of Washington Online Weather, on that day the Snoqualmie stream flow was at 151 percent of normal. He writes, “On Friday, the Central Cascades received 3.3 inches of rain from 1 p.m. on Thursday afternoon till 5 a.m. Friday. The freezing levels were at 6,000 feet.” That is why the flow was so great, according to Fagin. He added that Friday’s flows “would have to be one of the bigger ones” and explained that a larger snowpack at lower elevations (with warmer temperatures) would have resulted in an even greater flow.
Hike Of The Week: A bad day brings out its best side
By KAREN SYKES
SPECIAL TO THE POST-INTELLIGENCER
Thursday, February 6, 2003