World Waterfall Database

Franklin Falls

King County, Washington, United States

Status: Cataloged
This waterfall has been surveyed by members of the World Waterfall Database.

Detailed Info

Franklin Falls is the uppermost waterfall along the South Fork Snoqualmie River which bears an officially recognized name, as well as developed trail access. More uniquely the falls have the distinct characteristic of being situated in between the east and west lanes of Interstate 90, with the westbound lanes crossing a talus slope directly above the falls on a high viaduct. Compounding this surprisingly unobtrusive influence of man, the trail to the falls is among the most popular in the Snoqualmie Pass area thanks to its ease and kid-friendliness.

At first glance Franklin Falls may appear to be nowhere near as tall as the figures we present here, but the falls are actually considerably larger than most may realize. The total height of the formation comes out to 186 feet, split between three distinct tiers, only a portion of one of which can be seen from the base. The uppermost drop begins as a broad cascading fall of 19 feet set amid tall timber. Shortly below the second tier makes a similar cascade type drop, but veiling outward as it falls 28 feet into a scenic green-hued pool framed by cliffs. The outlet of this pool marks the top of the third tier, which starts out by cascading for 30 feet down an incline which squeezes through a narrow gap in the cliff, and then reverting to a sheer plunge for the final 109 feet of the falls, which is the only part of the falls visible from the trail leading to its base (though if one were to wade out into the river at the bottom of the falls it may be possible to see part of the slide above the plunging portion of the lower tier).

Despite being situated only a few miles from its source, the volume of the river at Franklin Falls can vary tremendously through the season. During the peak of snowmelt season the volume can swell to twenty times or more its volume in the driest summer months, at which point so much water is forced through the gap at the top of the lower tier of the falls that it explodes outward over the cliff, creating a massive arching plume of water. But come August and September the river is reduced to a placid mountain brook and the water clings to the cliff face as it plunges into its pool - which very nicely becomes an outstanding swimming hole (if you can bear the cold water).

History and Naming

Franklin Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.

Our Thoughts

Though most people will not be able to appreciate the true size of Franklin Falls, it remains one of the best waterfalls along the Interstate 90 corridor and its popularity shows this. Really the only knock against the falls is the fact that you will almost certainly not have it to yourself, and that the westbound lanes of Interstate 90 are quite prominent above and to the left of the falls - fortunately the viaduct can be kept well out of photographs.

Photo Tips

Though pretty high up in its basin, the South Fork Snoqualmie can still move quite a bit of water at Franklin Falls during the snowmelt season. There is really only one view of the falls when the river is running high, and not a whole lot of variation to compositions. Later in the season when more of the rocky beach below the falls is exposed, it's possible to move around for more creative shooting options, however the closer you get to the falls the more likely you see spray on your lenses. The lower tier of the falls faces west but has a wide open southerly exposure, so afternoon sunlight will be pretty even. The middle and upper tiers are surrounded by thick forest and will present issues with strong contrast when the sun is out in the afternoon, so best to shoot there in the early morning or within an hour of sunset.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   47.42497, -121.43243
Elevation:   2633 feet
USGS Map:   Snoqualmie Pass 7 1/2"

Franklin Falls is located just west of Snoqualmie Pass, between the lanes of Interstate 90 near the Denny Creek viaduct. Depending on which direction you are traveling from, directions to the trailhead will vary. For travelers heading east from North Bend, depart I-90 at Exit 47 (Denny Creek and Asahel Curtis), then turn left from the off-ramp and cross the freeway, and bear right at the T-intersection. Drive just a quarter mile, crossing under I-90, and then turn left onto Denny Creek Road #58 where signs point to Denny Creek and Franklin Falls. After 2.3 miles pass Denny Creek Campground, and shortly after turn left onto Road 5830 to find the lower Frankin Falls trailhead promptly. If you wish to shorten the hike, there are two more access points along Road #58, found about one-half of a mile, and 1.3 miles beyond the campground respectively - both at sharp switchbacks in the road.

Travelers heading west from Cle Elum will need to exit I-90 at the West Summit exit (Hyak), then follow the frontage road past the ski area towards Alpental, then bear left onto Road #58 after crossing under I-90. The lower trailhead will be 2.5 miles down Road #58 from its junction with Alpental Road, and the middle and upper access points about 2 and 1.4 miles respectively.

Depending on which trailhead you start at, the hike to the falls will be either one mile, six-tenths of a mile, or one-fifth of a mile in length respectively. To reach the two upper tiers of the falls, continue half of a mile east from the uppermost trail access point to a pullout near the top of the falls, and look for an obvious trail which leads a few hundred feet through the woods to the river between the two tiers. Easy paths lead to views of both drops.

View this location in Google Earth

Other Nearby Waterfalls

Additional Waterfalls which occur within 5 miles of Franklin Falls
No additional waterfalls were found within 5 miles.

By The Numbers

The information presented in this table is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.

Total Height

The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.

Tallest Drop

The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.

Num of Drops

The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.

Avg Width

The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.

Maximum Width

Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.


The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.


The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.


The system of classification of waterfall forms we use is a heavily modified derivative of the classifications outlined by Greg Plumb in his "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" books. While plumb uses eight distnct forms, we wanted further granularity and opted to break down the hierarchy twofold: first based on the overall pitch of the waterfall, and then based on what shape the fall takes as it makes its descent. There are five primary Categories of falls in this system: Plunge, Horsetail, Steep Cascades, Shallow Cascades, and Rapids. Additional deliniation is then applied depending on characteristics such as the breadth of the falls, whether it splits into two or more channels, whether it falls in multiple successive drops, etc. For more information on our waterfall form classifications, see the Help page.


The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.


The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.

Avg Volume

The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.


If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.

Flow Consistency

A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).

Best Flow

A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.



Cataloged Icon
Waterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
Confirmed Icon
Confirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
Unconfirmed Icon
Unconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
Unknown Icon
Waterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
Inundated Icon
Inundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
Subterranean Icon
Though not common, some waterfalls can be found entirely underground within cave systems. Access to subterranean waterfalls can vary from easy via developed walkways to requiring a high level of extremely technical spelunking skill, including familiarity with ropework and a distinct lack of claustrophobia.
Disqualified Icon
Waterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
Posted Icon
Posted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.

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