Hiking and Splashing at Denny Creek
Beautiful spot, great place to play.
This week I had the lucky opportunity to stop for a day hike at Denny Creek, a beautiful forested trail complex and campground just a few minutes from Snoqualmie Pass in Western Kittitas county. This area is very accessible from many parts of the state, and makes a perfect afternoon getaway if you are feeling stuck in the city. The drive is about an hour from Seattle, Tacoma, or Ellensburg. If you are willing to make a bit more of a trip, this area is accessible from Wenatchee, Everett, Yakima, Olympia, and all their surrounding areas in under 2 hours, which is not too bad if you get to spend it driving through the cascades. Also, the area itself is absolutely worth the trip, especially if you don’t mind sharing the trail with a fair few other like-minded hikers. There is a $5/day recreation fee, and if you plan on camping there may be other fees involved as well. If you are a holder of a Northwest Forest Pass, you can access this hiking area for free.
Denny Creek is a popular hiking destination, and in the Summer months is often visited by families looking to enjoy spending some time on especially hot day splashing in the crystal clear pools and water chutes of the creek itself. On the day of our visit however, the conditions were a little wetter—we got soaked through by rain, no jumping in the river necessary!
If you choose to hike the actual Denny Creek trail rather than one of the other several lovely trails that are easily accessible from the parking area (such as the Franklin Falls trail, which is also quite stunning!), you will be treated to an easy to moderate hike that is rich in variety, and will make for a satisfying and beautiful walk no matter how far in you decide to go. My partner is an aspiring mycologist, and the two of us had a wonderful time in just the first 1000 feet of the trail or so stopping every ten feet to identify dozens of species of mushrooms and other fungi (safe to look at, not to eat!) growing among all the other dense foliage all along the trail.
At around just half a mile, you cross over Denny Creek using a sturdy bridge, and shortly after the trail actually passes under the towering I-90 viaducts, which to some may feel a little unnatural, especially with the sound of traffic overhead, but I found the sight itself to actually be quite unique! (see the gallery below) The trees made for great perspective against the size of the structure itself, and the few hundred feet where you can hear traffic to me seems a small price to pay for how easily accessible the area is with the highway so close.
Then, at about a mile, as the sound of cars fades back into just the sound of the babbling of the creek, the trail spits you out of the forest into a much wider part of the creek, which has several pools and natural water slides that make it a very popular spot to stop for a picnic and a dip in the summer months. I heard that the creek can run high occasionally, making it a little more difficult to cross at times, so make sure to come prepared! Even with the rain, there were still several families who had stopped here to rest and play, and the minimal elevation gain (~400ft) and short 1 mile distance from the trail head makes it an easy but rewarding walk all by itself if you are hiking with younger adventurers who may not be up for the whole 6 mile round trip!
After that, it was less than a mile or so through the forest before you are met with a large open boulder field, and just a few steps past that you are treated to a view of the beautiful 125-foot Keekwulee Falls. After taking a while to take in the serenity of the view of the waterfall nestled in the rain and fog, we decided to turn around, making the whole trip a very manageable 4 miles or so. Beyond that there are more waterfalls and we heard from returning travelers that eventually the trail arrives at a beautiful alpine lake, but it takes at least one full day of hiking round trip, so we’ll have to come back again sometime to check it out!
If you are looking to check out this awesome hike, check it out by clicking the link to our hiking/camping web map below! Be sure to stay safe and keep trails clean. LEAVE NO TRACE!