Olallie State Park has sweeping mountain views, waterfalls, hiking, biking, and rock climbing. And its convenient location near Interstate 90 makes it an ideal destination for outdoor fun.
This year, we took two trips to Olallie State Park, one in mid-September, at the end of a typical Seattle summer. Our second trip was on a Sunday afternoon in November to hike the Twin Falls trail. Cool and rainy, the Snoqualmie river’s rush of water was uninviting and offered a different experience than what we had earlier in the year. We trudged through the mud, climbed steep hills and jumped puddles on our hike and had fun doing it.
Whatever the season, we recommend Olallie State Park.
Around 45 minutes outside of Seattle, Olallie State Park is an oasis of old-growth forests and plenty of greenery. Right off the highway exit, we saw many cars parked on the side of the road with hikers entering various trail heads. Heading past the state park sign and near the ranger station we turned into a gravel parking lot. There’s plenty of parking in addition to two other lots up and down the street. You need a Discover Pass to park, which you can get online or in a machine at the lot.
My kids, Nikhil, 9, and Simon, 6, jumped out of the car and headed to a small trail, leading down to the river. We saw a couple of other families enjoying their time and decided to keep our distance instead of joining them on the small shore.
We chose one of six picnic tables available for use. Under the trees and near the river was a perfect spot for dining. Grills are available for use on a first-come, first-serve basis. There’s a portable toilet in the parking lot.
After lunch we walked around a large field to the left of the gravel parking lot, taking pictures and climbing large logs around the perimeter. The field is a great place to play games, kick a ball around, or run to get your wiggles out. In warmer months, we’ve brought bocce ball or badminton.
The Snoqualmie River
The river is filled with so many rocks of different shapes, sizes and colors. Nikhil and Simon found the best rocks to toss further downstream, testing to see how deep pools of water were in certain areas.
“This one’s great for skipping,” said Simon.
The water was amazingly clear and very cool. We dip our fingers in to feel the chill, but that didn’t stop us from taking off our socks and shoes for a walk to the small boulders planted in various spots. “I wish I had brought my water shoes,” observed Nikhil.
The rocks were cold and slippery. The water was shallow for most of the way, but we had to be careful of deeper dips, navigating carefully around them.
Taking a seat on these rocks was a treat. The sound of water flowing by and birds quickly skimming the surface was delightful. Soon after, we headed back up to the parking lot to take a short hike to one of the nearest waterfalls: Weeks Falls.
Weeks Falls hike
We walked through a shaded, green old-growth forest on a path that was wide and well-maintained. We admired the height of the trees and stopped to sit on large tree stumps and explore various forest animal habitats. At one stop, we squeezed through a tight tunnel naturally produced at the trunk of a towering spruce tree.
“There are so many spider webs! I’m not going all the way in,” said Nikhil.
The end of the trail leads to a paved sidewalk, past blackberry and salmonberry bushes. To the left you’ll see the hydroelectric project and on the right, you’ll find an outhouse (open). Further up we reached the viewpoint, and watched up close at a furiously falling waterfall plunged into a green pool.
Exploring the river
Interpretive signs explain the hydroelectric project. A steep set of stairs near the powerhouse leads you down to an observation deck. There you can see large pipes in the river and a gateway system used to direct water.
The final part of our late summer outing took us back to the shores of the Snoqualmie River. It was getting even cooler as the afternoon set in, but we were determined to check out the enormous boulder that lay in the middle of the river near the entrance.
We climbed up the rock and took a seat admiring the view. After some silly poses for the camera, we scaled the slippery rocks to the other side. We explored a nearby sandy shore then took a look at tiny translucent fish and tried to catch a couple water bugs.
Twin Falls Hike
One of the most popular trails at Olallie State Park, the Twin Falls hike, is a day trip in itself. It’s a moderate 3.6 mile hike. The trail head is located on a dead end road, accompanied by a small parking lot. You need a Discover Pass to park.
We came here on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon in November. The parking lot was packed and no-one seemed to mind the late weekend hour or the rainy weather. A heavily trafficked path, we navigated the narrow trail, moving aside and pulling up our masks several times.
Walking through an old-growth forest, we found many areas to climb over rocks and down paths to the river’s shore. Sturdy hiking shoes or rain boots are recommended to get through the mud, muck, rocks and root-strewn paths.
A twenty-minute walk on levelish ground leads you past a large (climbable) boulder and up a steep hill. We marched up in a single file line, resting at the top. Follow the path up to a viewpoint with two benches. One of the benches was missing a seat and the edge of the hill is exposed. Be careful at this spot while you enjoy the breathtaking view of the Twin Falls. You’ll see the entire falls from this vantage point and may want to stop for a little while, then turn back.
Drenched and muddy
We decided to forge ahead to see the lower falls as well, climbing another steep hill and then down through an even rockier trail, passing over a smaller bridge, many steps, and a large fallen tree (be sure to check out the exposed roots) and then onto another longer bridge. A great place for a quick selfie and then up the stairs to see another view of the waterfalls.
At this point we were exhausted, drenched and muddy. Benches provided a space to rest, hydrate and have snacks. “Do we have to walk all the way back?” both Nikhil and Simon asked.
Mustering up all our strength, we headed back. On the way we passed a set of stairs leading to another viewpoint, the closest you can get to the lower part of the falls. At 104 steps, we decided that it would be an adventure for another day.
We finally got to the parking lot and followed a small path to the river’s shore. Each of us sat on a boulder, resting our boots in the water and cooling off in the breeze. It was a tougher hike than we expected, but the view was worth the effort.
After an exciting and tiresome day, we got back into our car. Chiming in with their favorite parts of the hike, “I loved climbing the big wedge rock,” said Nikhil and “I wanna come back!” said Simon. Olallie State Park is one destination that you don’t want to miss.
Originally published November 2020
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