Hike to Otter Falls

Details

Distance

11 miles

Elevation Gain

650 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Added by Rachel Jorgensen

Mossed trees, solitude on a usually popular trail, a dense forest hushed by snow, and a 1,200-foot waterfall streaming into a small lake.

The hike begins at Snoqualmie Lake Trailhead, but you'll actually have to start your hike about a half mile down the road from the trailhead as some cement barricades are up. There is plenty of room to park below the barricades, and the walk up to the trial head is easy and quick.

Once at the trailhead, you'll walk across Taylor River on a paved bridge, pass a few dispersed camping sites, and come to a fork. Take the right fork. The left fork is for Quartz-Creek Trail. You'll stroll along at a slight incline with Taylor River rushing past you while catching glimpses of Garfield Peak through the trees. Depending on the conditions, snow can start to get pretty deep in this area, so use caution and maybe some trekking poles. Most likely, you'll also be rained/slushed on on from the sky or from the trees. Make sure to have a waterproof jacket!

After three miles you'll come upon a large wooden bridge that spans Marten Creek. Only two more miles to go! Next up, you'll encounter several river crossings. The rocks can be quite slippery with the snow, but if you are creative, you can find routes that aren't too deep, and if you have trekking poles it will make these crossings much easier.

The last crossing is a large creek featuring an enormous culvert set into the creek just downstream from where you are crossing. The turn off the Otter Falls is just 0.3 miles after this on the left and is usually marked by a cairn. During the winter, the cairn can be covered in snow, so instead, look for pink ribbon tied to tree branches and follow those up the hill. This part of the hike is the steepest, but also the shortest. You'll only climb up for about 500 feet.

At the crown of the slope, you'll just be able to see part of the falls between some tree branches. Time to go down! It can be especially slippery in the winter as it's a semi-steep decent, so use caution. After the short decent, you have arrived! Although the water falls 1,200 feet, you'll only be able to see around 500 feet of cascading water, but that is plenty! Enjoy the beauty and solitude of the falls, eat a snack, and make plans for a summer trip when you can slide down the falls into the lake, or trail run with some friends.

The hike back is just as you came, so follow your footprints! And get ready to be dry again once you reach your car. 

Driving Directions

Driving east from Seattle, take exit 34 for 468the Ave SE just past North Bend. Make a left at the light and pass some fuel stations. After 0.3 miles, make a right turn at Middle Fork Road. 

Stay on Middle Fork Road until a fork with Lake Dorothy Road and make a left off of Middle Fork Road. Follow Lake Dorothy until a stop sign, then turn left back onto Middle Fork Road.

Stay on Middle Fork Road for around 10 miles until you arrive at the cement barricades. No facilities available, but there is a self-service Northwest Forest Pass Station back down the road at Middle Fork Trailhead. Park and prepare to hike!

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Know for

Chillin
Running
Swimming
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
River
Waterfall

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Reviews

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🥈 Contributor

2 months ago

very unique waterfall, fun in summer

The hike is very straightfoward. There is a wooden sign off the main trail when it is time to head to the falls. In summer there will be no snow but the water always stays cold. Bring something to slide on to make the rock less rough and be sure that the landing area in the pond is clear of debris that may have come down over fall and winter. There are a few small beach spots around the very small pond to make your own claim. the trail does allow biking, which may be more difficult than walking on the way up but very enjoyable and much quicker on the way down.

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4.0/5

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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