VIDEO: An easy snow hike close to Seattle – Frozen Franklin Falls

One thing I’m always impressed with is how folks around Seattle and the Pacific Northwest get outdoors with their families. Our first Christmas in Seattle — which we spent just the two of us in our little apartment before going to visit family in North Carolina — we decided to get out to Rattlesnake Ledge for a short, little 3-mile Christmas day hike. We got out there really early and there were already some folks on the trail. And on our way back down, we encountered droves of families of all kinds, like whole extended families of like 15 people. Despite the busy trail, it was really nice to see so many people choose to get outdoors for a little while on a holiday otherwise spent indoors.

Last week, Erika Schultz (my photo/video colleague at The Seattle Times) and I were able to get out to make a little feature story and short film about one of the most popular local hikes: Franklin Falls.

In the summer, this is an easy 1-mile jaunt to a pretty impressive waterfall (though it does reside under an I-90 overpass). It’s also a nice little walk to add onto an excursion along the Denny Creek trail which is close by.

But in winter months, the road to the Franklin Falls trailhead is blocked off by snow which adds almost a mile, making it more like a 4-mile roundtrip hike. But it’s a lovely little winter wonderland kind of trail that is accessible for kids and casual (i.e., not intense or overly prepared) hikers.

There are some steep inclines on the trail, so I would definitely recommend microspikes (YakTrax were insufficient), but snowshoes are not necessary because the busy trail is well packed down. As you can see in the video, a lot of people wearing inadequate footwear (i.e., running shoes) are slipping around and having to slide down the last hill on their butts, or forgo that part entirely.

It also feels about 10 degrees colder in the area around the foot of the waterfall, so make sure to have gloves, a hat, and even a waterproof outer layer to battle the icy mist (which gets even colder when the wind blows). We hung around down there for about two hours as we were filming and photographing and I got sort of dangerously cold and had to retreat up-trail a bit.

Overall, a lovely little hike, especially in winter. Great for the non-intense hikers among your family and friends and pretty good payoff for not too much work.


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