Placed where prairies climb
A hiss, splash and path is near
Cliffs kissed by water”
From an outsider’s perspective, it’s easy to see the reason behind the popularity of the local Deschutes Falls Park and its accompanying trail. A short quarter-mile stroll down into an eroding valley gives way through pines and summer foliage to chasms of rapids and waterfalls. It’s easy to hear the water’s thunderous roar while hiking along the trail upstream. And it’s even easier to wax poetic about the park and its easy access.
So, bare with me.
The 155-acre park is located just at the end of Bald Hill Road. While not a very long hike, the soothing static of the nearby 70-foot falls could put anyone into a therapeutic trance.
The cliffs at the lower access site are cut off by a large fence that was installed during its relaunch a number of years ago. Head upstream on the trail and you’ll be greeted by much shallower, tame rapids and a 15-foot watering hole that makes for a pleasant swim.
I packed my camera and a snack for a Monday afternoon hike. The short 15-minute drive on Bald Hill Road up the prairie makes for some pleasant views of the Nisqually Valley, especially at sunset or sunrise.
As you arrive, you’ll notice a small parking lot and house on the right. This will serve as the trailhead. Note the summer hours, which are 9 a.m. to dusk (this time of year, around 8 p.m.) and the rules, which prohibit camping, fires and firearms and strongly encourage supervision for children. From the parking lot, you’ll be able to hear the faint hum of the falls.
The park was reopened to the public in 2017. It’s managed by Thurston County.
The trail down is steep but short and offers nice views of wildflowers and the prairie. A couple fenced lookouts are available to visitors toward the park area near the basin of the valley. The largest waterfall can be seen here.
While the trail is well-maintained, watch out for protruding rocks or tree roots.
Head upstream along the trail for another quarter-mile and you’ll find smaller rapids that carve into the glacial rock. The trail down is steep and rocks can be slippery, so watch your step. This portion of the trail makes for a great picnic spot. The stream runs very low during the summer, which makes for a great opportunity to dip your feet in.
There’s so much to adore in Deschutes Falls — its close proximity, its easy access. Just make sure to pack out what you bring in, and be careful around the falls.
Eric Rosane is a reporter with Nisqually Valley News and a local hiking enthusiast. For story ideas on hikes off the beaten path, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Trail
Name: Deschutes Falls Trail and Park
Location: From Four Corners, head south on Bald Hill Road for 13 miles until you approach the end of the road. The trailhead will be located on the right side of the road.
Distance from Yelm: 15 minutes
Hike Difficulty: Easy, 100-foot incline
Hike Length: 1 mile round trip
Driving Conditions: Superb
Trail Congestion: Light-medium
Parking Pass/Fee: None
Pets Allowed: Yes