This feels like ages ago even though it’s only been 12 days. I spent the week after on a planning binge, followed by a purging binge, on top of everything life… time flies by. Hell, it’s almost May. I’m pretty sure last week was Christmas. And as much as I dread the spring and summer weather, it’s been a nice change for hiking—I say this now, before the summer crowds hit the trail. I’m pretty sure I said warm breeze more than a few times while hiking Otter Falls. Not only am I at the age where I comment on how fast time goes, apparently I’m also at the age where I start talking about the weather. Nan, my grandmother whom I spoke with every Sunday night at 5pm for years before she died, would always—without fail—ask about the rain up in Seattle. Even in August. It wasn’t a conversation with Nan if we didn’t discuss the weather for a solid five minutes. This is my future.
Otter Falls is stunning! Absolutely stunning. A total score after the easy, almost 4.5 mile hike into the forest. The WTA trail description says it’s 11 miles roundtrip but my Apple Watch says differently. I clocked 9.43 miles roundtrip, with the .43 miles probably accounting for to-and-from parking… we parked at the Garfield Ledges trailhead like the WTA site suggested: this parking area is a much better place to leave your car. I’m not sure why?! The parking at Snoqualmie Trailhead seems perfectly fine. But we listened.
The Snoqualmie Lake trailhead is a loooong 12 miles down the forest road. Man, that road feels like it goes on forever. It’a a beautiful drive, mostly a straight shot. And with no cell service, it feels secluded. Except it’s not. There are so many trails and camping options there, and people coming and going. There’s something about being surrounded by others who enjoy hiking and the outdoors. Like-minded people (in more ways than just hiking). And it’s such a well-maintained area. Pristine I’d even say. Not to mention beautiful (again), given the landscape.
The Otter Falls trail kicks off at the end of the loooong forest road, sharing the Snoqualmie Lake trail. It starts off along Taylor River before heading into the forest. It’s a relatively flat, easy stroll down the well-maintained trail. There are your standard trees—both big and small, old and new—and boulders along the trail. What’s different on the trail to Otter Falls is all the water crossings. At one point I considered taking off my socks and shoes. Which makes me think of a reddit post a while ago, asking if people go sock-sock-shoe-shoe or sock-shoe-sock-shoe when putting on socks and shoes. The things people think about and ask, and then get filed away in my head. But ask me about a major historical event I’ve read about, and nope!
Luckily I didn’t need to strip my feet… I managed to cross all the water using rocks and logs. One is fairly tricky. Like thigh-deep water. With some unstable rocks to use as stepping stones. This is where I feel pretty impressed with myself—I didn’t have any issues crossing. Dare I say, I felt youthful? Part of my personality is to just go for things and deal with whatever consequences after, which is exactly the approach I took on the trail. Thankfully all worked out well.
Water crossings galore!
And one with a bridge.
After the fairly tricky water crossing, the Otter Falls turn-off is pretty close. We tromped through a large patch of remaining snow on the ground before coming upon the Otter Falls sign. It’s up a bootpath. We learned what a bootpath is when we attempted to hike Mount Margaret. This time, we knew what we were doing. We bootpath’d up to the top of the hill. There was a guy who put up a hammock between two trees right by the trail down to Lipsy Lake… the tiny lake Otter Falls flows into. We think he had a dog with him?! There was a random dog bringing a large stick to anyone who would trow it in the lake for him to fetch. Everyone who threw the stick was assumed to be with the dog, until we all realized the dog wasn’t with any of us. Super happy, friendly pup!
Snow before the Otter Falls bootpath turn-off.
Otter Falls is absolutely stunning (I said this already, I know). It’s first visible through trees at the top of the bootpath before trekking down to Lipsy Lake, a short walk down from the hammock guy. And then, boom. Otter Falls in all its glory. The water flows down a massive slab of granite. Emphasis on massive. I’m fairly certain the granite has way more surface area than Lipsy Lake. Talk about a tiny lake. More like a pond in my totally uneducated on water bodies opinion. And according to the WTA description, the falls go for 1,200 feet but only 500 feet is visible on the hike. So of course I looked on Google Maps and sure enough, it goes on for days. And there’s a cute, small water fall on the right, near the bottom of the granite. It’s a rebel waterfall, doing its own thing.
And Otter Falls with all of Lipsy Lake.
Tiny Lipsy Lake and the rebel waterfall.
Down at the lake, we found a spot on a log to settle in and snack away after taking some photos from across the lake, looking directly at the falls. There were maybe five different groups of people, ranging from two people—like Karann and me—to groups of four. As we were snacking, an older group of four found a spot to lunch to our right. I had to laugh, one of the older guys—maybe in his late fifties—pulled out some rods from his backpack and started assembling something. It was a fancy schmancy camping chair. Haha! Brian and I always make up scenarios… this is one where I’m sure the husband was like, “Check it out, wife! Look what I found at REI [when he went to buy a snow jacket]. I’m totally going to use this ALL the time.” And the wife was like, “Okay, husband. I’m happy you’re happy with your new chair,” thinking to herself that he’ll probably never use the thing. And then he doesn’t use it for a few years but then takes it on this one hike to make it seem like it was a totally practical purchase. He seemed happy as he lunched in his chair… while his wife lunched, standing next to him (hahaha).
The other people watching moment while we snacked, the two 20-something gals. They had settled in on the boulders across from Otter Falls, when we were first taking photos. The one gal was cute, she got close to me without her mask on and said, “Oops, sorry! I’m vaccinated!” (I appreciate her being consciousness.) They snacked and then started in on their Instagram shots. One would position herself on the boulder with one leg stretched out, the other leg slightly bent, with an elbow placed on the knee—with the falls in the background—and then look off in the distance totally unnaturally, signaling the other to take a photo. They switched off getting this same shot. And then they both did standing shots as if they were taken by someone else without them knowing. I’m always entertained by people watching. And good on them for getting the shots they wanted, and I’m sure they turned out well enough for them to post on Instagram. Probably better than anything I could come up with. Not that I know anything about Instagram.
Karann and I chatted, snacked, and people watched. And while it felt lovely to sit and enjoy the views, we both were antsy to get going. For no reason. We weren’t on a time schedule. There wasn’t anyone waiting for our spot on the log. It just felt like we needed to get moving. After about 10 minutes, we headed back the way we came. Back up the trail from Lipsy Lake to the hammock guy, down the bootpath, and back on the main trail with snow patches and water crossings galore.
Random pictures along the trail.
We eventually made our way back to the start of the trail, at the parking lot that WTA thinks is sketchy. There were several cars but still ample parking. We were concerned when we left the Safeway parking lot that morning for the trailhead, that parking would be tough. It was a sunny Seattle weekend. Which usually means everyone goes outside. The sunny weekend before, Karann and her friend went to hike Wallace Falls and the parking lot was insane. They ended up hiking somewhere else to avoid the massive crowds on the trail. Hiking with all of Seattle isn’t very enjoyable. That was a bonus about Otter Falls. Even with the amount of cars in the sketchy parking lot (and Garfield Ledges parking lot), we still felt like we had the trail to ourselves. Or course we’d pass people but it was spaced out enough that it didn’t feel busy in the slightest.
This weekend we’re set to hike to another waterfall. It’ll be tough to beat the beauty of Otter Falls.