10 Interesting Facts About Little Mashel Falls

10 Interesting Facts About Little Mashel Falls factgaze.com

Nestled deep in the lush forests of Washington’s Cascade foothills lies a hidden wonder – the magnificent Little Mashel Falls. Cascading over 120 feet into a rocky gorge, this powerful waterfall is just one of many in the area fed by the Little Mashel River.

Surprisingly little known, yet easily accessible via hiking trails from multiple trailheads, the falls have a rich human history dating back centuries. The falls and rivers also play a vital ecological role in the region.

Here are 10 fascinating facts to discover about Little Mashel Falls:

1. A Series of Three Waterfalls

Little Mashel Falls is the centerpiece of a trio of waterfalls along the Little Mashel River gorge. The series consists of Lower Little Mashel Falls, Little Mashel Falls, and Tom Tom Falls from downstream to upstream. Little Mashel Falls is the largest of the three waterfalls on the Little Mashel River, with an official height of 92 feet1!

2. Unique ‘Hidden’ Swimming Hole

One of the most intriguing features of Little Mashel Falls is the hidden cave-like enclosure behind and underneath the bottom of the falls. During high river flows, water shoots outward from the undercut cliff face allowing visitors to walk behind the falls. In summer when water levels drop, the rocky enclosure forms a hidden swimming hole.

3. Important Salmon Habitat

As the Little Mashel River rushes toward Eatonville, the falls and river provide vital spawning grounds for threatened Chinook salmon as well as steelhead trout. The area is actively protected and maintained to support healthy fish populations.

4. Accessible Year-Round

The area’s moderate climate makes visiting Little Mashel Falls possible even in winter. Two trailheads – the Bud Blancher Trail and Pack Forest Trail – provide year-round access. Trails are short, ranging from 4-5 miles roundtrip with elevation gains under 1,000 feet.

5. Tribal Significance

Little Mashel Falls lies in the ancestral homeland of the Nisqually and Puyallup tribal peoples. Accounts suggest the falls held spiritual significance as a place for vision quests and other rites of passage.

6. Early Controversial History

The Little Mashel River area was the site of the 1856 Mashel Massacre when territorial militia killed a group of Native Americans. Details remain controversial, but most accounts agree women, children and the elderly were among the dead.

7. Natural Amphitheater Setting

Little Mashel Falls spills into a boulder-strewn natural amphitheater, with rocky cliffs rising high on three sides. The unique topography contains noise and spray, intensifying the sensory experience for visitors.

8. Plentiful Wildlife

The Little Mashel River ecosystem supports an abundance of wildlife, especially a wide variety of birds. Lucky visitors may spot species ranging from bald eagles, osprey, and great blue herons to colorful songbirds like American goldfinches and spotted towhees.

9. Geologic Origins

Little Mashel Falls owes its existence to the region’s dynamic geologic history of volcanism and glacial activity. Lava flows and debris from Mount Rainier’s eruptions combined with glacial forces to carve the river gorge and sculpt the waterfall.

10. Four Distinct Seasons

The falls transform dramatically throughout spring, summer, fall, and winter. Their mood shifts from raging and swollen with snowmelt in spring to gentle and breezy by late summer. Autumn brings warm colors, and winter creates frosty scenes.


How long is the hike to Little Mashel Falls?

The roundtrip hike is approximately 5 miles from either the Bud Blancher or Pack Forest trailheads. Plan for 2-3 hours to complete the hike with time to see all 3 waterfalls.

Do I need any permits or passes to hike to the falls?

No permits or passes are required to access and hike to Little Mashel Falls from the trailheads.

Is the trail kid and dog-friendly?

Yes, the trail is dog-friendly on a leash and suitable for kids. Use caution around the waterfall viewpoints as the terrain can be slippery.

What is the best time of year to see the falls?

The falls flow year-round, but are most powerful during spring snowmelt and winter/fall rainy seasons. Summer offers low water levels to access swimming holes.

Where exactly is Little Mashel Falls located?

The falls are located near Eatonville, WA in the Cascade foothills about an hour drive south of Tacoma off Highway 7 towards Mount Rainier National Park.


A visit to Little Mashel Falls promises adventure, natural beauty and the chance to connect with nature. Yet so close to population centers, this waterfall jewel remains relatively unexplored. Whether seeking exercise or inspiration, its forest trails and waters beckon discovery.

  1. https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/little-mashel-falls []

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