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Chinook Creek Falls
   Pierce County, Washington, United States

This waterfall has been surveyed, mapped and measured in person by the World Waterfall Database.
Photo of Chinook Creek Falls Motorists traveling along Highway 123 in Mount Rainier National Park often notice an eye-catching waterfall across the valley from the Seymour Peak tunnel a few miles south of Cayuse Pass. Most simply take a quick picture and proceed on their way, oblivious to exactly how significant this waterfall actually is. As Chinook Creek rumbles down from its namesake pass, it drops over several small waterfalls, but shortly before reaching its confluence with Dewey Creek the stream plunges off a hanging valley in a very scenic and rather impressive waterfall, dropping 221 feet in five distinct steps; 42, 102, 21, 26, and 30 feet respectively. When viewed from the highway, only the uppermost 42-foot tier and no more than half of the 102-foot tall tier of the falls are visible, the rest remains obscured by the thick forest below. However those who are able to make the rather precarious scramble to the base of the falls can achieve a much more revealing vista of the falls.

At this point along its course, Chinook Creek is sustained entirely by snow melt from the Chinook and Cayuse Pass areas. Though the creek technically heads in Tipsoo Lake, the lake is not large enough to ensure a stained flow throughout the summer and the outlet will sometimes dry out as the water level drops. This means that Chinook Creek itself behaves almost as a seasonal stream at this point - though it rarely seems to actually go dry. In following, Chinook Creek Falls is not terribly noteworthy a waterfall beyond the beginning of August, and attempting to get close to the falls after that point will likely result in disappointment given the amount of effort involved.


  • Chinook Creek Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall

We had previously listed this entry as Upper Chinook Creek Falls, but after uncovering nearly a half-dozen additional waterfalls further upstream, as well as coming to the blatant realization that this is far and away the most significant waterfall along Chinook Creek, the naming conventions of the falls along the creek have been slightly changed. The waterfall which we had previously listed with this title is now listed as Lower Chinook Creek Falls.

Our thoughts

Unfortunately accessing the base of Chinook Creek Falls is a difficult enough endeavor that we can't recommend it as a location to seek out. Getting to the falls in itself is not terribly difficult, but taking into account a necessary stream ford, off-trail traversals along the top of several cliffs, steep slopes covered with hard forest duff, and potentially slick slopes near the base of the falls, it all results in a trek that poses too many hazards for those who are not considerably experienced in off-trail navigation. All that said, this is a great waterfall and if you are experienced and comfortable enough to attempt to reach it, the payoff is outstanding (at least during the early summer months).

Location and directions

Chinook Creek Falls is located near Cayuse Pass on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park. From the junction of Highways 410 and 123 at Cayuse Pass, follow Highway 123 south for just a half of a mile and park at the large gravel turnout on the right (west) side of the road. Walk south along the highway for about 270 feet and locate where the East Side Trail intersects the highway just before the road crosses a significant gully (the small metal sign indicating the trail is set several dozen yards back from the highway so it's not terribly obvious). Follow the trail downstream for just over eight-tenths of a mile. At this point it's necessary to leave the trail and scramble down to Chinook Creek in order to cross it. The best place to do so is either at the bottom of Hourglass Falls, or between tiers of Upper Chinook Creek Falls (see links below). Once across, continue following the creek downstream, but do so while angling slightly up the hill, otherwise a cliff band will block progress. If the correct route is taken, it becomes possible to circumnavigate the cliff band (the same cliff that forms Chinook Creek Falls) and traverse to the ridge directly opposite of the falls, which can then be followed all the way to the base of the falls, a total of about a mile from the trailhead. The route down to the base is very steep in places, but is mercifully free of brush for the most part.

Chinook Creek Falls is shown in the center. Additional nearby waterfalls (if any) can be found in the list below.

Additional Nearby Waterfalls

Name of Waterfall Distance
Upper Chinook Creek Falls 0.05 mi / 0.08 km
Hourglass Falls 0.13 mi / 0.2 km
Unnamed Waterfall 0.22 mi / 0.35 km
Cayuse Pass Falls 0.48 mi / 0.76 km
Lower Dewey Creek Falls 0.69 mi / 1.1 km
Lower Chinook Creek Falls 0.88 mi / 1.41 km
Chinook Pass Falls 1.09 mi / 1.74 km
Unnamed Waterfall 1.14 mi / 1.82 km
Unnamed Waterfall 1.14 mi / 1.82 km
Boundary Creek Falls 1.18 mi / 1.89 km


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Photo of Chinook Creek Falls

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Photography tips

When shooting from the road, a 300mm lens is almost necessary for a good shot. No idea what to expect from up close. Well lit in the morning hours, pretty much impossible to see in the late afternoon due to shadows.

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