Alright, alright… Silver Falls isn’t technically in the Wenatchee Valley. It’s in the Entiat Valley, but cut me some slack, okay? My dad is from Entiat so I have great childhood memories of this little town and we are exploring the greater Wenatchee Valley. Plus, it is totally worth the drive — a very doable hour-ish with plenty of “hey watch for”, “did ya see that” going on along the way. Your reward is a both a journey and destination that offers not only a family friendly hike, a great lesson in fire ecology and local history, but can also be tailored to the abilities and interest of any age. And my sister and I did it with six boys under the age of 12. If we can do it, you can!
After heading North on hwy 97 keep your eyes peeled for the mountain goats! They love to hang out in the rocky outcroppings that hug the highway. You will pass Rocky Reach Dam, which is also a destination in it’s own right, or a great place to hit on the way up or down to enjoy bathrooms and a killer playground. At about the 20 mile mark you turn off the highway and up the Ential River Valley- don’t forget to check out Numeral Mountain (all of the graduating high school classes from the Entiat school paint their year up on the basalt out-cropping and was once featured in National Geographic).
As you travel up river you will pass osprey nests, orchards, horses, donkeys, Cooper’s store in Ardenvoir (a great place to grab a snack and wander through time in the little store) and a mix of river and peak scenery that is occasionally a little charred from previous fires. When you finally reach the parking lot for the falls (about 29 miles up) little legs are ready for a stretch, but not stir crazy yet. One bummer is that you can’t use a Discover Pass there, you need an interagency pass or can pay the $5 bucks for a day pass. There are the typical campground-type- outhouse -style bathrooms, and you can always fill your water bottles at the adjacent campground water pumps if need be. A display board with some great historical pictures posted offers a clue to the area’s past timber industry.
The hike itself is fairly short, less than 2 miles round trip, and offers an initial bridge crossing over Silver Creek, which is always fun for kiddos.The trail spends part of the time following the creek and slowly zig zagging across the hillside as you ascend toward the falls. The trail isn’t incredibly wide, but it never feels unsafe. It’s cool along the water which is a nice reprieve when it is hot outside, and this year the fireweed is thick and jewel- toned in the patches that burned. The mosaic left behind by the fire was of considerable interest to my 4 year old nephew who wanted to know who started the fire, why some things didn’t burn, and who’s gonna fix it. Always thinking!
I will admit that we stopped and turned around at the first viewpoint, which has a great stone bench and made for an awesome place to have our snack! Five of our six boys, ages 12, 8,7,6, and 4 were easily able to manage the hike and probably could have continued to the top of the falls. However, we were taking turns packing the 2-year-old and we had some additional exploration in mind down in the campgrounds re-opened this year, so we were happy with our shorter hike. The falls are really beautiful though and did not disappoint! Huge bummer for the trip were the mildly annoying number of mosquitos- huge bonus were the two fighter jets that appeared as we made our way to the bottom of the trail!
This is a great way to spend part of the day, definitely kid and dog friendly, and a little cooler than being down valley. If you are looking for a bit of a longer trip, Entiat has a great revamped park along the Columbia River and the Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center is on the north end of town. Do bring water, snacks or a picnic lunch, bug spray, sunscreen, wear proper shoes, and keep in mind that cell phones don’t have service once you head up the Entiat Valley.
Now, it’s only July…..where to next?