By Jessi Loerch
Wallace Falls is a hugely popular trail. It has a lot going for it. It’s easy to get to, it’s hikeable all year and three impressive waterfalls are the payoff for all your work.
I’ve hiked it many times. I’ve always wanted to visit Wallace Lake, though, and finally got up there this weekend.
Wallace Lake is lovely hike. It’s longer than Wallace Falls — 8.2 miles rather than 5 — but it’s not as steep as Wallace Falls trail. Both of them gain about 1,500 feet, but the lake trail does it over a longer distance. And, of course, it has many of the advantages of the falls trail. It’s nearby and hikeable all year.
A friend and I hiked on Sunday. That was the day Stevens Pass was closed for a few hours because it was snowing so heavily. At the trail, though, it was rain by the time we got there. A lot of rain.
I was excited to see only about 10 cars at the trailhead when we arrived. That’s practically nothing for Wallace Falls. On many weekends, and some nice weekdays, the large parking lot fills up and cars spill onto the nearby roads.
We put on our layers and headed up the trail. There are a few different options to get up Wallace Lake. A PDF map on Wallace Falls State Park’s website gives you a rough idea of how the trails are arranged.
We chose to follow the Woody Trail for about a mile to the railroad grade cutoff. The cutoff is not shown on the PDF map, although the map at the trailhead shows it, and it is clearly signed on the trail itself. The cutoff is very short, steep trail that climbs away from the Wallace River. After a short climb, you’ll hit a railroad grade and take a right. Again, the signs here are easy to follow. After a short, easy hike on the smooth railroad grade, you’ll see an outhouse on your left. This is where you turn left to head up toward the lake on the Greg Ball Trail. Continue climbing through rich woods, often in view of the North Fork Wallace River.
Eventually, you’ll reach a DNR road. This is the only place that the trails are not clearly signed. Take a right, and you’ll see the path to Wallace Lake on your left very soon.
When you reach the lake, there are a set of picnic tables with a nice view of the lake and the river flowing out of it. On the day we were there, we shunned the picnic tables because they were covered in sloppy snow. We ate in the shelter of the trees instead, trying to stay dry and drinking hot tea. We had the lake to ourselves for our whole lunch. In fact, we mostly had the trail to ourselves. On the actual trail to the lake, we only saw one other hiker.
On the way down from the lake, we took a different route. After we reached the railroad grade, we took a right at the outhouse and then headed left at the first turnoff. That took as back down the woody trail, and so we saw a section of it we hadn’t hike on the way up. I highly recommend this route. It shows a nice view of the North Fork Wallace River joining the main flow. With the heavy rain lately, it was rushing, loud and very pretty. Plus, it’s always nice to turn your hike into a loop.
If you’d like, there are many options to turn this hike into a much longer loop. Take a look at the map to see the options. You could even continue on from the lake and loop around to the upper falls. Then you could see the lake and all three sets of falls. I think I’ll give that a try sometime. Only maybe I’ll wait for a day without a downpour. I love hiking in the rain and all, but at some point it’s time to turn back for the car and dry clothes.
How to get there
Follow U.S. 2 east to Gold Bar. Watch for the sign for Wallace Falls State Park. It’s just before milepost 28. Follow the signs to the trailhead. There’s a restroom at the trailhead. You will need a Discover Pass to park. You can buy one there if you don’t have one. There’s a handy map at the trailhead that will help orientate you. (Just be aware, when the map says “not to scale” it really means “not to scale.”)