Washington is a veritable haven when it comes to lush forests and cascading waterfalls, that's no secret. There is no shortage of majestic trails to hike or waterways to explore, many of which feature that incredible, classic Washington mountain backdrop. The good news is that one doesn't need to hike to the top of Mount Rainier in order to appreciate the state's beauty, and Lower Lewis Falls is a great summer destination to start with.

This magical destination is part-hike, part-swimming hole, and it's arguably the best of the latter in Washington. It's the perfect place to take a dip, cool down (seriously, Washington isn't exactly warm), and take in the views of a 200-foot waterfall along the way.

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Hiking To Lower Lewis Falls In Gifford Pinchot National Forest

For those looking for a good workout prior to visiting Lower Lewis Falls, this hike is it. Specifically, the trail is the Lewis River Trail #31. The best part about this trail is that it's under four miles and offers hikers incredible views of the falls overlook. Since it skirts the upper edge of the falls, it's a scenic hike that will show visitors exactly what they're in for before making their way to the lower swimming hole part of the falls.

Just before the midpoint of the trail, hikers will come upon an old sheep bridge and a recognizable 'steam donkey.' This is a sign of the era that Lewis Falls was once part of, with logging being at the forefront of the area's industry. In this case, it was used to move logs from the river to prevent seasonal flooding.

  • Tip: When the trail for Copper Creek Falls joins with #31, hikers can opt to explore that waterfall, as well, to make it a full-day hiking trip.

At the midpoint of the trail, hikers will stumble upon Wright Meadow Trail #80 before making their way to Middle Lewis River Falls. This is where the trail becomes rocky, so hikers should be wary of their footing. For another mile, hikers will make their way toward Alec Creek, which will not be far from the base of Upper Lewis River Falls, before coming to an end at Forest Road 90, which is directly across from another attraction, Quartz Creek Trail.

  • Total Trail Length: 3.3 miles
  • Required: A recreation pass to use the Lower Lewis Falls Day Use Area, $5
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate

An alternative option for those who don't wish to hike is to simply park in the lot near the Lower Lewis Falls, called the Day Use Parking Lot. In order to use this, however, visitors will need to make reservations for any time between June and September. Cars that don't have a reservation are turned away, which means a recreation pass and a 3+ mile hike is the only alternative option.

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What To Know About Swimming In Lower Lewis Falls Day Use Area

Getting down into the falls might take some creative thinking, as it's a bit of a scramble to the edge. At the bottom of the falls, visitors will find large rocks that are perfect for soaking up the sun or enjoying a bit of rest after hiking. The water itself is clear and the perfect shade of aqua, making it plenty inviting for those who might be hesitant about taking the dip. The swimming hole created by Lower Lewis Falls is shallow enough in many parts for wading, which makes it a great option for those who don't necessarily want to swim, or are not strong swimmers. With that being said, it's always a good idea not to get too close to the cascade as it can be powerful.

  • Note: As of 2018, the marked trails between Middle and Upper Falls are permanently closed. The only way to access Upper Falls is via a makeshift trail that leads to the top of the slide.

The small shore off to the side of the falls is the perfect place to enter and exit the natural pool, and visitors might even witness people at the top enjoying some of the pools in the Upper Falls. While this is not recommended due to the danger that presents itself if someone gets too close to the edge, it does offer a different experience if the Lower Falls happens to be too crowded.

  • Tip: Although the falls will be crowded on hot days, this is also the best time to visit since Washington's swimming holes will always serve as a great way to cool down with water that's perfectly chilly.

Lower Lewis Falls is the perfect Washington destination for those seeking an adventure this summer. Hiking there will reward visitors with stunning views and multiple vantage points from which to see the falls, and the day-use area is the perfect way to top off the day with a dip and some downtime.

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