At the head of Stevens Canyon, there are two large waterfalls; Upper Stevens Creek Falls, and Fairy Falls. Fairy Falls is the taller and much more famous of the two, though is difficult to reach. Upper Stevens Creek Falls is by far the superior waterfall, even though its two-thirds as tall as Fairy Falls. However, and very much to my surprise, even though it is sublimely easy to view this waterfall, I have never heard mention, nor ever seen a (good) picture of this waterfall until I made a serious attempt on it. Even more shocking is that this is easily one of the best waterfalls in the state. Let me run that by you again. This, one of the best waterfalls in Washington State, located within spitting distance of a tourist-magnet trail, is virtually unknown to the world. I can think of two defining factors for this misfortune. One, the trails in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park are lined with "Do not trample the meadows"Â signs (for good reason, of course), and Two, even though the falls can be viewed literally 200 linear feet off a major trail, they cannot be heard at all unless you are standing at the edge of the canyon in which they are situated. There are faint paths along the canyon rim, evidence that I am not the only one to have ever looked down upon this waterfall, but it is almost startling to me that the National Park Service hasn't built so much as a spur path to a point where the falls are plainly visible. Unfortunately, like most of the great waterfalls of the Northwest, there is a downside to this one as well. Even though the easily accessed views of the falls are quite impressive, they do not justly illustrate the magnitude of this waterfall. Significant off trail travel is necessary to view this waterfall properly, and due to the fragile nature of the area, I will not post directions to said viewpoints. Needless to say the easy-to-reach viewpoints aren't ideal, but they do well in a pinch. In addition to the sub-par viewpoints, the 375-foot falls thunder into a narrow, barren canyon, where snow often lingers due to the lack of exposure. Despite these small shortcomings, it's difficult not to consider this one of the great waterfalls in the northwest.
- Upper Stevens Creek Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall.
- Known Alternate Names: Upper Stevens Falls
Logic would dictate that this waterfall was known just as well as Fairy Falls was when Mount Rainier was being explored in the early 20th century, why it escaped being named is a mystery (though there are reports that a Granite Falls was named approximately 3 1/2 miles from Paradise and that mileage could conceivably be worked out to fit this location).
Located in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park. Because of the often-crowded nature of the Paradise parking lots, this waterfall is best accessed as follows. Once in Mount Rainier National Park, follow Highway 706 to the Paradise Road, and drive to the large parking area at the Paradise Lodge. Do not park here, but instead begin following the one-way Paradise Valley Road, which leaves Paradise. At the bottom of the first hill, you'll cross the Paradise River, and immediately after is a large parking area on the right. Park here. Follow the 4th Crossing Trail, across the street from the parking area, uphill for 1/3 of a mile, to the Skyline Trail. Turn right, and proceed another 8/10 of a mile to the Paradise Glacier Trail. Head right again, and proceed about 1/3 of a mile to a small tarn immediately to the right of the trail. At this point, the falls are in the canyon over the small rise to the right of the trail. Best views are had from a small saddle, about 600 feet south of the tarn, approximately 200 feet off the main trail. BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL where you walk. Stay on snow or rocks so as not to trample the fragile plant life in the area. It is possible to avoid the delicate areas, so please don't contribute to the already rampant damage in the area. The falls can also be distantly seen from the Stevens Canyon Road at The Bench (the sharp hairpin turn east of the Snow Lake trailhead).