Frozen Franklin Falls
Frozen Franklin Falls

One of the great advan­tages of liv­ing in the Pacif­ic North­west is the near­ness of nature, includ­ing unspoiled moun­tains and ocean beach­es. Thanks to the work of many sus­tain­abil­i­ty-ori­ent­ed Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, Ore­go­ni­ans, and Ida­hoans, we have pro­tect­ed many of our beau­ti­ful and wild places from being scarred or destroyed.

One such place is the Moun­tains to Sound Green­way in east­ern King Coun­ty, which sur­rounds Inter­state 90 as it winds towards Sno­qualmie Pass.

Peo­ple from across Wash­ing­ton have been flock­ing to the Green­way’s Den­ny Creek area in recent weeks to mar­vel at the awe-inspir­ing sight of frozen-over Franklin Falls, a notable water­fall on the South Fork of the Sno­qualmie River.

Very cold tem­per­a­tures and heavy snow­fall have prompt­ed the clo­sure of the for­est road that goes from I‑90’s Exit 47 to the Franklin Falls trail­head, turn­ing what was pre­vi­ous­ly a two mile roundtrip hike into a near­ly eight mile roundtrip hike that requires giv­ing up the bet­ter part of the sun­lit day.

This has seem­ing­ly not damp­ened the allure of the Falls in the slight­est, for when I made the trek there this week­end to take in the sight myself, the trail was rather crowd­ed. Fel­low hik­ers were prac­ti­cal­ly always in sight.

And no won­der, for frozen Franklin Falls is tru­ly some­thing to behold. If any­thing deserves to be called a win­ter won­der­land, it is this place.

Many vis­i­tors have remarked that it looks like a scene out of The Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), and indeed it does. Dis­ney and Walden Media filmed some of the win­ter scenes in the Czech Repub­lic and Poland, but the Cas­cades here in Wash­ing­ton could have served as a film­ing location.

A string of suc­ces­sive cold snaps have pro­duced a mas­sive array of ici­cles at the Falls’ third tier — and it’s quite the immer­sive experience.

In the film ver­sion of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there’s a scene where our heroes have to cross a frozen riv­er in front of — you guessed it — a giant, frozen-over water­fall. This scene isn’t actu­al­ly described in C.S. Lewis’ famous nov­el, but it was cre­at­ed for the movie for dra­mat­ic effect.

Still from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The pro­tag­o­nists of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe inspect the great riv­er they have to get across
Still from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The three Peven­sive chil­dren and the Beavers cross the riv­er in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The frozen water­fall seen above is a set cre­at­ed by the film­mak­ers, uti­liz­ing com­put­er gen­er­at­ed imagery (CGI), and while it’s rea­son­ably con­vinc­ing, it can’t com­pare with the real-life ici­cles at Franklin Falls, which were sculpt­ed by nature.

Recent lows up at Sno­qulamie Pass have been in the low teens (the night before my hike, the low was 14° Fahren­heit) result­ing in a spec­tac­u­lar set of ice formations.

While at Franklin Falls, I wit­nessed more than one intre­pid ice climber scale the Falls as cool­ly and calm­ly as a patient fish­er­man reel­ing in a big catch.

Win­ter recre­ation in our region can tru­ly be reward­ing, but it’s impor­tant to be pre­pared when set­ting out. I saw many peo­ple hik­ing at Franklin Falls who clear­ly weren’t dressed for con­tin­gen­cies and did­n’t appear to have much in the way of sup­plies. If you attempt to go to the Falls your­self, you should:

  • check cur­rent con­di­tions and the weath­er fore­cast pri­or to set­ting out (don’t go in bad weath­er, it’s not worth the risk)
  • print out driving+hiking direc­tions rather than attempt­ing to rely on GPS; be pre­pared to hike the eight miles roundtrip
  • ensure you arrive before mid­day so you can get down before sunset
  • dress in lay­ers and put hand warm­ers in your gloves
  • car­ry the Ten Essen­tials (includ­ing an insu­lat­ed water bottle)
  • wear snow­shoes or put trac­tion devices on your shoes (reduces the like­li­hood of slip­ping and falling on the ice)
  • bring trekking poles and make full use of them

I went pre­pared and enjoyed myself immense­ly, but I could see oth­er hik­ers had neglect­ed to ade­quate­ly pre­pare for the hike and weren’t enjoy­ing it as much as they could have as a con­se­quence. Please trav­el pre­pared and stay safe!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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