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Trip Report    

Day Hike - Little Mashel Falls- Big Impact

Chasing Waterfalls on Nisqually Land- Stewardship

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Nestled in the foothills in the quaint town of Eatonville, locals know early March is perfect for chasing the spectacular Little Mashel Falls. 

    Come dressed in your rain gear year around on this trail as you cross two rivers and see three waterfalls all within a few miles short miles.

    Start Here: Starting at the Bud Blancher Trailhead, named for a former pilot and inventor, the trail to Mashel Falls begins and ends within reach of this small town. 

    Mashel River Crossing: Crossing over the Mashel River, just up stream is a section acquired by the Nisqually Land Trust known as the Middle Mashel River Protected Area.

    In 2011 the Nisqually Land Trust purchased 240 acres along the Mashel River that protects 2.6 miles of shoreline. The Mashel River is the largest tributary to the Nisqually and the most important tributary for anadromous fish. The primary objective for this site is to conserve high-quality instream and riparian habitats for salmon and trout species, particularly Chinook and steelhead. In addition, this project helps protect Eatonville’s drinking-water supply. A secondary objective for this site is to manage the upland forest to provide high-quality wildlife habitat. Over time this will include active management of the commercial forest plantations to increase biodiversity and forest structure. See Video Here


Little Mashel River Crossing: Crossing over the Little Mashel River is where we make our turn uphill paralleling the river to the falls.

The Little Mashel Falls is a series also known as Lower, Middle and Upper. In some reports the Upper falls has also been referred to as Tom-Tom.  

Lower Little Mashel Falls: Easily viewable from the trail in late winter, the understory of deciduous plants and shrubs broadens your full view of the lower falls. The falls split into three with a 40' drop. The stairway leading down towards the waters edge has been repaired multiple times. The trail is muddy and slippery along with the hillside being slide prone. In March  the overall view is enriched from the upper deck of the the trail. 

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Middle Little Mashel Falls: As we pass through the forest the excitement builds in our group. The rushing water of the Middle Little Mashel Falls is heard first then seen as dense airborne water high above powered by the falls then 125' of cascading water. Also viewed from above the late winter gave us a dryer viewpoint.Screen Shot 2023-03-11 at 4.10.49 AM.png

Upper Little Mashel Falls: We continued uphill to the Upper Little Mashel Falls. There are a few hidden turnouts, one just above the middle falls that gives a cliff overview to the bottom worth mentioning and then a nice little swimming spot we scoped out for summer. The Upper Little Mashel Falls also viewed through the trees and off in the distance is approximately a 25' drop. IMG_9054.jpg

Returning to our middle falls point, we explored southerly uphill where the trail eventually connects with the Pack Forest Experimental Forest a part of the University of Washington Forestry program.

Summary: These falls never disappoint my hiking friends and family. During the summer months it does experience a lot of trail love which brings up a following good word about plans for the future.

With much support through the combined efforts The Nisqually Land Trust many support groups have been partnering with the Town of Eatonville, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group on the Mashel Shoreline Protection and Restoration Initiative since 2000. Since early 2014, over 250 acres in and near Eatonville have been permanently protected from development. This reach of the Mashel is critical habitat for threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Forty years ago it was one of the richest steelhead rivers in the Pacific Northwest, with annual spawning runs in the thousands. Since then, the steelhead population has declined by some 80 percent.

Plans for Eatonville’s proposed Mashel River Greenbelt Trail: The trail will link the town center with the river’s spectacular Boxcar Canyon, an iconic landscape much beloved by local residents. A portion of the trail system, the Bud Blancher Trail, opened in 2014 and links Eatonville with the University of Washington’s Pack Forest.

Chase a Waterfall: Chances are high the mountain you may seek is obscured this time of year, so why not get outside, stretch your legs, dust off your boots and chase a waterfall. 

To volunteer and be a steward at this site contact Nisqually Land Trust