We all know this summer is messed up. I don’t know what it is like where you are, but here in Washington State, all counties have closed due to COVID, and are re-opening at different rates due to how well (or poorly) they are slowing the spread of infection. It is getting super hard to follow at this point, since many counties are in different stages… while in King and Chelan Counties remain mostly shut down, others are almost running at full capacity. I don’t want to waste a post talking about COVID because it sucks and I want to stay positive, and we honestly have all heard enough about it. It however is how we found ourselves trying a new vacation destination here in Washington, since many of our go-to’s are currently closed.
These closures have been hard for us as a household, since we are a very social family and also travel frequently. In normal times we would take a weekend trip at least every 3 weeks, and a good vacation several times a year, so the stir craziness is real! Of course we want to be responsible and help stop the spread, and also do not want to exposure our asthma-prone daughter to any risks, so we looked at a map to see some of the closest destinations we could try here in Washington State, that were in the proper stage to visit, and would allow us the chance to feel like we got away.
Kittitas County was one that caught my attention as it is a quick drive from the Seattle area (really only about an hour, hour and twenty minutes depending on where you are coming from). There are several lakes just past Snoqualmie Pass to enjoy such as Kachess Lake and Cle Elum Lake, and the number of hikes and campgrounds are incredible! Another benefit of this area is that being pretty remote, the cabin rentals are super affordable too. We found a little cabin on Air BNB for under $150, though I have to disclaimer to watch out for cleaning fees, as it appears those have gone up considerably in recent times.
In regards to entertainment for this trip, we wanted to rely on outdoor activities only. Even as restaurants re-open, we aren’t ready to partake (aside from occasional takeout) for safety reasons. The area where we were staying near Snoqualmie Pass was PERFECT for getting some beautiful, very Northwest outdoor time! Seriously, just Google “hikes near Snoqualmie Pass” and you won’t believe how many pop up in that immediate area. Mirror Lake, Gold Creek Pond, and Franklin Falls were a few that caught my eye in particular.
We decided to make the Franklin Falls hike our main attraction of the trip, and I am so glad we did! Keep in mind, my kids are 18 mos and 5 years old, so the 2-mile round-trip distance sounded right up our alley. Though it is 2 miles, the way there is all up-hill, though the paths are extremely well-groomed and easy to navigate.
When you arrive you will be greeted by a plethora of forest critters who have obviously been fed way too much by hikers, because they are so friendly that they will come take a snack right out of your hand. There was a blue jay and a chipmunk who posted right up at our car as we pulled in. The lot parks about 50 cars, and on an overcast Saturday in late spring, there was plenty of room. I had worried about there still being snow, but in May it was all cleared out. If you wanted to camp, there is even a beautiful campsite right there at the base of the river in a very pretty wooded area.
My absolute favorite part of this hike was that you follow the river the entire way up to the falls. The views are beautiful, and you hear running water the whole way. It is a very dense rain forest setting, and thought it started to rain during our hike, we were relatively unaffected due to the amount of tree cover. The rivers ran crystal clear, and the foliage was lush and green. Truly, the kind of hike you take and remember why you live in the beautiful state of Washington!
I had only wished the weather was better because I could see how those falls would be a super fun place to hang for the day, if the weather was warm. There are several levels of viewing – I stayed higher up since I was baby-wearing and didn’t want to get my little one wet with spray from the falls. My hubs, the 5 year old, and our au pair did venture all the way to the main falls, and they did come up a little wet but had a fun time taking in the views! Also being a wet spring day the falls were roaring, and I expect in the heat of summer you could approach the falls much closer, and also could swim in the river at the base.
As we headed back to the cabin, we noticed there was a small restaurant and brewery, right as you approach the highway from the franklin falls parking lot. The brewery is called “Dru Bru”… my hubs decided to mask up and grab a growler, and felt the beer was well worth the stop. We spent the night cozy in our cabin, enjoying a nice big yard all to ourselves.
On the way back to Seattle, we decided to make a few additional stops. The first was at Golden Creek Pond, which would be a great family friendly hike for another time, but that day, we sadly got rained out. Ironically as we got closer to home the rain let up, and we stopped at the Salish Falls to get our last fix of moody PNW scenery before finishing our trip home.
In all, Kittias County proved to be a great remote destination where we had plenty of space for ourselves! Franklin Falls is a gorgeous hike and with its ease, we surely will be back again while our kiddos are small. My biggest piece of advice is to not simply put “Franklin Falls” or “Franklin Falls Trailhead” into your GPS – it will absolutely not get you there! Trust me, we learned this one the hard way (Yelp has the wrong address listed too, BTW 😂). Head to the Washington Trails website and follow their directions – and of course I linked it for you here!
Be sure to pin this post to your travel board – this is a family hike you surely want to do! With how secluded it was, and also seeing all the great hikes, we know we will be back to the Cle Elum area this summer for some PNW fun.
I hope you are all staying safe and have been able to find your own ways to enjoy this difficult Seattle spring! I miss many of you in person, but am happy we are able to connect on here ♥️
X.O. – Abbey Co.