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Pair of waterfalls make scenic Wynooche trip

<p>Maidenhair Falls cascades into a narrow gorge north of Lake Wynooche.</p>Buy Photo

Maidenhair Falls cascades into a narrow gorge north of Lake Wynooche.

<p>The twin cascades of Wynooche Falls tumble into a grotto about 10 miles north of Lake Wynooche.</p>Buy Photo

The twin cascades of Wynooche Falls tumble into a grotto about 10 miles north of Lake Wynooche.

A pair of picturesque South Olympic waterfalls offer scenic viewing opportunities in close proximity to each other. Wynooche Falls and Maidenhair Falls — gorgeous cascades off the beaten track and not on most maps — aren’t really that hard to reach and offer (nearly) year-round viewing opportunities.

Both are north of Lake Wynooche in the foothills of the southern Olympic Mountains north of Montesano.

With the recent paving of Forest Service Road 22, they now are much easier to reach.

When paved 22 takes a sharp left toward the Wynooche Dam and Coho Campground, continue straight onto gravel 2312 (according to some maps; 2270 on others). Don’t worry about what the road is called; it’s the only one going up the east shore of Lake Wynooche, which you’ll see from time to time.

After about 6 miles is a seasonal wildlife gate that opened at the beginning of May. From here, it’s a little bit less that 2.5 miles to the Wynooche Falls trailhead. A splendid waterfall on the right shortly before you reach the former campground gives a nice precursor to the main thing.

The base for the campground offers a significant landmark to the falls. Park here and head past the berms at the beginning of the decommissioned road. It’s an easy, short jaunt down to the falls.

Water surges over jagged rocks; a low, two-tier punchbowl falls, dropping some 25 feet into a seemingly tranquil-seeming bowl of crystal-clear water.

Maidenhair Falls is just a short drive, or hike away. The road split about a mile back, with one spur crossing the river and the other continuing on to Wynooche Falls and beyond.

Head back and cross the river. Immediately on the left is a turn with signposts marking the distance back to the Wynooche Dam (7.5 miles), East Shore River Ford (1.75 miles) and Coho Campground (8 miles). Don’t make the sharp left down to the river. A second, more obscure, marks the way to Maidenhair Falls, half mile away on the west half of the Wynooche Lake Shore Trail.

The trail meanders up and down and around at a leisurely pace. Follow the “National Recreation Trail” marker to the right in a short distance.

A sturdy bridge crosses the gorge and the falls tumble in frothy, white fury some 20 feet into the gorge.

The Wynooche Dam makes for another scenic stop on the way.

Maidenhair Falls

How long: 0.5 mile one way

How hard: easy

How to get there: From Highway 12, take the Devonshire Road exit at Montesano and drive 32 miles north on Wynoochee Valley Road to a major intersection with Forest Road 2270/2270 just below the Wynooche dam. Drive straight ahead on (gravel) 2312/2270 approximately 6 miles to the gate (closed until April 30). In about 1.5 miles, turn left to cross the bridge over the Wynooche River. Immediately across the river, take a left and park by the trailhead sign for Maidenhair Falls.