It’s been awhile since we’ve done a hike-hike. You know the type that is all terrain, enough bugs biting to share with the world and scenery that is beyond beautiful? That was how our morning started.
Nothing overwhelming, something simple. I haven’t hiked since my fall a couple summers back. To the day my knee still is feeling it and I managed to add an ankle injury from the gym to the list as well. So I wanted to start the year off with something low grade.
Decided to check out the waterfalls in my town. Mashel Falls in Eatonville, WA. I’m not exactly sure the distance of this hike as it isn’t advertised on any hiking websites or books. Plus the signage at the hike is a bit poor as well.
There are a few different ways to accomplish this hike. I’ve done all three, but today we will capitalize on today’s adventure. We parked at the Bud Blanchard trail which is on the way out of Eatonville heading towards Mt. Rainier on the right. Gravel parking. The sign there at the parking area says 1.4 miles to the trail head for the falls, after that I don’t know the distance. Today’s trip I clocked it at just around 5 miles round trip on my Fitbit.
The first 1.4 miles is relatively flat, easy walking, gravel pathway. Parking at Bud Blanchard you end up walking past Smallwood Park where you also have the option of Parking. Would shed about a half mile off the overall hike if you park here. So now that you’ve walked by smallwood park your almost to the falls trail head. It’s to the left just after you go over a bridge that crosses over the river.
Once you’ve made that left on to the hiking trail be aware of signs. They’re no longer the wood signs you’ve been seeing. Now they’re blue, yellow and white triangle markers that are hung on the trees. So if you come to a fork in the trail, look up and on the trees for the signs telling you which way to go.
It’s been along time since I’ve been to these falls. And let me tell ya, this hike was a breeze compared to when I did it before. The hike itself was decent. Some hills in places, someone brought in gravel which helped eliminate mud and super slippery areas. Which was nice.
After hiking for a bit you come up on signs telling you to turn to go to the lower falls. It’s short a sweet little hike getting there from the main trail. Once you do get towards the bottom someone has made stairs helping to get to the base of the falls. They’re much larger than your average stair. So watch your step. But once you’re down there it’s rather rewarding. There is also a great swimming hole here. Don’t forget your bathing suit.
If you were to continue on the trail, you would run into more signs pointing you into the direction of the middle falls. Out of all the falls. This one is my favorite. The walk down is similar to that of the lower fall hike. Also stairs at the end. This portion of the falls is awesome because it’s the largest and you can even go behind it. Just be careful the rocks are super slippery. Also watch your footing in general around this fall because there is lots of loose rocks and boulder’s. This would be a fantastic spot to stop for lunch. Just remember to pack out what you pack in.
Continuing on the trail you come to signage for the upper falls trail. This hike is a little further and the trail isn’t maintained. There is trees and overgrowth over the trail. So keep that in mind if you plan on doing this portion of the hike.
There is an option to continue on the trail on the main trail. That way will lead you to the pack forest via forest service road. Its about five miles to the park. Best to walk back to your car and drive if you’re interested in seeing the pack forest. It’s used mostly for children camps and get togethers.
After having seen all three of the falls, hiking back to Bud Blanchard trail head was a breeze as the majority of the hike was all down hill. Which made for a quick return. Keep your eyes peeled for wild life too. In all forms. From small scooting creatures to those on four legs.
When someone finds out I’ve done this hike almost always the first question is, “Can I take my kids?” The reason this is a question so often is because there has been a number of people whom have died on this journey to the falls. Here is the answer…
Parking at Bud Blanchard or Smallwood park are your safest ways to get to the falls. Yes, the hike does have cliffs. Yes there is mud in places (which has been covered with gravel) that can potentially make a slipping hazard over said cliffs. The trail is a single file hike in a lot of spots, so walking with your kid, hand in hand wont be an option. Also there is a TON of stinging nettles. Thankfully just as many ferns to counter act the sting, but still. Kids under five I wouldn’t recommend this hike just for the sheer safety and potential fall hazards with it being cliffy. Wear your child if you can, or go do the hike first to see if you feel the level of difficulty and the terrain can be handled by your child.
Mashel Falls is a great half day hike. Make it a stop on your way to or from the Mountain. Be sure to check out the town too. Lots of great little shops and things to see and do.