When we went to Middle Falls, my niece’s husband was under the impression that the falls were just off the parking lot. Instead, this turned out to be our most challenging hike of the day. I had my hiking sticks with me and had taken them along on three other shorter and easier hikes, but because he made this remark, I left my sticks in the car. Lesson learned! Always take your sticks!
The payoff of this trip is a lovely but less spectacular waterfall than Lower Falls and a nice swimming hole. The only problem is that you have to be able to get back up the switchbacks. If you are in really poor shape or have disabilities, this may not be the hike for you.
I was doubting myself for a while, but I made it back up with encouragement from my brother.
Middle Falls Trail
Panting stops: 3-5
Length: about a mile, there and back
Elevation changes: about 300 feet
There is actually a loop trail that you can take at Middle Falls, but we did not know that at the time, so we just took the same trail out and back. It starts out on a gentle incline to Copper Creek Falls. Then, however, you go down several steepish switchbacks until you arrive at the falls and another beautiful blue swimming hole.
These falls are not as dramatic as Lower Falls, but they still provide the rock shelf ledges for wading, falls for those who like to jump off, and a lovely swimming hole. They were also much less crowded on the day we went. However, because I did not have my sticks, I did not feel secure enough to step down the tall rocky ledges to the swimming hole. They were just tall and slippery looking enough that I did not want to try them. Anyone that is less of a chicken than I am could probably make it down with no problem.
Instead, my sister and niece and I went further down the trail where we discovered our own little waterfall. It had a hole for sitting in the base of it, and the kids slid down the fall. The others in our party swam in the swimming hole while we cooled off at our little waterfall.
How to get there
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Adams Ranger District
Take Washington 503 north past Cougar. It becomes Lewis River Road and then NF-90. You pass the entrance to the Lower Falls Recreation Area. The small parking lot for Middle Falls is farther up NF-90 just off the road on your right side.