On a hot summer afternoon, the Coleman Glacier feeds no less than 6 major streams, practically all of which have to be forded to reach the vistas overlooking the lower arm of the Coleman at the end of the Heliotrope Ridge trail. The final stream that is crossed harbors the tallest waterfall of the area, where two branches of the West Fork of Heliotrope Creek skip down the hillside. Because there are two branches to this waterfall (both stem from the same point of origin on the glacier), its hard to gauge the true height of the falls, but it appears to drop and estimated 400 feet or more. This drop occurs over a run of almost 1/5th of a linear mile and this results in huge foreshortening problems, making it further difficult to measure the falls, and to just plain see it in its entirety. Most of the taller of the two branches can be seen from Lunch Rock at the end of the trail (you'll know it if you see it). Since the Coleman Glacier shifts so frequently, the volume over the falls can not only change with the temperature of the day, but it can shift from one channel to another. During my most recent visit to the falls, the taller branch of the falls was reduced significantly in volume despite high temperatures for the day, but the smaller segment was flowing well.
- Heliotrope Falls is the name of this waterfall.
Located on Heliotrope Ridge on the north side of Mount Baker. Heading east from Maple Falls, along Highway 542, just 7/10 of a mile to Glacier Creek Road, and turn right. Follow Glacier Creek Road for 8 miles (stay right at all major roads after crossing Glacier Creek) to the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead, marked by restrooms, and likely several cars. Park, and follow the moderate, but well graded trail for 2 miles a fork in the trail. To reach the bottom of the falls, follow the left branch, signed for the Moraine View, for another 1/3 mile. You'll have to ford at least one moderately large creek (the West Fork Heliotrope Creek), which can range from an easy rock-hop to a potential ankle sprainer in the afternoon when the water runs hard. The water is usually silty, so I suggest taking a stick or a hiking pole to gauge the depth of the water before you cross. Portions of the falls can be seen from the Hogsback by following the Climbers Trail, right at the fork, and climbing steeply for about 1/3 of a mile.