Believe it or not, just being near a waterfall can improve your mood. Hidden in the spray of all that water are negative ion molecules that can have a positive effect on your overall health. With abundant rain and snow on the Olympic Peninsula combined with lush forests, mountains and rivers, there are a plethora of waterfalls to visit and enjoy. With the days growing a bit longer and the hint of spring in the air, what a great time of year to take a day trip to see waterfalls on the Olympic Peninsula. You might just relieve some stress and feel a boost of energy.
Lake Quinault Area
The Lake Quinault area features several easy to get to waterfalls as well as short hikes that are friendly for all ages. There is minimal elevation gain, but the trails can be muddy and there is the occasional log to step over. While exploring waterfalls, you may as well stop to see the world’s largest spruce tree. It is more than 58 feet around and has been thriving for at least 1,000 years. Be sure to look at the Quinault National Recreational Trail System on-line or stop at the ranger station for a map.
Willaby Creek Falls is a smaller waterfall that is part of the Rain Forest Nature Trail. A half-mile walk features interpretive signs and mossy old-growth trees.
Cascade Falls is a 20-foot waterfall that can be accessed from the ranger station. The loop trail is 1.5 miles, or you can view the falls and then turn back and walk toward Gatton Creek Falls.
Gatton Creek Falls is a tiered waterfall that can be accessed by hiking a three-mile loop, or for quicker access you can take the gravel road just past Gatton Creek Campground for half a mile and walk the 0.3 miles to the bridge and falls. Limited parking is available.
Merriman Falls is perhaps the most magnificent waterfall in the Lake Quinault area. This 40-foot-tall waterfall can be viewed off South Shore Road just by pulling over. There is limited parking on either side of the bridge. Beware of slippery rocks if scrambling closer to the falls.
Bunch Creek Falls is another impressively tall waterfall that has easy access. Park right before the bridge. There should be lots of spray during the rainy season.
If you decide to turn your day trip into an overnight, check for availability at the Lake Quinault lodge or the Quinault River Inn. For dining options, take-out is available at The Roosevelt Dining Room inside the Lake Quinault Lodge or try the Quinault Internet Cafe for breakfast, a burger, or fish and chips.
Lake Wynoochee Area
The Lake Wynoochee area also has several waterfalls that you can visit in a day. Located about an hour from Aberdeen, Lake Wynoochee offers day use, seasonal camping, a 16-mile lakeshore trail and a breathtaking view of the Olympic Mountains. As this is a more remote location, it’s best to pack snacks, water and maybe a picnic.
Spoon Creek Falls is a family-friendly trek of less than a mile that offers several lookouts and an accessible yet very cold pool of water at the bottom of the falls.
Perfection Falls is well known among kayakers that take the 16-foot waterfall drop for sport. Located on Donkey Creek Road, this waterfall is great for viewing if you are accessing Lake Wynoochee from Highway 101.
Maidenhair Falls is a short, half-mile hike located along the upper part of a gorge through the west branch of the Wynoochee River. There is limited parking and trip reports say the trailhead is obscure.
Wynoochee Falls is a busy place in warmer months due to the wading pool at the bottom of the falls and the gravel bar that is a great spot for a picnic. The falls are easy to get to via a wide trail that used to lead to a campground that was there long ago.
There are so many amazing waterfalls, it’s worth considering a longer trip. Drive the whole loop and follow the official Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail. From Hama Hama Falls along the Hood Canal (be sure to make a pitstop at the family-friendly Hama Hama Oyster Saloon for fresh oysters, clams, or chowder) to Madison Falls next to the Elwha River, and of course the most famous Sol Duc Falls in the lush Sol Duc valley.
This is the perfect time of year to experience the positive vibrations found around waterfalls. Not to mention basking in the beauty of old-growth forests, luscious ferns, and lichen covered trees. Spring comes early on the Peninsula and lasts a long time, so get out there and enjoy it. And please remember to recreate responsibly.