Everyone knows the Olympic Peninsula is a wet place. The river valleys in the region average well-over 10 feet of rain each year and moss seems to grow on everything. Aside from a few summer months, the ground feels ever-saturated, soaked to the core, truly earning the title of rain forest. As the region gets blanketed with persistent downpours, every drop gathers and gains steam, carving out channels in gullies and drainage basins throughout the wilderness.
What starts as a small stream soon becomes a raging torrent of water, gaining strength and forming a massive wall of water. Fueled by letting snow and any number of the 311 glaciers in Olympic National Park, the waters here are always flowing fast. As millions of gallons of water gain momentum quickly passing through narrow, fern-lined box canyons, it soon comes to spot were seemingly all hell breaks loose and the torrents of water spray and tumble down hundreds of feet, crashing into a deep pool below.
This is where most of us join the scene, standing jaws agape, looking in wonder at the beautiful waterfalls of Olympic National Park. With so much water in the region, it is inevitable that Olympic would be filled with waterfalls. While not the towering behemoths you see cascading down rocky bluffs in Yosemite or along the Columbia River Gorge, the waterfalls of Olympic are gorgeous without being tall. Surrounded by a sea of moss, ferns, and towering old growth, the down rushing water is most beautiful in a rain forest.
The trails around Olympic during the fall, winter, and especially the spring months pass by countless cascades, seasonal falls, and forest floor rapids. With so much water, and so many places to see water tumbling down rocky cliffs, finding the best waterfalls can be difficult. Luckily, there are six areas that give you some of the best waterfall locations Olympic National Park has to offer.
1. Donahue Creek Falls
Located above the gorgeous, rapid filled Skokomish River, Donahue Creek Falls sits along the trail to Flapjack Lake and Gladys Divide. After a hike from the Staircase Entrance, see the falls tumble down a deep ravine right next to the trail; the falls also serve as a perfect resting spot along this 15 mile round trip hike. With a log going across the top, Donahue Creek is also the perfect place to snap a picture of you being dwarfed by the natural wonder of Olympic National Park.
2. Royal Basin Falls
Royal Basin Falls may be located in the typically drier “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains, but this waterfall is always awesome. Tumbling down from the lakes and tarns in and above Royal Basin, the waterfall fans out after coming to a headwall. Instead of one big falls, Royal Basin is more like a million small falls spread out over a multi-tiered rocky slope. There isn’t much room to maneuver around for great pictures, but don’t fret; this is one of many breathtaking sights on the 15 mile Royal Basin trail.
3. Sol Duc Falls
Located in the remote Sol Duc Valley, Sol Duc Falls is one of the iconic images from Olympic National Park. With a well-maintained, family-friendly trail it is sure to be a favorite for explorers of all ages and abilities. At just 1.5 miles of total hiking, the trail opens up a wonderland of nature, transporting visitors to a mossy land where fairy tales should take place. With smaller cascades and a deep box canyon, exploring the area around Sol Duc should be added to everyone’s must-see list.
4. Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls , located right along the always popular and pristine Lake Crescent, is another waterfall that is east to get to and enjoyable for the whole family. Walking along the 1.8 mile trail, experience one of the widest trails in Olympic National Park. As you weave through huge fir and cedar, watch for deer lurking in the ferns. As you get to the 90 foot waterfall, enjoy the sights from the multiple viewing platforms.
5. Murhut Falls
Technically, Murhut Falls isn’t in the National Park, but after seeing it, it is hard to understand why not. Short and sweet, the 1.6 mile round trip trail leads you through a decent looking forest before rewarding you with a great view of the falls. While the viewing area may be stunning, more adventurous waterfall enthusiasts will easily be able to find a route to explore the upper falls area, away from everyone. Murhut Falls is gorgeous if explored, so take some time, get off trail, and be amazed at this two-tier beauty.
6. The Valley of 10,000 Waterfalls
If you are up for a backpacking trip to one of the most scenic rain forest valleys in Olympic National Park, hiking to the Enchanted Valley is a must. At 28 miles round trip, the path goes along the incredibly superb Quinault River, leading past endless seasonal cascades, and ending in Enchanted Valley. Known by many locals as the “Valley of 10,000 Waterfalls,” this valley sits next to a rugged cliff, which after heavy rains, transforms into a panorama of water bouncing and tumbling down the rugged terrain. Amazingly, the waterfalls are often overlooked, as the Valley is also home to an old Chalet that now serves as a ranger station.