visiting Snoqualmie falls
Snoqualmie Falls from Lake Alice Trailhead

Snoqualmie Falls is an absolutely unforgettable waterfall, about 25 miles east of Seattle. It drops a total of 268 feet into the Snoqualmie River, and is one of the best, by far, attractions in the state. What follows is a local’s guide to visiting Snoqualmie Falls, WA.

I’ve lived in the Snoqualmie Valley for over a decade and while there are hundreds of other waterfalls in our state, I’ve been to this one countless times. With out-of-town friends and my own family, and never tire of its powerful beauty.

A Local’s Guide to Visiting Snoqualmie Falls, WA

Wander Healthy

Is Snoqualmie Falls Worth Visiting?

Falls from the Rim (Upper) Observation Deck
The Falls from the Rim (Upper) Observation Deck

Yes, it’s definitely worth visiting! The waterfall is one of the most popular natural attractions in Washington State, and for good reason. It’s a breathtaking sight, with water cascading, and often gushing, down into the Snoqualmie River below.

There are two main viewpoints for observing the falls, both accessible to all ages, and one observation point available only by hiking in.

You will also see unique historical artifacts and current portions of the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Plant, located towards the bottom viewpoint. When first built, it was the world’s first completely underground power plant.

Pipe system for hydroelectric dam

The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, making it a great spot for nature lovers.

Fauna at Snoqualmie Falls

Lastly, Snoqualmie Falls was one of the many local sites featured in the filming of the wildly popular Twin Peaks television series.

Three Viewpoints

There are three places you can view the falls, with two of them relatively easy and accessible for most fitness levels and ages.

  • The upper observation deck is within a short walking distance from either the valet parking, the pay parking lot or the free parking across the street via the skybridge. There is a lovely shaded picnic area and some benches as well.
Picnic areas at the Falls
  • The lower observation platform viewing is approximately 500 feet from the lower parking lot, or a half mile hike down from the upper parking lot.
  • The third viewpoint is from the opposite side of the river and requires hiking in from the Lake Alice Road SE Preston-Snoqualmie Trailhead, as described below.

I usually go to the lower falls to park and view below, and hike up to the upper observation deck. The parking is easier and I prefer to hike down on the return trip whenever possible.

Two Hiking Options

There are two hiking trails in the area that offer visitors a chance to explore and take in the natural surroundings.  The most popular hike, the main trail, takes you from the upper observation platform to the lower one in approximately half a mile.

Main Snoqualmie Falls Trail

Main Trail

The trailhead for Snoqualmie Falls is located at the Snoqualmie Falls Trailhead parking lot, which is adjacent to the Salish Lodge and Spa. The hike to the lower observation area starts a short distance from the upper platform.

This trail is 1.4 miles (round trip) and is rated as an easy hike. It typically takes about an hour to complete.  There are plenty of gloriously green spaces to rest along the way, most of them in the shade.

Visiting Snoqualmie falls and hiking trail

It’s important to stay on the designated path and to wear appropriate footwear as the trail can be slippery, especially during wet weather.

It’s a beautiful downhill stroll on a well-maintained path through the temperate rain forest, behind the powerhouse station and along a boardwalk that runs along the side of the Snoqualmie River. This leads directly to the lower viewpoint and brings you slightly closer to the falls.

Boardwalk to the lower viewpoint

The trail is entirely uphill on the return trip.

Alternative Trail

The Preston-Snoqualmie Trail will take you to the other side of the falls. It’s either a 13 mile or about 4 mile hike round trip, depending on where you start, with only 500 feet elevation gain total. This Preston-Snoqualmie trail is open to hikers, bicyclists and horses.

The last part of this trail is through the private property of the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater and you will need a membership in order to hike here.

Unless you want to hike the entire 13 miles from Preston, you’ll want to begin where the Lake Alice Road SE connects with the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail. This takes you to the viewpoint from the opposite side of the river, shown in the first photo above.

History of the Falls

The Falls
Snoqualmie Falls from lower observation deck

Snoqualmie Falls holds significant cultural and spiritual importance to the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, who have lived in the valley for thousands of years. The falls are a sacred site and a symbol of the tribe’s cultural identity.

According to the tribe’s oral history, the falls were created by a powerful transformer spirit named Snoqualmie, who is said to have lived in the area long ago. The spirit is believed to continue to reside in the falls, and the tribe considers the site to be a place of spiritual power and renewal.

The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe has worked to preserve and protect the falls and the surrounding natural environment, and has been involved in efforts to restore salmon runs in the Snoqualmie River.

In recognition of the tribe’s cultural significance, the Snoqualmie Tribe Museum showcases the history and culture of the Snoqualmie people. In 2019, the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe purchased the falls and 45 acres of property surrounding it, including the Salish Lodge & Spa.

What to Bring to the Falls

Snoqualmie River
The Snoqualmie River

You should bring water and snacks if you plan to hike, as well as good walking shoes. I suggest wearing layers and a raincoat, particularly if it’s been raining recently as the falls will be raging and you can feel the spray from both observation decks.

Bring your camera as well, as this is one of the most photographed sites in the state.

What to Do While Visiting Snoqualmie Falls

Pedestrian bridge over the highway
  • View the falls from above.
  • Enjoy a picnic at the Snoqualmie Falls picnic area, at the top.
  • Hike to the bottom observation point.
  • Learn all about the history and workings of the hydroelectric dam.
  • Learn about the history of the world’s first underground power plant.
  • See the artifacts along the way to Snoqualmie Falls boardwalk.
  • Shop at the Salish Lodge gift shop.
  • Geocache!
  • Dine at the Salish Lodge restaurant or the Attic. They have a second dining area, called the Attic, that is more casual and does not require reservations. Both are fantastic. Their restaurant is considered fine dining and reservations are required.
  • Relax with a massage at the spa. You should reserve this in advance.

What to Do in Snoqualmie and Nearby

Rattlesnake Lake

Rattlesnake Lake Washington is the perfect destination for families wanting to enjoy the water and beach on a warm summer day. There are many activities at the lake, something for everyone.

Meadowbrook Farm

Meadowbrook Farm is a historic farm located in North Bend, less than 15 minutes from the falls. The farm is owned by the City of North Bend and is managed as a public park and nature preserve.

The farm’s historic buildings have been restored and are open to the public, and the land is used for a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, bird watching, and nature photography.

TPC Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Course

The TPC Snoqualmie Ridge Golf course is a championship golf course that is open to the public. It was designed by Jack Nicklaus and has hosted the Boeing Classic PGA Tour event.

Snoqualmie Valley Railroad Museum

The Snoqualmie Valley Railroad Museum is a museum that focuses on the history and heritage of the railway in the Snoqualmie Valley. The museum is housed in the historic Snoqualmie Depot, which was built in 1890 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Museum also offers scenic train rides along a section of the historic railway line between Snoqualmie and North Bend. The train rides run on weekends and holidays from April to October, and let you experience the beauty of the Snoqualmie Valley from the comfort of a vintage train car.

In addition, they offer a super fun Santa train in December and on special occasions an always sold-out Thomas the Tank train ride.

Railroad Days

Railroad Days is an annual festival that takes place in Snoqualmie, typically towards the end August. The festival celebrates the rich history of the railroad in the Snoqualmie Valley and includes a variety of activities and events for people of all ages.

During Railroad Days, visitors can enjoy train rides on the historic Snoqualmie Valley Railroad, as well as live music, food and craft vendors, a grand parade, a car show, a pancake breakfast, and a variety of children’s activities.

The festival also features special exhibits and demonstrations related to the history of the railway, including displays of vintage railway equipment and tours of the Snoqualmie Depot and the Northwest Railway Museum.

Hiking

There are many other wonderful hiking trails in North Bend, within a short driving distance of Snoqualmie.  And there are even more hiking possibilities just 20 miles east at Snoqualmie Pass. There are hikes for every level of fitness and abilities at both locations.

Camping

There are several great places to camp close by for those who want to spend more time in nature. There are many wonderful options, from well-maintained campgrounds that are easy to get to, to campgrounds you’ll need to hike to in order to reach.

Snoqualmie Casino

The Snoqualmie Casino is a popular destination for gaming, dining, entertainment, and more.  The casino offers a wide variety of gaming options, including slot machines, table games, and poker.

The casino features several dining options, ranging from casual to fine dining. The Falls Buffet offers a variety of cuisines and all-you-can-eat options. The Snoqualmie Casino hosts a variety of live entertainment, including concerts, comedy shows, and other events.

Cougar Mountain Zoo, Issaquah

The Cougar Mountain Zoo is a small, family-owned zoo that features a variety of animals, including cougars, wolves, and lemurs. You can learn about these fascinating creatures and support the zoo’s conservation efforts.

Lake Sammamish State Park

Lake Sammamish State Park is located just outside of Issaquah and offers a variety of outdoor activities, including swimming, boating, and fishing. The park also features picnic areas, playgrounds, and hiking trails.

Where to Stay near Snoqualmie Falls

There are a few places for lodging near Snoqualmie, WA, depending on your budget and desires.

Salish Lodge and Spa

  • 6501 Railroad Ave
  • Snoqualmie, WA 98065

The Salish Lodge and Spa is a luxurious resort located in a picturesque setting overlooking the stunning Snoqualmie Falls. The location offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and forests, making it a peaceful and serene place to stay.

The Salish Lodge and Spa offers a variety of spa treatments and services, including massages, facials, and body treatments.  It’s truly an experience for all your senses.

Hilton Garden Inn Issaquah

  • 1800 NW Gilman Blvd
  • Issaquah, WA 98027

The Hilton Garden in Issaquah is more affordable and practical. It’s in a convenient location, in between Bellevue and Snoqualmie. It offers the the standard amenities, is close to retail stores and restaurants, and also allows pets.

Nearby Restaurants at Snoqualmie Falls

There are many great places in Snoqualmie and nearby North Bend where you can grab a great meal.

Salish Lodge and Spa

  • 6501 Railroad Ave
  • Snoqualmie, WA 98065

North Bend Bar & Grill

  • 145 E North Bend Way
  • North Bend, WA 98045

How to Get to Snoqualmie Falls

visiting Snoqualmie Falls

The falls are located just a short drive east of Seattle, and are easily accessible by car or public transportation. The upper platform is just off the main road, Highway 202. The lower platform is reached by following the signs on Fish Hatchery Road, off Highway 202, to the lower parking lot.

By Car: Take I-90 E from Seattle towards Issaquah. Take exit 25 towards Snoqualmie. Follow the signs to Snoqualmie Falls.

By Public Transit: Take the King County Metro bus route 554 from Seattle to Issaquah Transit Center. Transfer to the King County Metro bus route 208 towards North Bend. Get off at Snoqualmie Falls Park. Check that the route is functioning before heading out.

Alternatively, you can take one of many wonderful guided tours of some of the best places to visit in Seattle and Snoqualmie Falls and let someone else worry about the logistics!

Snoqualmie Falls Weather

The weather here is typical of Seattle and surrounding areas. There’s a great deal of rain in the winter months, but not usually during the summer. Plan your trip with the Snoqualmie Falls weather forecast.

FAQs About Visiting

Commonly asked questions about Snoqualmie Falls and how to spend your time there.

Why should you visit Snoqualmie Falls?

Snoqualmie Falls is truly stunning, with water cascading down a 268-foot drop into a deep canyon below. The surrounding forest and river also provide a picturesque setting.

How much time is needed at Snoqualmie Falls?

It depends on where you park, in which direction you go and your level of fitness. The classic route, starting at the upper falls, hiking down to the lower falls and back up, takes approximately one hour.

What is the best time of year to visit Snoqualmie Falls?

The best time to visit Snoqualmie Falls is in the spring or just after a major rain storm, when the water is pouring out faster even than usual.

Can you drive up to Snoqualmie Falls?

You can drive within 100 yards of the upper observation deck.

Can you visit Snoqualmie Falls at night?

Yes! You can visit the upper observation platform at any time, day or night.

Is there a fee to see Snoqualmie Falls?

If you park in the free lot, there is no cost to enter Snoqualmie Falls.

Final Thoughts: A Guide to Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls is a beautiful destination and a must-do on your trip to Seattle. It’s truly a breathtaking sight, with its 270-foot cascade of water surrounded by lush greenery and rugged terrain.