Hiking History: Franklin Falls

Winter is a great time to visit this popular waterfall. The snow gives everything charm, especially the cabins along the creek topped with a thick layer of icing-like snow. The normally two mile hike is extended down the forest road about a mile making it more of a worthwhile destination for the day. It is, however, still as popular as ever in the winter so get there early to avoid the crowds.


The trail climbs gently through old growth along Denny Creek. In the summertime, you can walk along the Wagon Road Trail adjacent to the falls trail and see the remnants of the original road that climbed over Snoqualmie Pass. The old wagon road was built in 1867 to promote trade between Seattle and Ellensburg. There were frequent cattle drives on the steep road over the pass and maintenance was understandably difficult. Hiking along here, imagine what it would  have been like traveling in a wagon…


The wagon road continued to be the main passage through the mountains for cattle and goods until the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed in 1887. The railroad provided a much easier way to transport freight and the road fell into disrepair. David Denny, brother of Arthur Denny who is one of the founders of Seattle, took it upon himself to save the road. He repaired the road, laid corduroy, and built bridges. In 1905 the first automobiles would cross over the pass on the road that Denny built.


Later, during the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expedition, an auto race over the pass popularized the route. The state planned to build an official highway called the Sunset Highway that would run from North Bend east to the Idaho border. At its opening in 1915, the highway was hailed as “the first passable route between east and west sides of the mountains.” The new highway replaced the steep wagon road grade with switchbacks and hairpin turns that are now part of the forest road 58. The forest road parallels the trail and crisscrosses the original wagon road trail.


The trail to Franklin Falls has much to offer. It’s got old forest, a babbling creek, history and of course, the beautiful 70-foot falls. My favorite part of our winter trek was the impressive icicles guarding the falls on both sides, hanging from the rock like stalagmites. We walked the forest road down to make it a loop and threw snowballs into the deep snow for Nali to chase. She slept the whole way home. It was a perfect winter day.


More info about the Wagon Road

Hikes featured in this post:
Franklin Falls

5 Replies to “Hiking History: Franklin Falls”

  1. Great post–I love your blog! It’s so great that we have snow in the mountains this year. Cheers,

    1. Thanks, Shelby! I totally agree about the snow! 🙂

  2. Andy and I had planned to have our engagement photos taken on this trail when the falls were snowy and frozen, but of course by January that year there was no snow at all.. We wound up hiking to Heybrook Lookout on a warm sunny day that felt more like June than January!

    I always enjoy the history of trails you share with so many of your posts. I had no idea that the Denny Creek area used to be the wagon road over the mountains!

  3. Hello! I’ve been reading your website for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout
    out from Porter Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the great work!

    1. Hi! Thanks for reaching out, glad you like the site. 🙂

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