How to Hike to Frozen Franklin Falls in the Winter (Step-By-Step Photo Guide)

Last Updated on March 24, 2023 by admin

Franklin Falls is one of  the Seattle area’s most popular hikes, especially when the falls are partially frozen over! When we went in February, it felt like we were transported to a true winter wonderland. We played in giant snow drifts, counted hundreds of icicles clustered around the falls, and made lifelong memories. It was easily one of the most magical hikes of our lives, and years later, we still remember it as one of our favorite hikes of all time. Getting to Franklin Falls is a little trickier in the winter due to road closures and tons of snow on the trail. In this post, we will share our step-by-step guide to hiking to Franklin Falls in the winter. Be prepared for a 7-8 mile hike using this route. Most of the trail is relatively flat, with about 500 feet of elevation gain total.

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Preparing for Your Hike to Franklin Falls

Before you even get to the trailhead, you’ll want to make sure that you are educated about the trail and make sure that you have the right gear.

Review Current Trail Conditions

First, you’ll want to educate yourself about current trail conditions. Be sure to check the latest Franklin Falls trip reports on the Washington Trails Association website. The trip reports are located at the end of the page. The trip reports will provide you with current information from other hikers about trail access and conditions. The trip reports will also likely tell you if the falls are currently frozen. Franklin Falls typically doesn’t have icicles all winter long, so if your goal is to see the falls with icicles, monitor the trip reports so you can plan the timing of your visit accordingly. Also make sure that you check current avalanche warnings for the area. 


Assess Traffic Conditions

Second, be sure to assess traffic conditions via the WSDOT website. Make sure that your vehicle is well-equipped and capable of handling winter conditions driving through the pass. Chains may be required. When we went to Franklin Falls, we exited the highway right before chains were required. We were able to get there without putting on chains. Conditions, however, can change, so be sure to do your own research the actual day you plan on going. 

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Pack the Right Equipment

Third, make sure that you have the right equipment for a snow hike (e.g., microspikes; snowshoes; gaiters; appropriate clothing; etc). We recommend these microspikes that you can purchase here. Wearing gaiters will help keep your legs and feet dry. Also be sure to pack the 10 Essentials any time you hike. We have compiled a list of products on Amazon here. Be sure to bring enough water so that you can stay hydrated, as well as snacks for fuel.

One of the most important things about winter hiking is to stay dry so that you can regulate your body temperature. You will want to dress in layers. Be sure not to wear any cotton layers. When cotton gets wet from either snow or sweat, it will not keep you warm any longer. Bring a day backpack so that you have somewhere to store the layers you aren’t using so that they will stay dry too. Educate yourself about hypothermia and make sure you are taking proper precautions. 

When we hiked to Franklin Falls, we found microspikes to be super helpful. Because it’s a popular hike, much of the snow was packed down. The final descent to the falls was also packed ice, so the microspikes were especially helpful for that portion of the hike.

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Where to Park When Hiking to Franklin Falls

In the summer, there is a parking lot near the trailhead and the hike is a short two mile out-and-back hike to the falls. However, during the winter, the road which leads to the parking lot (Denny Creek) is closed because of all of the snowfall. So, hikers need to park further away to get to the falls during the winter months. 

When hiking during the winter, most people park further from the trailhead and then have a longer hike to the falls and back. When we went, we took Exit 47 and hiked from the road closure. This photo guide will show you how to get to Franklin Falls from Exit 47.  Because we parked further from the trailhead, the hike was longer than posted on the Washington Trails Association website, but it was completely do-able!


How to Get to Franklin Falls During the Winter


We created this post because we couldn’t find any blog posts that showed step-by-step instructions for getting to Franklin Falls during the winter. We hope these instructions and photos are helpful to you! You may not have cell service driving through the pass, so you might want to take screenshots of the directions and take them with you. 

Directions by Car

From Seattle, we headed East on I-90 and we took Exit 47.

We then took a left off of the exit.

Next, we took a right when the road came to a T. These are the signs we saw:

Franklin Falls during the winter photo guide

We followed the road a short distance and we saw lots of vehicles parked on the shoulder by the underpass. The entrance to the road closure, and the start of the winter hike, was here:

Franklin Falls during the winter photo guide

Be sure not to park directly in front of these signs. If there’s an emergency, Search and Rescue (SAR) would need to be able to get through quickly. It’s important to keep this access open for emergency vehicles.

Once past the sign, we walked on this road for approximately 2.5 miles.

Franklin Falls during the winter photo guide

We crossed a bridge…

Franklin Falls during the winter photo guide

And when we saw the outhouse, we took a left. We almost missed this part, so don’t go straight past the outhouse. Instead, take a left and cross in front of it…

Franklin Falls during the winter photo guide

A short distance on the right we saw the entrance to the Franklin Falls trailhead. It will be on the right side of this road, so look for the sign so you don’t miss it!

Franklin Falls during the winter photo guide

From the trailhead entrance, it’s approximately one mile to the falls.

Franklin Falls during the winter photo guide

There is a viewing point of Franklin Falls from the trail, but there is also a narrow path carved into the rock that you can walk down to get closer to the falls. When we went, there was some rope to help people safely maneuver down to the falls. Be careful as the rocks are slippery. This is where wearing microspikes was especially helpful.

Once you arrive, enjoy Franklin Falls in all its glory!

There will likely be a lot of mist and spray as you approach the falls. Do your best to stay dry, because you will still need to stay warm during your hike back. (Remember, when hiking during the winter, it’s really important to regulate your body temperature. It might be helpful to bring another dry layer just in case.)

Also be cautious and do not approach approach the falls too closely. The icicles can fall.

Franklin Falls during the winter photo guide

About Franklin Falls

Franklin Falls is on the ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie Tribe. Be respectful of these lands and minimize your impact on the trail.

Franklin Falls is comprised of three separate tiers and is approximately 135 feet high. From the trail, however, you’re only able to see the last drop which is about 70 feet high. Although Franklin Falls is spectacular in the winter when it’s frozen over, you can see its peak flow from April through July. When you visit in the winter, you may even see people ice-climbing the falls!

Be sure to also see our hiking guide to Colchuck Lake. (Another beautiful hike in Washington!)

Tips for Hiking Franklin Falls During the Winter

  • Pack the right gear: Make sure that you bring multiple layers to dress in. We also recommend that you use microspikes so that you have adequate grip on the icy trail. Pack the 10 essentials for hiking safety.
  • Get your parking pass: Make sure you secure your parking pass in advance and only park in a designated area.
  • Review current trail conditions: Review previous trip reports to assess trail conditions ahead of time. Also be aware of current avalance conditions.
  • Make sure you have enough daylight: Daylight hours are more limited during the winter. Give yourself extra time, just in case, so that you can return to your vehicle safely before sunset. 
  • Remove valuables from your vehicle: Unfortunately, break-ins can happen. Make sure you have your valuables with you.
  • Let someone know your plans: It’s always a good idea to let someone know your hiking plans. 

Leave No Trace

Please hike responsibly and follow Leave No Trace guidelines. Do not litter, stack rocks, or walk off the trail. Protect the habitat by sticking to the trail and packing out anything that you take in. Basically, leave the wilderness as you found it without leaving any traces of your visit.

Where to Stay Near Franklin Falls

If you want to get an early start on your hike and beat the crowds, it can be helpful to stay the night before somewhere near the hike. That way, you can wake up early and just have a short drive to the trailhead. Here’s some suggestions for places to stay near Franklin Falls:

FAQs About Franklin Falls

Can you hike Franklin Falls during the winter?

You can definitely hike to Franklin Falls during the winter. Access to the trailhead is a bit more difficult, though, due to the Denny Creek road closure. Instead of being able to park at the Franklin Falls trailhead parking lot, you’ll need to park by the Denny Creek road closure. (We parked on the shoulder of the road.) From there, it’s a longer hike to the falls, but still possible. The hike from the road closure is about 7-8 miles roundtrip. (Depending on where you are able to find parking along the road.) This is one of the most popular hikes in Washington State during the winter, so it’s definitely possible!

When is Franklin Falls frozen?

You’ll want to check out the Washington Trail Association’s page for current updates about Franklin Falls. We’ve noticed that the falls tend to be frozen in January – February, but you’ll need to confirm in advance of your trip. Whether or not the falls are frozen will depend on the unique conditions of each winter season.

How long is the hike to Franklin Falls during the winter?

Even though the hike to Franklin Falls is officially listed as two miles round-trip, it is a longer hike during the winter because you have to park substantially further down the road. Expect this hike to be 7-8 miles roundtrip if you hike from the Denny Creek road closure.

Is the hike to Franklin Falls in the winter kid-friendly?

We would personally not recommend the hike to Franklin Falls during the winter for young children. This route is much longer in the winter, and thus you’ll be outside in winter conditions for much longer. Franklin Falls is much more kid-friendly during the summer.

Can you bring your dog to hike Franklin Falls?

Dogs are allowed on the Franklin Falls trail, but they must be leashed. Be sure to pick up after your dog and do not leave plastic bags on the trail, even if you’re planning to return later to carry it. 

Do you need a parking pass to hike Franklin Falls during the winter?

You do need a parking pass to hike to Franklin Falls. During the summer, you need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead parking lot. During the winter, you will likely need a Washington Sno Park Pass. That is because the area is maintained as part of the Asahel Curtis Sno-Park.

Is there a bathroom at Franklin Falls?

There is a pit toilet near the entrance to the trailhead at Franklin Falls. When we visited, this was accessible even during the winter.

How long does it take to hike Franklin Falls during the winter?

Following this route from the road closure, the hike to Franklin Falls during the winter is about 7 to 8 miles. For us, it took us about half a day to hike to Franklin Falls and back. Give yourself plenty of time and make sure there’s enough daylight to complete your hike.

How hard is it to hike to Franklin Falls during the winter?

While hiking to Franklin Falls during the summer is listed as an easy hike, we would personally list this hike as moderately difficult during the winter. The hike is about 7 to 8 miles roundtrip from the road closure, with about 500 feet of elevation gain. Hiking through the snow can be a bit more difficult depending on trail conditions and your equipment.

Is Franklin Falls crowded?

Franklin Falls is one of the most popular winter hikes near Seattle. If you want to avoid crowds, we recommend that you hike on a weekday.

Is hiking to Franklin Falls during the winter worth it?

Hiking to Franklin Falls during the winter is definitely worth it. This was one of our favorite hiking experiences of all time. It was a true winter wonderland.

Where do you recommend eating after hiking to Franklin Falls?

Our favorite place to grab food after a hike at Franklin Falls is in the city of North Bend. We almost always go to Hammer Lane BBQ. There’s nothing like eating a pulled pork sandwich after a long hike!

What other hikes do you recommend?

Hiking to Colchuck Lake was another one of our favorite hikes. If you haven’t been there already, be sure to add this hike to your bucket list! 

Summary of Our Trip to Franklin Falls

We were so glad we chose to hike to Franklin Falls during the winter. There was so much snow on the ground and it was truly a magical experience. We hope this post about hiking Franklin Falls during the winter was helpful. Be safe and have fun!

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After studying abroad in Spain, I became passionate about international travel. Since then, I’ve traveled to 6 continents and 36 states within the United States. When I’m not travel blogging, you can find me hiking, reading Spanish novels, or playing cribbage. I hope my blog inspires you to see the world!

13 thoughts on “How to Hike to Frozen Franklin Falls in the Winter (Step-By-Step Photo Guide)”

  1. I loved Seattle when I was there in September and we stayed somewhere actually not too far from Franklin Falls! Your pictures look amazing, although so cold 🙈 I am a wimp when it comes to cold weather, so living vicariously through you on this amazing hike! 😍

    • I’m so glad that you enjoyed Seattle – I can’t wait to visit the falls in the summer time! Surprisingly we were only ‘cold’ when we were near the falls, because the mist reached us at the base of the falls. The rest of the hike we actually took off a couple of layers because we were getting too warm!

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