Rachor Creek: Upper Canyon

A basic canyon that makes for a nice full-day adventure with hiking/mountain biking access, followed by a canyon of moderate difficulty when water is moderate to low. It is rated v3a3III at moderate-low water levels late in the season, and v4a4III in early to mid-season.

getting there

From North Bend (off of I-90), head north on Ballarat Ave. Turn right onto SE 108th street, then left onto 428 Ave SE. Follow this towards Ernie's grove. It will become the North Fork Road. Where the 72nd St. forks right towards Ernie's grove, bear right, uphill on the North Fork Road. The pavement ends after a few minutes, but the road is in good condition. Continue on around a curve, then turn right onto Lake Hancock Road. Follow this until you come to Gate 11 on your right, and Gate 10 on your left. Gate 10 is closed to the public. Gate 11 requires a permit (even if you park and walk). See permit notes below.You'll access this canyon via Recreation Gate 11. Be sure to have the Snoqualmie Forest map with you as there are many wrong turns you could take.

Approach

From the gate, walk or bike about a mile and a half and cross the North Fork Snoqualmie River on a bridge. Turn right and go about a mile to an intersection. Bear left, up a very steep hill. In ~½ mile, you'll cross a bridge below a waterfall on your left. Shortly after the bridge, you'll see a very overgrown road. This is the exit, and a good place to stash bikes if you have them. In about a mile from the intersection, (or ½ mile from the exit), you'll see a large candy-cane shaped pipe. Find a good spot to leave the road and drop down to the creek, contouring slightly left toward the creek bottom. There's no trail, but the bushwhacking is minimal.

DESCENT 

Starting from the top, head downstream with some easy down climbs through small cascades.  There will likely be a lot of wood, but don't be discouraged—a beautiful canyon lies ahead. Carefully maneuver through the wood until you reach the top of the first short rappel. There a four rappels in total, with a few down climbs:

  • Rappel 1: 30 feet (10m) - natural anchors DCL (Down Canyon Left)
  • Down Climb: 60 feet (20m) steep chute can be down climbed with a hand line assist, or rappelled for comfort.
  • Rappel 2: 45 feet (15m) natural anchors DCL down a dark slot with a short but unavoidable swimmer at the bottom
  • Down Climb: 45 feet (15m) DCR (Down Canyon Right)
  • Down Climb: 30 feet (10m) to a swimmer. Note that due to the features of the low-angle slab, sliding, while tempting, could be dangerous.
  • Down Climb: 45 feet (15m) DCL
  • Rappel 3: 100 feet (30m) natural anchors DCR. Its recommended to rig a hand line from a less exposed tree DCR, and rig the rappel from a tree close to the top of the falls. This rappel starts free-hanging to vertical, and transitions to low-angle. The rigger has minimal visibility of the fall line.
  • Rappel 4: 45 feet (15m) natural anchors DCL. A fun rappel to do in the flow, though staying DCL of the flow is possible.

EXIT

Immediately at the bottom of Rappel 4, you'll notice flat land to the right. Climb out of the creek bed, and you'll soon see remnants of the old logging road. Leave your wet suit on as protection against the thorny bushwhacking. In about ½ mile, you'll reach the main road, and your bikes if you left them. Bike/hike out to your car.

Note that it is possible to continue down canyon, however the descent of the lower canyon includes a 300-foot rappel, and a very difficult exit which requires bushwhacking up 600-800 feet or pack rafting the middle fork into Ernie's grove and getting a ride back to your car. Only one known descent of the lower canyon is recorded.

EQUIPMENT

Standard canyoning gear including replacement webbing and quick links. Optionally mountain bikes.

TRIP PROFILE

  • Rappels: 4-6
  • Longest Rappel: 100 feet
  • Approach: ~4 miles
  • Exit: ~4 miles
  • Time: 6-8 hours total

NOTES

  • The approach to this canyon requires a permit from the Snoqualmie Forest company. Note that this is not U.S. Forest Service land but private property. Daily non-motorized permits are available per person on their website. Annual family motorized permits are available, which include a gate key. However, rules are very strict that anyone in the car must be a family member or also carry a motorized permit. The recommended approach is via foot/mountain bike, because the canyon is 4 miles in, requiring 8 miles round trip of approach/exit.
  • This canyon is rated v3a3III at moderate-low water levels late in the season, and v4a4III in early to mid-season. Note that Rachor Creek has a fairly sizable watershed, and water levels drop later in the season than other local canyons.
  • Difficulty: Basic Canyon
  • Length: 8.0 mi
  • Land Manager: Campbell Global: Snoqualmie Forest
  • Parking Permit Required: see Land Manager
  • Recommended Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
Map
  • see Land Manager
  • Green Trails Mt Si No. 174
  • USGS Mt Si
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