If you don’t have a whole day for hiking, then head for the Snoquera Falls Trail (#1167), a nice hike that is best in April or May, when spring rain and snowmelt make the falls spectacular. The water cascades in a narrow ribbon for 300 ft. and then spreads out like a curtain for another 100 ft. In the summer and fall there is often just a trickle. But even that can feel good on a hot summer day.
The trail to Snoquera Falls is behind the Camp Sheppard Boy Scout Camp on Hwy 410. Thanks to the work of the Boys Scouts and the NW Forest Service this trail is open year round. It is a nice uphill hike, about 2 miles in length, so not too difficult. The hike starts off in old growth forest around the outside boundaries of the camp. After crossing trail #ll99, you start your trek up the hill through 2nd growth forest with a few larger trees along the way. The forest floor is covered in moss, ferns and Oregon Grape. The vine maple in the area is especially beautiful in the fall. Occasionally the trail passes by very large boulders the size of a shed and you’ll wonder how they got there. As you get closer to the falls you will see the results of a huge rockslide that occurred sometime in the early spring of 2008. You can view the falls from this side of the creek, but to really experience how awesome they truly are, cross the creek, on rocks, and climb the very steep trail up the left rock-face to the base of the falls. (Sometimes, if the snow melt is heavy, you may not be able to cross the creek safely.) Here is where the 400 ft. drop really means something!!! The view across the valley is pretty nice, too.
Author’s Note: the main trail does continue on past the creek, but I don’t recommend it. We have only taken the loop trail once. It’s much longer and there is a stretch of short switchbacks crossing and re-crossing a large rock fall. You feel a little unnerved when you hear rocks move above you even if it’s probably an upset squirrel tossing stuff at you. Not suggested for the average hiker.
The trailhead is located in the parking lot on the right side of the entrance road to Camp Sheppard. Although the camp itself is not open to the public, they were nice enough to put bathrooms outside the gate. The trail begins just left of those bathrooms. Although you need to negotiate a couple of junctions (trail #’s 1169 and 1199) to get to the falls, the Boy Scouts have provided lots of signs, so you shouldn’t get lost. There are also places to park on and just off Highway 410, a little past the camp entrance road, at the Mile 53 mark. You have to look closely, but there is a trail sign there. Don’t forget your NW Forest or Interagency Pass!!
– Mary Janosik, Visit Rainier Hiking Expert
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