Bear Creek Falls is the lowermost of the waterfalls along the North Fork Skykomish River northeast of the town of Index in the Wild Sky area of the North Cascades (not quite within the wilderness itself though). The falls consist of several small punchbowls and plunges where the river constricts through a narrow granite gorge, culminating in three drops totaling 25 feet in height that empty into a huge pool, producing an enormous boiling churn of bubbles. The exact height of each of the three major drops will actually vary considerably depending on how high the river is running. During low water the upper two drops are the tallest, each falling about 8-9 feet, but when the volume of the river climbs up the water basically backs up in the gorge and floods the upper tiers, increasing the height of the lower tier. On our most recent survey it had increased to 17 feet in height, with the two upper tiers split down to about 4 feet each. The volume of the river is quite deceptive when viewing the falls, since the water is all constricted through a canyon 20-30 feet wide at most, yet downstream of the plunge pool it spreads out to almost 200 feet wide, giving the illusion that much of the river just bubbles out of the ground at the falls.
On a note regarding access, the trail which leads down to the falls ends on bare rocks near the top of the gorge, and accessing the best views of the falls will require scrambling downstream on rocks which have some pretty big gaps to surmount, and are polished smooth enough that climbing can be a bit tricky. Be very careful along the edge of the river itself, because slipping in could easily prove fatal considering how violent some of the river's action is.
- Bear Creek Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
Bear Creek Falls does indeed occur on the North Fork Skykomish River. It was named such because Bear Creek empties into the river immediately next to the falls and is the most prominent landmark in the immediate area. The falls were photographed and documented at least as early as 1912. The specific date of discovery is not known, but is likely within a few years of the earliest photographs, if that.
Bear Creek Falls is found near the Troublesome Creek Campground northeast of the town of Index along the Index-Galena Road. 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. Continue straight on the paved road - the upper extension of the Index-Galena Road - for another 2-1/2 miles and watch for a small pullout on the left (downhill) side of the road and park. The rocks of the gorge should be visible through the trees from here. Find an obvious path which leads down to the river at the top of the gorge, then make your way downstream along the smooth rocks to a better view. There is also a second trail a few hundred feet further down the road, but it's nearly impossible to spot from the road due to years of neglect and is much easier to follow when climbing back up from the bottom of the falls.