Sol Duc Falls is by most accounts one of the most photogenic waterfalls in Washington State and by proxy is one of the most sought out waterfalls by photographers - and chances are it ranks favorably nationwide in similar comparisons. Set within the thick temperate rain forest of the Olympic Mountains, the Sol Duc River creates one of the more uniquely shaped waterfalls in the northwest where it splits into as many as four channels - depending on the volume of the river - hurtling 37 feet off the side of a cliff into a narrow canyon, followed by an 11 foot flume-style drop as the river exits the canyon into a broader gorge below. The National Park Service has done an excellent job at constructing rustic viewpoints that provide many varied angles of perspective.
- Sol Duc Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
- Known Alternate Names: Solduck Falls, Soleduck Falls, Medina Falls
Prior to 1991 the accepted spelling of all features bearing this name was Soleduck (sometimes spelled Solduck as well). The Washington State Board of Geographic Names approved the change to Sol Duc because of its more accurate translation from the Quillayute word, meaning "magic waters", from which it derives. A legend tells of two dragons, Sol Duc and Elwha, who fought to a draw and were sealed in deep caverns. They wept hot tears at their confinement which furnishes the water for Olympic and Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Its unknown specifically when this name was applied to the falls. A 1910 photograph produced by J Boyd Ellis of Arlington captioned the falls as Medina Falls, the only such reference we've seen so it may be that he was not aware of a standing colloquial title at the time, or that the falls (and maybe the river) were not known as Sol Duc at the time (given that much of the Olympic Mountains had not been explored in the early 1900s, this is certainly possible).
The falls are accessed from the Sol Duc River Trail at the end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road in Olympic National Park. Turn off Highway 101 31 1/2 miles west of Port Angeles, or 27.6 miles east of Forks, where the National Park signs indicate, then follow the road to its end in another 13 1/2 miles. The falls are reached in 8/10 of a mile from the trailhead. In the winter, the road is closed at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which adds 1 1/2 miles to the hike.