Explorer Falls, also known as Wheeler Falls, is an easy hike up a gravel road that borders the Lake Chaplain Watershed. From the trailhead to the base of the falls is a little over a mile, but is an easy walk for kids and families.
Length: 2.5 miles roundtrip
Gain: 250 ft.
Highest Point: 850 feet
Pets: No information provided (on leash recommend since this trail is used by families)
Level for Families: Easy trail; Moderate to scamper up to the base of the falls; Moderate if you venture to the top of the falls
Pass / Cost: No pass needed; FREE
Trailhead Co-ordinates: 47.9753, -121.8471
There is ample parking and can fill up on the weekends. As you walk the dirt road, you will most likely hear some gunshots from target practice and hunting. This trail is visited often and can lead to quite a bit of litter. Be kind and make sure to pack out your garbage.
This is an easy trail, but there are some areas where you will climb over and around logs and rocks. Nothing too crazy, but this makes the trail not stroller friendly.
Most areas have friendly markings from other visitors showing you the way. You’ll walk through two metal gates along the trail. Note the message “This way to falls!” below.
On our first visit to the falls, someone had kindly created an arrow to the falls turnoff. Our second visit didn’t have the arrow, but there were some minor markings. The turn off will be on the right hand side once you hit a bit of a fork in the road. Turn off in to the trees, do not continue to follow the road.
As you turn in to the woods, you’ll hear the falls! You just need to follow a short trail to a rocky river bed with fallen trees. A path can be seen to the right side of the bed, but will take some rock climbing as you continue to the base of the falls. Depending on the time of year you visit, the water level can be quite different. If you have very small children with you, this is where you’ll want to keep an eye on them. Mossy and wet rocks can be very slippery, but really the worst that may happen is some wet shoes. On a hot day, it may be welcomed!
Before you continue down the bed, you can turn to the right and head up a series of switchbacks to the top of the falls. The trail is worn in places and takes some balancing. It is not recommended for very small children. We went with my 8 and 9 year old and only had one slip down a steep part of the trail. I did NOT allow my children to visit the top edge of the falls, but rather my husband ventured to the edge for some pictures as we took a snack break along the stream.
This is a very fun trail and great for the kids. You can sit anywhere along the river bed below the falls to enjoy some climbing, snacks, lunch and simple fun. On a warm day, come ready to play in the water and cool off!
Here’s the difference in water flow from summer and spring: SUMMER 2018 on the left; SPRING 2019 on right.