Little Mashel Falls
HIKE DESCRIPTION: Watching the river plunge over the mossy rocks of lower Little Mashel Falls, it’s easy to see why so many people in and around Eatonville enjoy this short trip.
There are several ways to access the falls, but it’s not uncommon for visitors to take a wrong turn (or at least wonder if they have) on their first visit. You can start from Alder Cutoff Road or Pack Forest, but perhaps the easiest route is to use Eatonville’s Bud Blancher Trail, a wide, crushed gravel path with bridges crossing the Mashel and Little Mashel rivers.
The route is quite obvious until you cross the second bridge. After crossing the second bridge, continue about 75 yards and look for a seemingly unmarked trail (although it was more clearly marked in the past) on the left side of the trail. Follow the trail and you’ll soon reach a fork. A small, easily missed marker directs hikers to go right and start ascending to the falls.
After about 1/3 mile you’ll reach another intersection. A slightly more obvious sign (this one a brown sign affixed to a tree) directs hikers to the lower falls. Count on this trail being muddy and rocky and the final approach to falls is steep. A cable gives hikers something to hold on to should they choose to navigate the steep slope. If you don’t have thick gloves, don’t run your hands along the cable. It is frayed in some areas and could cut your hands.
The rocks along the lower falls are slippery and people have been injured playing or attempting to climb them.
You can return the way you came or extend your hike by traveling to the upper falls or exploring the trails and logging roads of Pack Forest.
DIRECTIONS: Heading south on Washington Avenue in Eatonville, turn left on Center Street and find the trailhead on your right at the top of the small hill.
DIFFICULTY RATING: 3 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
MILES ROUND TRIP: 4.5 miles.
ELEVATION GAIN: 500 feet
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR: Year-round.
MAP: A map is posted at the trailhead kiosk. Maps of Pack Forest are available on its website.
ALSO: The Bud Blancher Trail was dedicated in late 2014 after the completion of the bridges. Little Mashel Falls are located just inside the University of Washington’s Charles Lathrop Pack Experimental Forest. The forest has 50 miles of trails and roads, many of which are open to bikes and horses. Dogs on leashes are permitted. No geocaches are located along the route to the falls, but several are located nearby. Visit geocaching.com for more information.