38 – Racehorse Falls

Feeling lately as if I had covered most of the hiking trails from sea level on up to about the 1,800′ level in the Blanchard Mountain, Chuckanut Mountain, Bellingham, even on up to the Canadian boarder areas, with snow still falling in our higher elevations, how exciting it felt to be hiking along a trail that was completely new to me – to Racehorse Falls. While the driving directions to the trailhead were easy enough to follow, once we had parked the car and began our hike, at times the trail turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Accustomed to plenty of mud along the trail, we were not slowed down much by the standing water.

Along the trail . . . to Racehorse Creek

Time and again, however, we found ourself climbing over and maneuvering around dozens of freshly cut trees. Appearing as if deliberately fallen over the trail, and often making it difficult to determine where the trail was even located, it was not until we had almost completed our hike that I remembered having read something recently about the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) getting serious with its enforcement of the closure of illegally built mountain bike trails on DNR lands. That must have been what was going on with this trail as we were on DNR land, and those fallen trees certainly would make a deterent for the mountain biker. (You can go here to read about that – DNR WA Gov – Recreation Education News – 2012 03 30 – Trails if you would like more information.) Well, while there was a bicycle in the car, no problem – the bike was mere coincidence – we were there for a hike to a falls!

Fallen trees and standing water . . . over the trail to Racehorse Creek

Once we had made our way through that messy, tree-fallen portion of the trail, it was easy going. Blue ties clearly maked the route through a forest thick with moss, and then we continued on to a series of switchbacks leading us down to Racehorse Creek.

Switchbacks . . . leading down to Racehorse Creek

The roar from the falls became apparent long before we had reached the creek bed itself, or even any of the numerous areas along the trail that offered us sneak peeks of the falls. Racehorse Falls is a large falls with an upper portion carved deeply into sandstone cliffs, and a middle section where cascading water fans out widely over giant boulders at the bottom. Then as the creek bends slightly, the falls continues to wind its way down and between even more giant boulders before leveling out below. To see the video that I took of the middle and lower portions of Racehorse Falls, go here – Racehorse Falls – 60Before60 – YouTube. Taking the time to walk along the tops of some of those giant boulders to explore all the different viewing points, we finally worked our way down to the creek bed below the falls.

. . . at Racehorse Falls

Once finished exploring the log strewn gravel bar below the falls, it was time to climb our way back up the switchbacks to the forested ridge above Racehorse Creek.

Switchbacks along the trail leading up from the creek bed

From there, we took a side trail along the ridge that led us up above Racehorse Falls where we viewed another waterfalls flowing down the huge sandstone cliffs on the opposite side above the creek, and yet another one even further up stream with a beautifully carved out whirlpool.

Yet another falls along Racehorse Creek . . . upstream from the larger Racehorse Falls

That side trail may have continued on indefinitely through the DNR forest lands, or perhaps at least on to the fossil fields left after a giant landslide in 2009 (go here to read about that – http://nwgeology.wordpress.com/the-fieldtrips/the-chuckanut-formation/field-trip-to-the-2009-racehorse-creek-rock-slide/ – if you are curious about fossils), but at that point, we turned around and headed back to our original trailhead.

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For more information on Racehorse Falls and driving directions, go here – Waterfalls Northwest – Racehorse Falls – and remember, while it is not a long hike, if you do plan to go to Racehorse Falls yourself, be prepared to deal with several good sized mud holes along the trail, plenty of freshly-fallen trees (with brushy limbs still attached) to climb over and dirt switchbacks leading down (and up) steep, tree-rooted cliffs (sometimes offering no more than moss covered Devil’s Club on which to grab on to as you make your scramble). Just keep that in mind, but don’t be frightened off. A hike to such a magnificant falls is well worth the effort – and highly recommended!


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