- Difficulty: Easy. Last descent to Falls splash pool should not be attempted in icy conditions
- Total distance (Round Trip) – 3 miles from Franklin Falls parking lot
- Total elevation gain – 420 feet (320 outbound, 100 returning)
- Estimated time: 1-2 hours depending on your fitness and how much time you want to spend there
Franklin Falls is an easy hike along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River to a special destination. This is the same river that will pass through North Bend next to the Moon River Suites downstream. The Falls actually consists of three drops totaling 135 feet – only the last largest 75 foot drop can be seen from the trail. The falls runs all year round although the best water flows between April and July. In the winter, the falls partially freezes and there are icicle formations along the rocks next to the falls. It’s best not to go all the way to the splash pool in icy conditions as the last rocky bit is tricky even in summertime.
This hike is great for the family and kids of all ages. However, due to the numerous steps and the tricky rocky bit at the end, you won’t want to have a stroller. You will see many dogs on the trail. On nice weekend days, expect lots of company and issues finding parking even in the large lot at midday and the first part of the afternoon.
It’s possible to cut the distance and elevation gain to the falls by parking along the side of FR 58 about a half mile uphill from the Franklin Falls trailhead parking lot. There’s no parking lot and you have to park on the side of the narrow road. From here the round trip is only 1.5 miles with 200 feet elevation gain. However, you’ll miss the beautiful flattest part of the hike along the river by the cabins, huge trees in the forest.
Franklin Falls Trail
From the Parking Lot to the Trailhead (0.15 miles)
Begin your hike on a connector trail to the real Franklin Falls trailhead. Upon leaving the parking lot, you’ll see a junction with the Wagon Road trail. Turn right for an alternate path to Franklin Falls although the marked Franklin Falls trail is much more interesting. Cross FR 58 after 0.1 mile. Restrooms are on your right immediately after crossing the road. Continue down the road (not FR 58) a short bit to the Franklin Falls trailhead on your right. The north side of the Denny Creek Campground is on your left. Instead of going to Franklin Falls, if you continue across the bridge along the road, you’ll reach the Melakwa Lake trailhead.
Franklin Falls Trailhead to Bend in FR 58 (0.65 miles)
The first half mile is the easy part of the trip. It’s a very enjoyable nearly flat walk along the river through an old growth forest with some very large trees. There are numerous places to go down to the river for a swim and/or a picnic. Along the way, notice the old cabins, some of which are boarded up and some across the river are habitable with guests.
About 0.3 miles in there’s a notable short trail on your left down to the river and then a couple of very large trees next to the trail. It’s a great photo opportunity! Soon after the big trees, the trail steps begin. They really don’t stop until you reach the “summit” just before Franklin Falls. From this point on, having a stroller will be very difficult and the steepness only increases as you approach the Falls.
At 0.5 miles from the trailhead sign, notice a beautiful small falls with a large pool below on your left. Beyond here, the river forms a small canyon and it will be difficult to get down there until the Falls. Continue up the steps another 0.15 miles to what looks like another parking lot. This is actually a bend in FR 58 about 0.5 miles above the Franklin Falls parking lot. There’s a little parking on the side of the road for those trying to cut off a little distance.
Bend in FR 58 to Franklin Falls (0.7 miles)
From the bend in the road, continue up the steps, you’re over half way there in distance but not elevation. It’s 135 feet gained to the bend in the road and there are still another 185 feet to go up. At 0.4 miles past the bend in the road, you’ll see I-90 on your left. Then, it’s another short 0.1 miles to the junction with the Wagon Road Trail. This is the upper end of the trail you saw go off to the right just after leaving the parking lot.
Just past the Wagon Road Trail is the “summit”. You’ll then see Franklin Falls, the splash pool and the tricky path down before you. It’s about a 50 foot elevation descent to the Falls. The trail becomes rocky and in places is narrow and slippery. This is where we don’t recommend to pass on if icy in the winter unless you have the appropriate traction footwear. In the summer when it’s crowded, there will be a traffic jam at this bottleneck getting in and out of the falls.
Once at the Falls, enjoy! Your dogs will enjoy it too but watch them getting over the rocks on the last part of the trail. The more water in the Falls, the more spray. In springtime, you may want a raincoat.
Don’t forget to check out the cabins on the way back as you may not have noticed them on the way up. There’s a 50 foot climb out of the Falls, then down or flat all the way back except for a final 35 feet up from the restrooms to the parking lot.
From North Bend, take Highway 90 westbound to Exit 47 Denny Creek Tinkham Road. Turn left and cross over the freeway. Then turn right on Forest Road 58 at the stop sign. The road shortly crosses under the westbound lanes of I-90. You are now “inside” the freeway as the eastbound lanes are about a mile separated from the westbound lanes from here to Snoqualmie Pass. Turn left immediately after crossing the freeway. After about 2 miles drive on a beautiful forested road along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, pass the Denny Creek Campground. About a half mile past Denny Creek, there is a large 60 vehicle parking lot on your right hand side.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking. It’s about 0.15 miles down and across the Forest Road to the actual Franklin Falls trailhead. If you have an ADA placard, you may park by the trailhead. There is a restroom at the trail crossing of FR 58.
For a little change of scenery, on your drive out, try continuing up FR 58. You will pass cars parked along the road in about 0.5 miles. These are the people trying to cut the distance to the Falls. It can get very congested here if someone is trying to park or leave since the road is so narrow. Farther up the hill, you get a nice view of Snoqualmie Pass and then end up at the Summit West I-90 entrance to go back to North Bend.