Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Wallace Falls State Park
Wallace Falls State Park is in the North Cascades, on the west side of the range and east of Stevens Pass, off State Highway2, just outside the town of Goldbar. It is reputed to have some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the North Cascades, a reputation well deserved, in our opinion.
We were there twice recently. We went during spring vacation when my wife had a day off and we went again on the way home from Spokane after traveling there to see our handicapped son. We had good weather both times and thoroughly enjoyed the hike and the opportunity to get out.
There are two trails with an elevation gain of 1200 feet. One trail follows an old logging railroad grade part of the way and is about a mile longer. The round trip is either 5.5 or 7.5 miles, depending on which trail one takes. We took the shorter trail up and the longer trail down, a total of 6.5 miles.
On account of our late spring there was very little blooming or growing yet. The fern croziers were just poking up and the only flowers were on the Salmonberry bushes (Rubus spectablis). We did see a few Wood Violets (Viola orbiculata) as well, but they were only just starting to open.
The falls themselves are the main reason for hiking in the park. There are nine cataracts in all, with three major waterfalls, lower, middle and upper, the middle falls tumbling 265 feet, and the tallest waterfall in the North Cascades. These are all on the North Fork of the Wallace River.
Near the start of the hike there is a short interpretive trail that follows a small side stream. We spent quite some time there getting time exposures of the small cascade that ran through a quiet little glen. Nearby we also took pictures of some of the new growth, the ferns and the lichens
The lower part of the trail ran right along the river and we stopped for pictures periodically. The moss was incredibly thick on the trees by the river, and the understory was carpeted with sword ferns and littered with fallen trees, and in the lower areas some Skunk Cabbage were beginning to bloom.
As the trail climbed above the river we also entered old growth forest. It was difficult to get good pictures with the deep shadows and sunlight, and nothing can really show how green these forests are, but I hope those who see this get some idea of what our northwestern forests are like.
At about 2 miles we came to the lower falls, with a series of cascades above the falls and the falls itself dropping into a narrow area below the viewpoint. The cascades were across from the viewpoint but the falls were below and were very hard to photograph, though we did the best we could.
The middle falls, the tallest of them all, were visible from the lower falls viewpoint and another half mile brought us to these falls. These falls drop into a beautiful small basin and flow away over a series of cascades and smaller falls. These falls are visible from the highway miles away.
A little further up and along some rather steep switchbacks and we came to the top of the middle falls and the cascades above the falls.. This, to my mind, was one of the most beautiful areas we saw and I spent quite some time there trying different exposures and camera settings.
The upper falls were at the end of the trail with signs warning against the danger of going further and getting lost. We did not venture beyond the viewpoint. These falls were also very beautiful but also difficult to photograph from the only available (and safe) viewpoint.