Snoqualmie Falls & Town


My northwest vacation began with an early arrival at SeaTac Airport, but my traveling companion didn’t arrive until late that evening.  That meant I had an entire day to do… well… something.  I couldn’t roam too far from the airport, and I didn’t want to go see something that I’d cover again on the following days.

So, I decided to drive out Interstate 90, over Snoqualmie Pass (made famous on the news every winter with video of pouring snow and stranded cars).  The truth is, I was a bit too ambitious, when I decided to extend my drive into a loop, returning to the city on US-2 (which parallels I-90, to the north).  It would have been better to drive out-and-back on I-90, and I still would have been able to see some great places like Snoqualmie Falls.

At 268 feet tall, Snoqualmie Falls is 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls.  Of course, it’s not nearly as wide, but it’s still quite an impressive sight — and I’ll admit, it was bigger than I was expecting.  And if you start hearing some eerie music playing in the back of your head as you gaze at it, there’s a good reason.  Snoqualmie Falls famously appeared in the opening titles of the quirky TV series Twin Peaks.

It takes just a couple of minutes to walk from your car to this viewpoint.  There is also a hiking trail, which will take you down to the base of the falls, but it was closed during my visit (and it will remain closed until 2013).  Without the option of the hiking trail, there wasn’t much more to see here, other than the view from the viewpoint.  Well, that, and the gift shop.

In addition to the work being done on the hiking trail, there was quite a bit more construction going on during my visit in 2011.  You can see some of it taking place, just above the falls.  This work is being done to upgrade the two power plants at the falls — one of which is completely underground, behind the waterfall.  Behind the brink of the falls is the intake house (construction is due to be completed in September 2012), and the powerhouse itself is below it.  The subterranean power station was built in 1898.  It was the world’s first completely underground power plant.

From Interstate 90, take exit 25, and follow Snoqualmie Parkway until it dead-ends at WA 202.  Turn left, and in just a moment you’ll be at the falls (there’s an obvious parking area on the left — don’t go on down the hill).  Turn right on WA 202, and you’ll end up in downtown Snoqualmie.

Town of Snoqualmie

Once you’ve seen the falls, backtrack on WA 202 and head into the neat-and-tidy little town of Snoqualmie.

There are a few blocks of restaurants and shops here to occupy your time.

I stopped at this roadside park, near the entrance to town, in order to get a closer look at the interesting collection of rail cars that are lined up on tracks, starting near this huge log.

The Snoqualmie rail yard runs parallel to Route 202.  It’s a strange combination of museum and graveyard.  A wide assortment of rail cars and engines are on display behind a fence…

… and signs tell you what kind of cars are on display, along with a brief history that explains when they were used.  But, these museum pieces aren’t protected from the elements.  They’re slowly rusting and rotting.

I had fun taking pictures of the rail cars…

… and old engines, even though the fence got in the way and was tough to shoot around.

Do Not Hump.  Insert “yo mamma” joke here.

Actually, “Do not hump” on a train means that the contents are fragile, and could be damaged by a coupling method known as “humping”, where rail cars are pushed up a small hill, then released and allowed to roll down, one by one, while the tracks are switched, sending each car onto a different track, to be joined with a different train. The process is quick and efficient, but rough on the cargo.  Fragile freight, therefore, should not be “humped”.

After walking alongside the linear museum, follow the tracks back towards town…

… and you’ll end up at the Snoqualmie Depot.  The charming 1890 building was restored in 1981, returning it to its original appearance.  It’s open every day, from 10 to 5, allowing you to wander around inside.  In addition to a small gift shop…

… I was fascinated to find this old signal and track-switching console, tucked back in a corner of the depot.  Maybe I had wandered into a room where I wasn’t allowed, I’m not sure — but there was a lot of neat stuff in there.

Once you’re satisfied with your experience in Snoqualmie, drive down WA-202 to the next small town, North Bend.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Renton to Snoqualmie Falls.  On the next page, you’ll see the drive through downtown Snoqualmie, and on to North Bend and beyond.

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