The West Fork of the Foss River produces two spectacular sets of waterfalls between it's outlet from Delta Lake and the inlet to Trout Lake, both consisting of multiple individual drops and neither presenting themselves as easy to see. The upper of the two falls is one of the most complicated waterfalls in Washington State and is rather difficult to both see and truly appreciate.
The Foss exits Delta Lake in two outlets which merge into one stream just a short way above the top of this waterfall. Promptly the river splits in two again, with the majority of the volume being directed to the channel closest to the trail. The near channel then plunges a shear 57 feet in the first leap, followed immediately by a long, wedge-shaped cascade which drops 39 feet. As this channel of the river terminates at the bottom of this cascade it splits in two again, with the majority of the volume still staying adjacent to the trail.
Now split into three streams, the near channel slides down a 25-foot tall sluice, and then almost immediately plunges 69 feet over the fourth tier. The central channel which has split below the second tier, flows at a more gradual pace and then plunges in back-to-back steps totaling about 120 feet - most of which is obscured by trees.
Below the near channel's fourth tier the fifth drop steps down another 67 feet, joined by the central channel and the far channel which broke off above the top of the falls and can be partially seen cascading down to join the other two. With the river restored to its full capacity in one channel, the collective water then accelerates down a final sliding cascade of another 80 feet or so, before slamming into and scattering amid a large field of mossy boulders at the bottom of the gorge.
When we surveyed the falls in July 2012, we did our best to attain accurate measurements of the various sections of the falls, and while we feel most of the numbers we produced are accurate, because of the complex nature of this waterfall it may be difficult to get a truly accurate measurement. The drops on the central channel can really only be approximated and the far channel will likely prove extremely difficult to measure. As for the cascades at the bottom, we measured as far down the falls as we could, but it is possible we were short from the base of the falls, so the overall height of 337 feet which we've presented may be a bit conservative.
Unfortunately due to the treacherous topography around the falls and the volume of the river, much of this waterfall cannot be seen. Even those parts which are easily accessible can be somewhat hazardous to view - with only two sections of the falls being easily accessed from just off the trail leading to Delta Lake. Scrambling along the river can lead to other views, but alas the lower third of the falls can only be looked down on from above, and the central and far channels cannot be seen clearly due to the surrounding forest.
The West Fork of the Foss River drains a considerable basin above these falls, anchored by the outflow from a dozen significant lakes, several of which are among the largest in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but because there is no permanent snow which melts into the basin (save for the tiny glacial remnant above Iron Cap Lake) the volume of the river does drop substantially from the spring to the autumn. However, even late in the year there is still a considerable amount of water present in the falls and in turn less spray which would otherwise inhibit exploring around the bottom of the falls.
- Upper Foss River Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall.
Upper Foss River Falls is found in the Foss River valley off Highway 2 near Skykomish. Take Highway 2 east from Skykomish to the Skykomish Ranger Station, then continue another half-mile and turn right onto the Foss River Road. Follow the road for 4 1/2 miles and turn left where the main road continues straight, following signs for the West Fork Foss Trail, then proceed to its end at the trailhead in another 2 miles. Set out on West Fork Foss Trail #1062, which parallels the Foss River for about three-quarters of a mile to a new bridge spanning the river below some pretty cascades, then climbs for another three quarters of a mile to Trout Lake. Continue for another half mile past Trout Lake to where the trail intersects the booming stream. A path leads down to the creek, looking upstream at a small cascade. The top of Middle Copper Falls lies immediately downstream. Look for a fairly well trodden boot path which leads steeply downstream along Middle Copper Falls and then Lower Copper Falls to a ford point. During high water the creek can be deep and swift so crossing on a log may be the safer route. On the south side of Copper Creek look for pink flagging leading to the continuation of the trail, which heads up the West Fork to Delta Lake and beyond. The trail which winds in and out of interchanging thickets of brush and groves of forest for another two-thirds of a mile before reaching the base Lower Foss River Falls. From here it begins climbing steeply up the headwall. After leveling out and navigating around dozens of large mossy boulders, it begins climbing again - this time along side the inaccessible portion of the upper falls. About half of a mile from the base of the Lower Falls the first access point to the Upper Falls is reached, where the river can be plainly heard booming just 50 feet off trail to the left. Continue climbing for additional views of the remaining parts of the falls. The logjam at the outlet of Delta Lake is found only about 750 feet upstream from the top of the falls.