In addition to lush rainforests and towering mountains, the Pacific Northwest is famous for breathtaking waterfalls. Washington State is home to some of the most beautiful in the country, with over 300 dotting its landscape. If you’re looking for a hike that can take your breath away, checking out Washington State’s waterfalls is a must. But which waterfalls do you choose? From the most famous destinations to the area’s hidden gems, here are the top waterfalls in Washington State worth the drive, hike, or paddle.
But before you venture out, be sure to grab all the gear you’ll need to get the most out of your experience. PNW Journey has the top clothing, apparel, and accessories you’ll need to enjoy outdoor activities in this beautiful part of the world. And best of all, you can feel good about wearing PNW gear knowing it was made with the planet in mind.
Perhaps the most famous waterfall in the state, immortalized by the opening credits of the original “Twin Peaks” television show, Snoqualmie Falls is just an hour east of Seattle on the Snoqualmie River. Be prepared to hike deep into the forest to catch a glimpse of this 268-foot beauty, the second tallest year-round waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. The trail to the base of the falls boasts many smaller waterfalls along the way. It’s no surprise this area is one of the most popular scenic destinations in the region.
The Tumwater Falls are located in the quaint, historic town of Tumwater on the Deschutes River near Olympia. The falls attract many tourists thanks in part to the footbridges over the water, which give breathtaking vantages of the cascading waters. The sight is especially stunning during salmon season, when the fish can be seen making their way up the constructed fish ladders. With plenty of trails and manicured public space, Tumwater Falls is a great way to spend an afternoon.
The Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a spectacular place to visit, and the waterfalls are among the most beautiful and accessible in the state. With Washington State bordering to the north and Oregon to the south, the Columbia River Gorge spans 80 miles as it makes its way through the Cascade Range, as well as a host of ecosystems, like temperate rainforests, grasslands, and dry woodlands. Waterfalls abound on both sides of the gorge. While some of the most famous ones are in Oregon, there are plenty on the Washington side worth a visit. Falls Creek Falls, Panther Creek Falls, and Spirit Falls are some of the most stunning of the bunch, nestled throughout the hundreds of miles of hiking trails. The Washington side of the gorge holds some of the area’s best kept secret spots. Take a drive down Route 14 for even more amazing views.
Lower Lewis River Falls
The Lower Lewis River Falls are found in Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Cougar, Washington, not far east of the Mt. St. Helens National Monument. Located in a remote area of the national forest, these picturesque falls are well worth the hike to view. Measuring about 43 feet tall and 200 feet wide, the broad and low cascades empty into a natural swimming hole at its base. The tranquil area is a popular destination for hikers and swimmers alike.
The San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago located in the northwest corner of Washington State and remain a popular tourist destination for those who love the outdoors. The area is home to several stunning waterfalls, including Cascade Falls along with the smaller Cavern, Rustic, and Hidden Falls nestled throughout the scenic hiking trails of Orcas Island. Orcas island is also home to Moran State Park’s old-growth forest and Mt. Constitution. Together with the area’s kayaking, hiking, and whale-watching opportunities, a trip to the San Juan Islands is a must for any outdoor enthusiast.
Designated as Washington’s state waterfall, Palouse Falls is a breathtaking 200-foot waterfall surrounded by basalt cliffs in a remote part of eastern Washington. Carved out during the glacial floods of the Ice Age, this ancient beauty drops into a massive bowl at the base of a gorge in Palouse Falls State Park, upstream from the confluence of the Snake River. Three observation points allow campers and hikers an unobstructed view that leaves little doubt as to why the natural wonder was chosen as the state waterfall.
Bring the Right Gear for Your Trek
Before you venture out to see all the breathtaking waterfalls Washington State has to offer, be sure you have the right gear for the trek. Waterproof hiking boots are a good choice for walking the often-times long trails to the waterfalls, while providing protection from the spray and mud you’ll encounter once there. These sturdy shoes will also grip well on slippery rocks and dirt. Grab a dry bag so your stuff doesn't get wet, and maybe throw in a towel and an extra change of clothes in case you get too wet. And as always, don’t forget your camera!
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