Hike the Boulder River Trail

Washington Boulder River Trailhead, French Creek Rd.

Added by Gemina Garland-Lewis

  • Beautiful old growth forest preserved in the Boulder River Wilderness
  • Good hike for those with kids and/or dogs
  • Opportunity to get wet with a dip in the river

Boulder River is a great outing for those days when you feel like you just need a good hike through the forest. This makes for a nice long day hike, but because both of the large waterfalls are within the first half of the trail, you can still see the falls without going the whole way.

The trailhead starts at the end of French Creek Rd. No pass or permit is needed, so just park and hit the trail. The first half of the trail is well-maintained, though there are a few fallen trees here and there to maneuver around.

You will see the sign marking your entrance into the Boulder River Wilderness about a mile in from the trailhead. Soon after you enter the Wilderness area, there will be a break in the trees and you will finally see the river.

Not long after that, you will see the first set of waterfalls off to your right – there will be a steep access point to go down the river and enjoy the falls close up. Head back up to the trail when you're done taking in the falls, and continue up a set of small switchbacks, marked by an enormous old-growth tree.

At around 1.5 miles in you will reach the second waterfall, again on your right. There are several access points to get down to the river bank, where are less steep than at the first falls. There are also some deeper, calmer waters, so if you're feeling brave enough to go for a dip, there are some nice places at this spot.

Continue back up to the trail and keep an eye out for an area to the right of the trail that has a number of fallen logs, but is well-trodden in some areas, about a quarter mile past the second falls. Walk to the river bank for beautiful views and find a small path to the left that takes you into a rock cove overlooking the river.

Back on the trail, the last couple of miles is a little bit less well-maintained, with several stream crossing, fallen logs, mud puddles, raised roots, and the like. The trail will climb away from the river and you won't return to it until the turn-around point. Your destination is a rocky shore on the river's edge, with several great campsites. Dip your toes and have a snack before continuing back the way you came.

Craving some delicious diner food afterwards? Stop by Nutty's Junkyard Grill in Arlington on your drive home.

Getting there: Take 530E from I5 for 23.6 miles, passing through Arlington, until you see French Creek Road on the right, just after milepost 41. The gravel road to the trailhead is about four miles, with an outhouse available one mile down the road. The trailhead GPS coordinates are 48.2509, -121.8172.

Pack List

  • 10 essentials
  • Waterproof hiking boots
  • Rain gear
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Tripod and neutral density filter for long exposures of the falls
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Activities:

Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

8.6 Miles

Elev. Gain:

700 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

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How to Get There

4 months ago

Great Lowland Hike

Took my 13 yo daughter on this hike - very manageable and great waterfall stops along the way. End of the trail is a bit anticlimactic but we dropped down to the river and our lunch on the big boulders. On the drive in you can see the Oso slide site.

4 months ago

7 months ago

Short!

I have never gone beyond the falls but I have hiked the falls about a million times. The walk to the falls is so short and flat that it is worth going back over and over again. Getting down to the falls takes some skill so people who are not very steady on their feet will need a lot of help/shouldn't attempt. I love this one. It is a great little showcase of Washington's beauty. This is an awesome hike to take out of towners on if you only have time for a quickie but want to show them what our little corner of the world is all about.

7 months ago

Beautiful trail but can be a bit crowded. If you continue past the main falls it thins out and is a nice quiet walk through the forest!

11 months ago

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