hiking little mashel falls


If there’s one thing that JBLM is, it’s abundant in natural beauty once you get beyond the cities. There is absolutely no shortage of parks, rivers, waterfalls, beaches, lakes, and more in Washington, and we’ve made a point of doing our best to get out there and explore with the kids. We never know what the Army has in store for us next, and we truly believe that a duty station is what you make of it. So, that’s how we found ourselves hiking Little Mashel Falls in Eatonville this past weekend.

Ryan and I have ridiculous ambitions of being hikers, but we’ll be the first to tell you that we’re next to novices. That being said, we’re no strangers to a good challenge, and we believe in doing what you enjoy until you’re good at it. I’ve done a lot of research on the Washington Trails Association app, which is a great resource for those looking to get out there and embrace the beauty of the PNW. That’s how I came across Little Mashel Falls.

hiking pnw

washington trails association

little mashel lower falls

hiking with kids

Just about an hour from JBLM, Little Mashel Falls is partially owned by three entities – the City of Eatonville, the City of Tacoma, and the state of Washington. There are multiple ways to access the falls, which split into three separate falls, namely the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls. The most popular routes to the falls, Bud Blancher Trail and Pack Forest run about five miles roundtrip. We planned to take one of those, but my GPS wasn’t finding it. So, we settled for a side street by the river upstream, which required us to traverse an old railroad track above the river to access the scramble path down to the Middle and Lower Falls. Multiple cars were there, so we decided to chance it, but we did read after the fact that it’s actually a frequently ticketed way to access the falls. Oops!

Either way, we made our way across the train tracks with Danny and the kids in tow, and we ventured on what became a two+ mile round trip hike instead. It was a beautiful day with temperatures hovering in the mid-50’s, and the sun shining the whole while. The hike down to the falls was smooth-sailing until the last 150 yards or so, at which point the path became muddy and a bit slippery, the rocks were a bit harder to traverse, and we had to really focus. We opted for the Lower Falls with the kids, and it was stunning.

dog friendly hikes pnw

little mashel falls eatonville

hiking around jblm

exploring the pnw

waterfalls near jblm

I’m constantly in awe of the beauty around us here. Yes, Washington’s gray days wear on me at times, but then we find and explore gems like these, and it’s like instant soul fuel. Hiking Little Mashel Falls was an adventure we all loved, and Spencer has already asked when we can go hiking again. So, this is your notice; we’re going to go hiking again and report on all our finds. In the meantime, if you want to try hiking Little Mashel Falls, yourself, here’s what you need to know:

Trail Length: Varies; Via Bud Blancher Trail, it’s 5 miles round trip

Level of Difficulty: Easy – it does get slippery near the falls though; I recommend proper hiking boots

Cost: Free

Parking: Free lot at the trail head

Dog-Friendly: Yes!

Tips: Wear layers and proper hiking boots; be sure to practice pack and go, as there are no facilities on the trail