Editor’s note: Watch for snowfall on the Franklin Falls trail and in the Snoqualmie area as we move into the winter months. The parking area to the trailhead will close and hikers will need to start 2.75 miles away at Asahel Curtis Sno-park to the trail (making the trek about 5-miles longer, out and back). See this WTA web page for more information about hiking to Franklin Falls in the winter.
We’ve been hearing about this family-friendly hike to Franklin Falls for some time now, and I was finally able to hike it with my 6- and 4-year-old kids. The beautifully maintained, compact dirt and gravel trail is very kid-friendly and worth the hype. We took in beautiful views of the Snoqualmie River, dense forest landscape and of course, the stunning 70-foot falls.
Getting there and parking
The Franklin Falls hike is located about one hour outside of Seattle near Snoqualmie Pass. Before leaving, it’s important to know that the trailhead is no longer accessible from the Snoqualmie Pass exit. To get there, you must use exit 47, off I-90. We followed the directions from the Washington Trails Association website and had no problem finding the main parking lot and trailhead.
We arrived at the lot around 10 a.m. on a Monday and there was plenty of parking available. However, the parking lot is known to fill up fast.
Once you reach the main parking lot, you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass. An annual pass is $30 or you can grab a day pass for $5. Either way, you’ll need to purchase one of these online, before you go. Note: If you order an annual pass, it will take at least 10 days to arrive by mail. If you just want a day pass, or don’t have 10 days to wait, you can purchase a day (e-pass) and print it at home.
The hike to Franklin Falls
From the main parking lot, there is a well-marked wooded trail leading you to bathrooms and the trailhead. The trail itself is out and back and approximately 2 miles with a 400-foot elevation gain. WTA categorizes this hike as easy, however, note that there are a lot of stairs and it has an easy, but consistent uphill climb. With that being said, both my kids enjoyed this trail with minimal complaining.
We took our time hiking and enjoyed the many beautiful sights and sounds of nature along the way. The Snoqualmie River runs parallel to the trail for the entire hike, providing some gorgeous views. Some reviewers online complained about the traffic noise from I-90, however, we really didn’t notice it much.
Welcome distractions and cautionary tips
To pass the time while hiking, my kids made it their mission to find and meet every dog along the trail. Needless to say, the hike took us a bit longer than most, but we met some very nice people and pups along the way. When water and snack breaks were needed, there were many well-worn logs along the trail that made perfect benches.
Although the trail was very well maintained, there were a few spots along the way where the railing had broken or the trail had washed out. The unprotected drop along the trail is very steep, so be sure to keep an eye out for these areas and keep little ones close.
As we started our descent to Franklin Falls, we came across the most challenging part of the trail for us. The walk down and along the river’s edge to the base of the falls was steep and rocky. I was able to get both my kids down safely, but they both needed a lot of assistance. It was a good challenge for all of us.
After the little scramble down the rocks, our efforts paid off when we reached the large rocky area at the base of the falls. It was truly breathtaking to see such a large waterfall up close. We were able to get some beautiful pictures and enjoy the cool refreshing spray coming off the waterfall. My kids spent their time hunting for the perfect rocks to toss in the water and climbing on all of the fallen logs. The water was a little too cold for us to want to get in, however, there were a couple of people braving the cold and enjoying a swim.
After another water and snack break, we were ready to head back up the trail. The hike back went much faster, as it was all downhill. My kids entertained themselves by hopping down the many stairs and encouraging other hikers headed up the trail. We all agreed this was one of our favorite hikes, and both kids said they would love to do it again. Overall, this is a beautiful family-friendly hike that our family highly recommends.
Know before you go:
- Before you go on this family-friendly hike to Franklin Falls check the WTA and All Trails websites for road closures due to forest fires or weather conditions.
- You need a NW Forest Pass to park/hike this trail. Purchase either an annual pass or day pass (e-pass) before going.
- Arrive early to find a parking spot and enjoy the trail before it gets too crowded.
- Although there are restrooms at the trailhead, many people online have suggested packing in your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Due to the popularity of the trail, supplies often run out.
- Franklin Falls is also a very popular hike in the winter to view the beautiful frozen falls. However, note that there are some changes in the winter. The road leading to the trailhead (Road 58/Denny Creek) is often closed partially or entirely during winter. Parking is permitted along the road leading up to the barricades. This typically adds about 3 miles to the hike. Many reviewers suggest using microspikes in the winter to prevent slips and falls. For my family, we’ll skip the winter outing, but would love to see Franklin Falls again in other seasons.