|Distance:||4.2 or 7.8 miles, RT|
|Hiking Time:||2 or 4 hrs|
|Elevation Gain:||100 or 300 ft|
|High Point:||2550 ft|
|Snow Free:||March - Mid-December|
|Trailhead Pass:||Northwest Forest Pass Required|
Trailhead #1: N 47° 04.673, W 121° 35.141
If you are looking for distance with little difficulty, the Skookum Flats Trail is for you. The trail follows the White River through thick forest covered with moss to the main attraction/destination, Skookum Falls. The falls, an awesome site, are best seen in the spring when the water is heavy from the rains and snow melt off. (Also, if you wait too long the vine maples beneath it will block much of the view.) In the late summer and fall there is very little water. This is a popular trail for mountain bikers and people with dogs, especially in the summer. Our favorite time to hike this trail is in May because we seem to have it all to ourselves... and the falls are spectacular.
There are two trailheads for this hike. The first one (#1) starts on Rd. 73 (Huckleberry Creek Rd.), off of Hwy 410, (stay left), and follows the river upstream. After crossing the bridge, the parking area is on the right with the trailhead on the left side of the road. It is 2.1 mile hike (the shorter distance) to the falls on a mostly flat trail. The occasional hills are short and some are wet in the spring, but hiking poles can make them easier to negotiate. It can be a little swampy in the rainy season, but that adds to the beauty of the lush forest and makes it a great place to find trillium and skunk cabbage. There are some giant trees and very pretty views of the river along this part of the trail. The hike to the falls takes about an hour.
The other trailhead (#2) starts at Buck Creek Rd. (FS Rd. #7160) off of Hwy 410, just across the bridge, and follows the river downstream. The parking lot is on the left and the trailhead is on the right side of the road. It is about 4 miles to the falls and there is a lot more "hill" involved. You cross many beautiful streams, some that will be gone in the late summer and fall. As you hike along the trail you will catch views of the Palisades rock formation across the valley. At one particular place you can see the top half of the 400 ft. Snoquera Falls, but only in the spring and early summer... before it is reduced to a trickle. This section of the trail is more of a challenge as there are large washouts of trail and a couple of landslides. (See author's note below.) The last time we hiked this trail was in May 2009 and it took us almost 3 hours to arrive at the falls. There were many trees across the trail that you had to negotiate under, over, or around. At this trailhead you can also travel upstream, past the airfield to where the Nat'l Forest Trail comes to an end at the Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park boundary. The total distance, from Rd. 73 to the park boundary, is 8.2 miles.
Authors Note: Much of the trail is on the river's edge. If the river is the least bit high, many parts of both trails are inaccessible. The banks are rearranged often and soft silt can be deposited far into the forest. If the silt is still very wet, it can suck you in over your boots like quicksand. Lots of log jams litter the flood plain as the high waters ripped trees from the river banks and stack them in huge piles. On the Buck Creek part of the trail, after crossing a large footbridge, there used to be a trail junction (#1169), that brought you back to the highway... that was until the small suspension bridge was ripped to shreds and sent downstream to who-knows-where. High water is definitely no joke and it's best to wait until the river calms down and behaves itself. Always be aware of undercut riverbank just waiting for a little weight to send it down into the rapids.
- Mary Janosik, Visit Rainier Hiking Expert