Boise Creek Falls | Hancock Lands | Visit Rainier
Boise Creek Falls | Hancock Lands

Boise Creek Falls | Hancock Lands

Area: Enumclaw / Hancock Lands
Hike Type: Dog-friendly, Off the Beaten Track Pass: Hancock Lands Permit
Distance: 3 mi RT  Duration: 2-3 hrs Difficulty Level: Moderate
Elevation Start: 975 Elevation End: 1,275 (Boise Creek Falls) Elevation Gain: 300
Snow-Free: April – Oct    

Seasoned hikers need never worry about running out of trails to explore. We are always on the lookout for trails we’ve not hiked before or haven’t hiked in a while and seldom come up empty. True, there are few trails that offer the splendor of Third Burroughs or Reflection Lakes inside Mount Rainier National Park but in addition to National Forest Service trails, trails managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and abandoned roads, there are also hikes on privately-managed land where if you are willing to spring for a permit, you can ferret out new-to-you hikes like the big chunk of land that lies between Enumclaw and Greenwater off SR 410.

This property was formerly owned by The Weyerhaeuser Company; Weyerhaeuser sold it some years ago to a real estate fund managed by the Hancock Forest Management Company. Hence, Hancock Lands. For several years the open forest policy inherited from Weyerhaeuser was maintained, though trails and facilities were not. Some were logged off and some merely deteriorated from benign neglect. Those who like to recreate therein now must purchase a permit from Hancock to access their properties. Several levels of access permits are available; these include non-motorized activities such as hiking, riding a bicycle, horse-back riding, gathering firewood, camping, fishing, hunting and motorized access. See additional information for how to purchase permits for these activities online.

Other areas of Hancock Land are scattered throughout the state, including North Bend. Each unit of Hancock property requires a different permit. For example, the White River permit we hold is not good for use on the Snoqualmie Tree Farm area in North Bend. Without a motorized permit we cannot drive onto the property or camp. An annual pass per property is $45 per person. Day use passes are available for $8 per person. These must be carried while on the property. For parking at or on the property, make a photocopy of your pass and display it on the dashboard of your vehicle. This sounds more complicated than it is – don’t let this bit of red tape deter you from the treasures we’ve discovered on Hancock lands. We can’t stress enough having a copy of the permit with you; you may be asked for one by Security as we were.

Though we would certainly prefer not needing to purchase a pass we are not prepared to miss out on these semi-hidden treasures including seldom-visited peaks with views, waterfalls and lakes. Most of the walking is on logging roads where you may encounter a logging truck so keep your eyes and ears open; they have the right-of-way.

Give it a try – if you don’t want to spend $8 for a day-hike keep in mind you’d most likely need to purchase some kind of permit to hike elsewhere.

We picked Boise Creek Falls for this adventure because we’d been there before permits were required and remembered it as a beautiful hike. Since the most challenging aspect of this easy hike is finding the trail it might take some sleuthing unless you are an expert with a GPS.

After parking and displaying your Hancock parking permit, cross over SR 410 on the overpass and hike the main road by remnants of the Weyerhaeuser mill pond (left) and a small shed which hoses a fire hydrant (right) to where the old maintenance/office building comes into view. On our previous visit there were still directional signs in place for the trail when it was still maintained by Weyerhaeuser but now those signs are gone and we missed the trail.

We initially took the wrong road but opted to hike it anyway just to see where it went and hiked to an old landing with dry logs to sit upon, making it an ideal lunch spot on a sunny day with views of Radio Hill and Enumclaw Mountain. It was an early spring day, the sun was shining and it was the first day we didn’t need to bundle up from head and foot –plus we didn’t need ice axes, snowshoes or an umbrella. We passed several stretches of forest that had been logged at one time or another and looked to the south for views of Mount Rainier which can be seen on a clear day if you hike high enough. It wasn’t long before the driver of a “Security” truck stopped to check to see we had the permits; the employee was friendly and we chatted a while.

Unless you want to explore the oft-confusing network of roads don’t go uphill. Instead near the maintenance/office building note two roads heading uphill. Instead of hiking uphill look for the trail shortly just after passing the maintenance building. It is on the right-hand side of the road a little after you pass the building; there is no trail sign.

Take the trail as it cuts through a forested stretch and skirts Boise Creek; note the moss-embedded interpretive signs identifying trees common to the region. These remain from the Weyerhaeuser days when the trail was maintained; the company name and logos are still visible.

To find the trail: After parking cross State Route 410 on the overpass and follow the main road toward an old administration building. The trail is in a forested setting with interpretive signs put up along the trail by Weyerhaeuser depicting red alders, salmonberry, Douglas firs and other native trees and shrubs. Someone had painted a few strategic splotches of orange paint at eye-level on a couple of trees where the forest is dark and a few ribbons where there could be confusion though we found the path easy to follow. The shady forest was soothing and beautiful with evergreens, lowland shrubs and views of Boise Creek. You’d never know logging activity was occurring nearby.

Note the old picnic tables and mossy split-rail fence as you approach the waterfall. Since the waterfall cannot be seen from the highway the views are unexpectedly dramatic. The 60-foot high waterfall was cascading in full glory into a pool with a semi-circle of mossy boulders before it narrows down to a stream that runs into the White River. Do not venture beyond the fence nor lean on it – the fence is old and the view is best seen from the viewpoint.

Hike back the way you came or explore further. You will discover as we have, that one visit won’t be enough. Some destinations such as Christoff Peak via the Slippery Creek Road now require the permit and that is a hike you won’t want to miss later in the year.

Another option is to continue up the trail past the waterfall to a road where you will see two retention ponds. Old metal structures hint of water gauges from past decades; however, the ponds were utilized the ponds are lovely. The ponds were as smooth as glass and held the reflections of willows and evergreens still as a painting. There is also a road-bridge that crosses above the falls though you can’t get a good view of the waterfall without putting yourself at risk. However, there is also an interpretive trail that can be followed between the waterfall and the road though the signs are gone. The path is steep and not maintained; it leads to views of Radio Hill, Enumclaw Mountain and a web of roads (some roads may be closed during logging activities).

Our return visit to Boise Creek Falls is only a beginning. Hancock Lands are also ideal for lowland snowshoe trips near Enumclaw and Greenwater as well as hiking. It’s a four-season kind of experience and there are many places to explore.

Getting there: From Enumclaw head east (about three miles) on State Route 410 to a parking lot on the right-hand side of the road just before a highway overpass. There are often horse-trailers also parked there. Display a copy of your non-motorized recreation pass on your windshield.

Additional information can be found on the Hancock Managed Lands website, including maps of the roads/recreational sites.

– Karen Sykes, Visit Rainier Hiking Expert


Starting Point: 47.18435,-121.925454  

Notable Waypoints:

Parking area, across Hwy 410 east of Enumclaw next to the highway overpass: N 47-11-03 W 121-55-33 (1,020 feet)
Trailhead, (unsigned): N 47-11-42 W 121-55-25  (1,100 feet)
Boise Creek Falls: N 47-11-46 W 121-55-04  (1,275 feet)