Deer Falls is both the largest waterfall along the North Fork Skykomish River, and perhaps the most infuriating. The falls are found at the head of an impressive 125-foot deep canyon found just a few dozen yards from the National Forest Road 63 which leads to several popular trailheads just over a mile further upstream, yet the canyon and its impressive falls remain hidden in relative obscurity. This wasn't always the case though, the falls were at one time featured in guidebooks and even marked on a select few maps by name. The popular Trips and Trails vol.1 published in the late 60's distinctly featured Deer Falls as a destination, noting that the National Forest Service once actually maintained the trail leading to the vista of the falls. However after the logging road which crossed the river downstream of the falls was decommissioned and its bridge removed, the trail was presumably mothballed and quickly fell into disrepair.
At Deer falls the North Fork hurtles over the lip of the canyon in a narrow stream before impacting on a small ledge, causing the water to explode outward in a huge booming roar, falling 84 feet into a massive amphitheater coated head to toe in moss. Below the falls the river flows through a section of the canyon so narrow that there is no way to pass upstream at river level, thus limiting views from downstream to a considerable distance away.
A word of warning about accessing Deer Falls; though the route in is not very difficult at all, the final descent to where the falls can be viewed is rather steep, so those without sure footing are urged to think twice about attempting to descend to the river to view the falls. Additionally, do not attempt to wade out into the river unless it is running at its absolute lowest levels. The water is glacial, very cold, very swift, and there are multiple potentially deadly features downstream (Lower Deer Falls among them).
- Deer Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
The name of the falls, while seemingly rather generic, has been in use for quite a long time, and is officially recognized by the forest service and the county, among other institutions. The specific origin of the name is not known, but one can probably make a fairly generic guess.
Deer Falls is found near the end of the North Fork Skykomish Road just outside of the Wild Sky Wilderness. Due to the washout of the Index-Galena Road in 2006, access to this waterfall requires driving over Jack Pass (which is usually snowbound until mid to late May). Take Highway 2 to the town of Skykomish, and continue east for three-quarters of a mile, then turn north onto Beckler River Road (National Forest Road 65). The Beckler Road climbs 12.6 miles to Jack Pass (turning to gravel at the Raging River bridge after 7 miles). At the pass, a large open gravel pit type area, the main road bends to the left with two other roads splitting off hard left and right (don't take either). Continue downhill to cross the North Fork Skykomish River and meet the North Fork Skykomish Road where pavement is encountered again, 15 miles from Highway 2. At this intersection, turn right where a sign indicates NFR 63. Again on gravel, continue along Road 63 for another 2-3/4 miles and watch carefully for an overgrown road branching to the right - the second such road after crossing the concrete bridge over Goblin Creek. Park here and walk down the overgrown road for about one-fifth of a mile to where the old bridge used to cross the river. At this point look for the old trail heading off to the left in the woods. Its not terribly obvious from the old road, but once its located its still fairly easy to follow (though a bit brushy in places). The old trail runs only about 500 feet upstream before dropping steeply down to the river at the mouth of the gorge - expect lots of prickly bushes here. The falls can be seen upstream from river level while standing on some rocks, but the view is somewhat limited when the water level is high.