Hiking Wallace Falls State Park Waterfall Trail


Where Are Those Morgans hiking Wallace Falls State Park Trail through old growth forest in Washington State

Wallace Falls State Park is home to a challenging 5.5-mile roundtrip waterfall hike with 1,240 ft elevation gain, and we think it’s one of the most visually stunning trails in Washington State. Hiking through old growth forest on the Woody Trail, you can turn around at Lower, Middle or Upper Wallace Falls depending on how much difficulty you want to introduce to your walk. We went the whole way to Upper Falls, and it was awesome.

In this guide we walk you through hiking the Wallace Falls State Park waterfall trail in Washington for the first time, based on our own experiences.

Our Experience

Hiker walking through beautiful old growth forest with moss clad trees in Washington State
Mark walking through old growth forest in the park

Wallace Falls State Park was one of the last hikes we did when we lived in Washington State for 6 months in the summer of 2021. We’d already hiked so many trails in Mt Rainier, North Cascades, Olympic and everywhere in between, so our benchmark was super-high. And we thought the Woody Trail was awesome!

We hiked to Lower, Middle and Upper Falls on a quiet Monday morning in October, before hiking nearby Lake Serene Trail later in the afternoon. Quintessential Pacific Northwest morning mist had enveloped the old growth forest so it felt like something out of a horror movie, and we had the trail almost entirely to ourselves. Stay tuned to see our favorite Wallace Falls photos. Read more about us.

Wallace Falls Parking

Wallace Falls State Park Washington parking lot on a rainy day in October with plenty of spaces
Kristen standing next to our blue SUV in the parking lot

The trailhead parking lot for Wallace Falls State Park is located 1.8 miles from the small town of Gold Bar along US Route 2 in northwest Washington State. Once you reach Gold Bar, take 1st Street, May Creek Road and Ley Road until you see the brown welcome sign.

  • Set your Google Maps destination for Wallace Falls parking lot and hit directions.

There’s plenty of parking spaces available, but Wallace Falls is very popular so it fills early on weekends throughout the year and on weekdays in summer. And there are no alternate parking options nearby. So we recommend arriving early if you plan to visit in peak season. You’ll find restrooms, an automated pay station, tent sites and a seasonal coffee kiosk at the parking lot.

The parking lot appears almost empty in our photo above because we visited the state park on a wet and cloudy weekday in October. We didn’t count the spaces exactly, but it was something like 100 spots including disabled spaces closest to the trailhead.

Entrance Fees

You must display a day use pass or annual Discover Pass for Washington when you park at Wallace Falls State Park. If you don’t have an in-date annual Discover Pass, you can use the automated pay station near the trailhead in the parking lot to purchase either a day pass or annual pass.

Wallace Falls entrance fee options:

Travel tip: You can’t use your America the Beautiful Pass because it’s a Washington state park, not a national recreational area.

Three Waterfalls

Hiker enjoying the view over Middle Wallace Falls in Washington
Kristen enjoying the view over Middle Falls

Wallace Falls State Park is home to three waterfalls called Lower Falls, Middle Falls and Upper Falls, all of which cascade and plunge down the Wallace River.

  • Lower Falls – The first and smallest waterfall in the park drops 212 feet across five tiers.
  • Middle Falls – The park’s major waterfall plunges 367 feet across three tiers.
  • Upper Falls – The third and final waterfall drops 270 feet in five tiers but can’t be seen fully.

The three waterfalls are the state park’s main attractions, but you should consider visiting Wallace Lake, Jay Lake and Shaw Lake if you have more time or if you want to get off the beaten path.

Wallace Falls State Park Trails

Wallace Falls State Park hiking trails map
Trail map for Wallace Falls State Park in Washington

Woody Trail is by far the most popular Wallace Falls State Park hike. It hugs the Wallace River and leads to viewpoints overlooking Lower, Middle and Upper waterfalls. And this is the hike you shouldn’t miss when you visit.

Wallace Falls Woody Trail distances and elevation gain (roundtrip):

  • Lower Falls: Easy – 3.6 miles (540 feet)
  • Lower + Middle Falls: Moderate – 4.1 miles (770 feet)
  • Lower, Middle + Upper Falls: Hard – 5.5 miles (1,240 feet)

The park’s only other hiking destinations are Wallace Lake and Jay Lake, which are located close to one another but they’re a long way from the three waterfalls. You can hike directly to the lakes, or you can hike Woody Trail all the way to Upper Falls and then cut across to the lakes at a similar elevation.

Wallace Lake Trail distances and elevation gain (roundtrip):

  • Woody/Greg Ball: Hard – 8.2 miles (1,544 feet)
  • Woody/Upper Grade: Hard – 10 miles (1,544 feet)
  • DNR Road: Hard – 13 miles (1,544 feet)

We only hiked Woody Trail to the three waterfalls because we didn’t have time to add on a visit to Wallace Lake. Our advice is to prioritize Woody and then decide if you have time and energy to cut across Upper Grade to the lake. You could then descend via Greg Ball so you loop instead of going back on yourself.

Woody Trail Walkthrough

We’re going to walk you through the hike exactly as it was for us and with our photos, so you know what to expect:

1. Park, Pay + Display

Hiker in waterproofs paying for parking at a lot in Washington State
Kristen paying $10 parking at the ticket machine

We arrived early, parked, paid for our day use Discover Pass and placed it on our dashboard. Then we packed up our day packs with snacks and water, grabbed our raincoats and used the restrooms before setting off.

The on-site coffee kiosk wasn’t open because we were late in the season, but we’d have considered grabbing a quick drink before we began hiking. You’ll have this option if you hike in the busier months.

2. Woody Trail

William Wordsworth quote at the beginning of a forest hike in Washington State, USA
William Wordsworth quote marking the beginning of Woody Trail

The first part of the Wallace Falls hike followed a wide gravel path flanked by trees and bushes. We could see and hear electricity pylons overhead, which wasn’t the greatest start, but we promise things improved!

After entering old growth forest, we passed by a famous quote by William Wordsworth which was written on a brown sign stating: “Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.” And much later in the day we both commented on how appropriate this quote was.

3. Small Falls

Small Falls in Wallace Falls State Park shallow stream slowly cascading through boulders in a forest
The lightly flowing Small Falls is the first landmark

We reached a fork in the path: left was for Railroad Grade biking trail and right was for the three waterfalls along Woody Trail. So we took the right turn and followed the easy flat forest path through sitka spruce trees covered in moss.

After around 0.4 miles we reached Small Falls interpretive trail and amphitheater. We took a quick look at the (very small!) waterfall and read about “A River’s History” before continuing to the main waterfalls.

4. Lower Wallace Falls

Lower Wallace Falls multi tiered waterfall with a taller waterfall just about visible through a gap in the trees
Lower Falls with Middle Falls just about visible through the trees

The next mile and a half was easy going with a gradual incline through beautiful forest surroundings. And we passed by lots of trail markers, checkpoints, puncheon bridges and information boards to keep us occupied.

Once we arrived at Lower Wallace Falls overlook we took photos from an open viewing area. Lower Falls was directly ahead of us, but if you look through the trees in our photo above you can see Middle Wallace Falls was also ahead of us shrouded by mist in the distance.

5. Middle Wallace Falls

Middle Wallace Falls the highlight of Wallace Falls State Park in Washington tall waterfall plunging through multiple tiers with trees to either side
The powerful Middle Falls on a misty day in Washington

Climbing a series of 8 short switchbacks over a quarter-mile took us from Lower to Middle Wallace Falls viewpoint. It’s the main Wallace Falls State Park attraction and it’s well worth the extra effort if you’re not sure about how far to go on your hike.

The fenced-in Middle Falls viewing area was small, and although we didn’t share it with anyone, you might have to wait your turn for photos if you hike in peak season. We think Middle Falls is the best part of the Wallace Falls hike, so make the most of the view here!

6. Upper Wallace Falls

Upper Wallace Falls at the end of Woody Trail hike shrouded in mist
Mist building even more as we gained elevation to Upper Falls

The hike definitely became more challenging with a steeper gradient between Middle and Upper Falls. We climbed steep steps and navigated maybe 12 or so switchbacks to reach the higher viewpoint, but it was so quiet, peaceful and photogenic that we didn’t feel the burn too badly!

Half way between Middle and Upper Falls we stopped at “Valley Overlook” to enjoy another great photo spot, before continuing to the final viewpoint on Woody Trail. Our view into Upper Falls was partially obscured (not just by the mist) but it was still incredibly picturesque.

7. The Descent

Forest with tall trees shrouded in mist in Washington State
Eerie mist slowly creeping through Wallace Falls State Park

At this point we could have hiked across Upper Gradient to Wallace Lake but we didn’t have time. So we turned around and walked back to the trailhead the exact same way.

The mist began to burn off slightly as we passed by Middle and Lower Falls because it was getting later in the morning, so we could see more of the waterfalls on the way down.

READ: The best waterfall quotes

Best Time To Visit Wallace Falls

Hiker looking over a wooden barrier to a waterfall shrouded in mist
Dense mist is common in October

We think September and October are the best times to visit Wallace Falls State Park to benefit from comfortable hiking conditions, fewer crowds, misty mornings and fall colors. But May is also an excellent month to visit because the waterfalls will be most powerful.

Personally, we would avoid the busy summer months of July and August but the warmer weather and longer days might be more appealing to you. If you do visit between June and August, we recommend avoiding weekends and particularly holiday weekends.

It’s also worth reading recent comments from other hikers to learn about current conditions in the days leading up to your hike.

Where To Eat + Stay

Forest with river running through in the US Pacific Northwest
Wallace River running through the forest

FOOD: Gold Bar is the closest place to Wallace Falls State Park, and it has a good selection of quality places to eat, which works great if you want to grab a spot of lunch after hiking the waterfall trail.

Top rated eateries include:

HOTELS: If you’re thinking about staying near Wallace Falls, you’ll have a more difficult job on your hands. Start with Wallace Falls Lodge, which is opposite the trailhead parking lot. And if that doesn’t work, you can consider staying in small nearby towns instead.

Top rated hotels include:

CAMPING: You can stay in tent camping sites or cabins in Wallace Falls State Park. Tent sites have benches, fire pits and access to shower facilities at an additional fee. You can also backcountry camp near Wallace Lake and Jay Lake. But you need to call the park office to acquire a permit prior to arrival at 360-793-0420.

Our Favorite Wallace Falls Photos

We’ve hiked dozens of trails in Washington and for us the waterfall hike in Wallace Falls State Park is among the most photogenic.

Old growth forest covered in moss, mist creeping slowly through tall trees, powerful waterfalls, fall foliage colors and thick-set wooden bridges make Woody Trail an even better hike if you’re interested in photography.

Here are some our favorites:

Moss clad tree branches on a hike in the Pacific Northwest
Unique moss clad trees in the Pacific Northwest
Hiking trail leading through forest with tall trees
Wallace Falls Trail when the mist briefly disappeared
Forest hiking trail leading down steps to a bridge crossing a river
Kristen walking across a bridge in the forest
Wallace River cutting through forest on a misty day
Wallace River flowing downstream
Colorful yellow leaves and green vegetation on a hike in Washington
Colorful leaves and vegetation found on the hike
Looking up at a moss clad tree with colorful leaves from below in Washington
Vibrant leaves and moss covering a tree
Hiker in raincoat crossing a wooden bridge over a river in a forest
Kristen about to cross a wooden bridge over the river
Steps built into a forest trail leading underneath overhanging tree branches
Steps leading to overhanging tree branches covered in moss
Valley Overlook in Wallace Falls State Park Washington small waterfalls and green vegetation
Small waterfalls plunging near Valley Overlook

SHOP: Our travel photography gallery

The Morgan Conclusion

Hiker on a forest path leading through trees and mist in Washington State
Kristen walking through the forest into mist and natural beauty

To wrap things up, we think the Wallace Falls State Park hike is incredibly photogenic and it’s a good workout if you go as far as Upper Falls. We were lucky to hike it on a very quiet day, but we imagine it can become busy in peak season. Our advice is to arrive early on a weekday and don’t forget your camera!

More From Washington

Want more Washington content? Head to our Washington Travel Guides to explore National Parks, popular day hikes and best things to do around Seattle.

We hope this guide to visiting Wallace Falls State Park helps with planning your visit to Washington!

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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