One of our favorite hikes in Olympic National Park is the trail to Marymere Falls. For some reason, we always seem to end up doing the trail whenever we visit the park. There are probably three reasons for this, 1) because it’s on the way to other nice places, 2) because the trail is only 1.5 miles (one way) long, and 3) because the waterfall is just plain pretty. A small stream of water flows over the edge of a 90 foot cliff and delicately leaps downward to a rock ledge, where the water is defused to cascade into the pool below. The pictures can speak better than my description, so I’ll let them do the describing.
The parking area for the falls is the Storm King Visitor Center parking lot. There is quite a bit of parking here, as the park people know that many visitors come to hike this trail and the Storm King Trail (the two share a trail for a while). However, especially on a busy summer weekend, the parking lot would fill up quickly, as many people come to hike here. To get to the Storm King Visitor Center, from Port Angeles take US-101 approximately 20 miles to Lake Crescent. You will pass East Lake Road before you reach the ranger station. Follow the signs for Marymere Falls. You can also come in from Forks; it’s about 35 miles up US-101 to get to the ranger station. Again, you will be driving around the lake for a bit before you see your first sign for Marymere Falls. Follow the signs, and park in the ranger station parking area. The road in this area is quite interesting, as it is sandwiched between the cliff and the lake, making for a very scenic drive, but also a bit of a nail-biting ride.
The ranger station itself is only staffed in the summer months, but there are restrooms near the parking area that, I believe, are open year-round (or at least from the spring through the fall—I’ve never visited the park in the winter). Ranger-led hikes are also offered in the summer.
One of the great things about this hike is that it is really beautiful in all kinds of weather and at any time of the day. I’ve hiked it when it was raining, sunny, cloudy, cold, hot, morning, and afternoon, and the waterfall changes its face, but is still charming no matter what. The trail starts out wheel-chair accessible, and goes by the ranger station and then under US-101 (very exciting to the children!). It then continues through a pine forest. After a little while, the Storm King Trail goes off on the left. The entire trail in this section is very flat, and would be wheelchair accessible until you get to the bridge crossing the river. Here a new bridge was constructed in 2010, to replace the one-way log that used to cross the river. It’s very nice, but there are steps, not ramps, that go up to the bridge. Maybe someday the park service will put in ramps so that wheelchairs can get across. After the bridge, turn right to cross a one-way log bridge across a small stream.
From here the trail begins to climb very steeply uphill, and fairly quickly the trail will split to go to the two levels from which to see Marymere Falls. I would personally recommend going to the bottom one first (left at the loop part way up the hillside). It is so cool to be able to look up at the waterfall from the bottom, although the picture-taking from this viewpoint may not be best if you want to get the entire waterfall into your viewfinder (unless you have wide-angle). The waterfall is shaded, which makes for great pictures if your camera doesn’t require a flash (which won’t do much good from such a distance). Do be aware that there have been bee colonies in this area, and despite the park service’s efforts to get rid of them, some still may be around.
Now you can continue upward to the upper viewing area. From here you can get the entire falls into your camera’s viewfinder, but there are some branches in the way from the upper viewing area, which may get in the way of taking good photos. Both viewing areas are very, very nice, and I highly recommend both of them if you can make the hike up to the top: that trail is steep!
You can continue the loop to get back down to the one-way log bridge, and then return to your vehicle by the way you came.
Bottom Line: This is a great trail for those who don’t want a really strenuous hike, those with children, those who love waterfalls, and those who want to see a really nice waterfall.
Fees: $15 for a 7-day pass to Olympic National Park. Olympic Park, Interagency (America the Beautiful), Golden Age, and Golden Access Passes are also accepted.