Hike description: If you want to see the frozen cascades of Franklin Falls this winter, you’re not alone.
Franklin Falls is one of the state’s most popular winter hikes because it is short, easy and postcard beautiful. The crowds, however, can be substantial.
On some occasions this winter, hikers have had to park as far away as Interstate 90’s Exit 47 and walk 2.5 miles to reach the trailhead.
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If you want to beat the crowds, go on a weekday or early in the morning. Even then, don’t expect to have the place to yourself.
On a recent trip, we reached the falls by 9 a.m.
We took some pictures of the falls beneath the westbound lanes of I-90, a juxtaposition that somehow seems to enhance the setting. We watched ice climbers preparing to scale a wall of icicles. We shared the scene with a handful of others, but on the way out, my wife counted 100 hikers making their way to the falls.
But don’t let the masses and the proximity to the interstate lull you into a false sense of security.
Franklin Falls sits at the base of a steep mountain slope, and it’s important for visitors to check avalanche conditions before venturing into this area. See avalanche forecasts at nwac.us. Falling ice is another possibility. A hiker was injured by falling ice on Christmas.
The trail is only 2 miles round trip, but count on hiking farther. The distance depends on how far Forest Road 5800 is plowed. Expect to add 1-2.5 miles each way. Even hiking on the snow-covered road to Denny Creek Campground (where the Franklin Falls trail begins) is a peaceful experience.
There are other options for exploring or just playing in the snow near the campground, including snowshoeing the road.
Directions: From Interstate 90, take Exit 47 and turn left on Tinkham Road. Cross over the interstate and turn right on Denny Creek Road. Pass under I-90, then turn left on Forest Road 5800 and continue as far as the road is plowed. (Warning: Cars frequently get stuck if they try to go farther.) Look for parking on the side of the road.
Difficulty rating: 2 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 2 or more depending on snow conditions.
Elevation gain: 400 feet.
Best time of the year: Year-round, but expect snow in winter months.
Map: Green Trails 207-Snoqualmie Pass
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass.
Also: A toilet is located at Denny Creek Campground. Dogs must be on leashes, and owners should pack out waste. There are geocaches in the area, according to geocaching.com, but they are likely buried under snow.