You wouldn’t think a trio of foaming falls are tucked away in an emerald forest just a few minutes off a busy highway. But they are. The Porter Falls Trail starts at the Porter Creek Campground. The campground is near the rural town of Elma, Washington and about four windy miles off Highway 12 through the Lilliputian town of Porter.
Indeed, the Porter Falls Trail out of Southwest Washington’s Capitol State Forest is a bit of a misnomer. It’s actually three falls within a stone’s throw of each other. None will dethrone Niagara Falls. But it’s a nice lunch stop, with plenty of shade and laughing water as the creek sluices over rocks and boulders to join the Chehalis River.
The Porter Falls Trail is an easy, mostly level out-and-back trail of about a mile and a half RT. There’s a short stretch of uphill, but it’s brief. This family-friendly trail is pert and pretty. It’s a nice walk through a thick old growth forest draped with moss, ferns, and lots of shade.
The rocks near the falls are reportedly very slick when wet, so exercise due caution as indicated.
For an additional hike, back-track up the dirt road about half a mile from the campground and pull into a small unpaved parking area on your right. It has a Discover Pass required sign. Park here and hike around the Porter Trail, another loop trail of about a mile or so.
Unless you’re working on your tan, you may want to leave this brief, mildly uphill loop trail for a cloudy day. It meanders through an open clear cut with sweeping views of tree-studded ridges bristling with conifers. It’s also quiet. If you hike the Porter Trail on a Tuesday afternoon in June, as we did, you’ll probably have the trail to yourself. But the loop is all out in the open, through a major clear-cut, littered with decapitated logs bleached silver by the sun. Read: NO SHADE.
Plan accordingly. Leashed dogs okay.
To reach the trailhead, drive Highway 12 west to Porter Creek Road, which goes right through the small town of Porter. Red’s Hop N’ Market which also serves as the post office is located near the right turn onto Porter Creek Road. The trailhead is across the road from Porter Creek Campground which is about 4.5 miles from Highway 12.