Racehorse Falls


Welcome, Washington
(near Deming, WA)
Lat. 48.87885 N, Long. -122.12518 W
GPS N48 52.692 W122 07.439

Beautiful falls are created by the quick 140′ drop into a gorge by Racehorse creek carving a narrow canyon into the Nooksack Valley via the North Fork of the Nooksack River, broken into four tiers of spectacular cascades at an approximate width of 40′. It has been said the falls and creek are named after a small cave on the edge of the falls that looks like the head of a horse. The elevation is approximately 740′ above sea level. It is on Slide Mountain – an area known as the name implies for two major landslides – one massive ancient slide and a smaller impressive slide in 2009 with a 90′ tall scarp. This was a notable flash flood event following heavy rains causing a huge debris avalanche into Racehorse Creek 400 feet above the falls. As cascades of four waterfalls, the first two are punchbowl-shaped with deep holes at their bases. Below the second waterfall, the creek descends rapidly to its largest drop plunging from below an undercut ledge. There is a small pool 3/4 of the way down and a much larger pool at the bottom that some swim in. The middle waterfall is hard to access best with climbing gear. Not safe, and not recommended. Also not recommended is kayaking down it. Some bold fear absent extremists went down and that’s crazy: http://egcreekin.blogspot.com/2011/10/racehorse-creek-falls-wa.html

The area is riddled with fossils and known for its fossil beds – including 50 million-year-old leaf fossils such as palm tree leaves, sycamore, and swamp cypress. The geology of the area is of the Chuckanut Formation – a 34-56 million-year-old sedimentary formation that was first deposited in a tropical landscape hosting a floodplain and river system with swamp-dwelling vegetation that exists now as fossils. The Chuckanut Formation is known for distinctive folded bedding, layering of sedimentary rocks, which were horizontal when first deposited, then through geological processes deformed and folded on both small and large scales. A great article about Geology with pictures of found fossils can be found here: https://wa100.dnr.wa.gov/north-cascades/racehorse-creek

I’m interested in the folklore of these falls and regions, but could not locate any historical information about the Falls.

To access the falls is a moderately challenging 1.1-mile roundtrip trail that isn’t maintained. It’s great for hiking, outings, sightseeing, waterfall gazing, bird watching, and general nature. Not busy and sometimes you won’t encounter others. There are two trails – one that follows the creek/river and the official is atop the bluffs above the river/falls. The upper trail is flat and easy to manage, however, a steep climb down to the falls. The bottom access is just right before the bridge, follow gravel road down less than 1/2 mile to a parking area with another entry to falls. Visitors claim the bottom trail is more kid-friendly than the top trail. The best conditions are March through October. Dog walking is common, but leashes are required.

Some claim there is a rope (that may not be reliable) to descend to the upper falls. Drive to the trailhead is longer than the hike, with the first half paved and maintained. Once onto Resources lands, the roads get bumpy and have potholes. Accessible by all vehicles. Discovery pass required. No facilities. No parking lot – parking only along the roadside. No trail markings (some claim the top main trail has a marking of a circle of wire or branches at the trailhead. All Trails: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/washington/racehorse-falls-trail

From Deming: head southeast on WA-542 East/WA-9 South toward Alder Street for approximately .9 miles. At traffic circle, continue straight on WA-542 East for 2.3 miles. Turn right onto Mosquito Lake Road for .9 miles. Turn left on North Fork Road for 4.8 miles. The trail will be on the right. https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Deming,+Washington/48.88289,-122.12557

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