Sholes Creek

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Sholes Creek Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
Also known as: Sholes Creek Falls.
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Difficulty:3C3 II (v4a5 IV)
Raps:‌3, max ↨190ft
Overall:3-5.5h ⟷0.4mi
Approach:1-1.5h ↑600ft
Descent:1.5-3h ⟷528ft ↑250ft
Exit:25-40min ↑150ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Condition Reports:
10 Sep 2023

"This is one great rappel. Literally. Other than the 120' falls rappel, there is nothing of value to a canyoneer. The water is opaque making it essenti

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Sholes Creek is a high flow, glacier fed canyon in the Baker Snoqualmie National Forest in northern Washington. It features a spectacular sequence coming down the two-tiered Sholes Creek Falls into a large amphitheater. Because this creek is fed primarily from glacier and snow melt, the descent window is quite short at the end of summer/early fall when temperatures begin to cool down.

A 150’ rope is needed to rappel into the canyon.

To check water level, walk the Bar Creek gravels from the bridge on the east side of the creek to the confluence with Sholes Creek.


Drive: From the Mt. Baker Highway (SR-542), turn right onto Forest Road 33. Be sure to stop at Nooksack Falls, a view of these massive cascades is a 30 second walk from the parking area. Continue for just under 6 miles to the bridge crossing Bar Creek. There is plenty of parking by the bridge on either side.

Approach: From the bridge, cut into the brush on the east side of Bar Creek. There is an emerging use trail. Head up the hillside gaining 400 feet, being careful not to drop down into the valley. You may even see signs of an old road that zig zags up the hillside here. After about 0.4 miles, scramble down the hillside about 200' until it becomes noticeably steeper. You are aiming for 48.8534, -121.7717. Look for webbing around a white, double trunked tree.

R0: 150' from double white tree. There is a patch of thick Devil's Club at the bottom. Beware first person down.


DCR = Down Canyon Right

DCL = Down Canyon Left


From the drop in point, it is easy to scramble up canyon into a very pretty narrows and another short falls. This is definitely worth a look before heading down the canyon. Proceeding down canyon from the drop in point, you immediately encounter a short drop. There is a downclimb DCR to a ledge 3 feet above the pool, or downclimb DCL up and over for a dirty downclimb.

Downclimb/scramble down canyon about 100yds until you reach a 20’ drop into a logjam pool. This pool can be bypassed by downclimbing DCR. This downclimb is a quite exposed. Consider rigging a handline or using a partner assist.

Carefully cross the creek to a series of ledges on CL. Avoid the pool here which directly spills over the first tier of the big sequence. Traverse the ledges on CL to a rocky platform.

Sholes Creek Falls Sequence

R1: 90’ DCL from a pair of unlinked bolts. Rappel down a dryfall 45’ to a ledge. In high water stay on rope to exit the pool DCL. Climb up and over the massive root ball of a fallen tree. The anchor for R2 is on the left side of the crack on the other side of the root ball about 3 feet below the root ball. Hard to see at first, but easy once you set eyes on it.

R2: 120’ DCL from 2-bolt webbing anchor into a shallow pool. Set the rappel line over the rocky outcrop on the right in the direction of the main falls. While this line may look intimidating, it is predominantly dry unless rappeler makes a concerted effort to lean into the flow without slipping. It is possible to get under the flow for about 30 feet, but gravity ultimately wins and pulls the rappeler to a dry line. Alternatively, rappel to the left of the rock outcropping for a dry and dirty rappel, being careful not to scrape off the delicate moss coating. Be wary of loose debris and rockfall on the dry side.


By continuing the approach hike up to 3400' elevation and then dropping, you are rewarded with 2 more small rappels, some additional downclimbing and creek walking to the standard drop in.


Creek walk 500 feet and several short downclimbs to the confluence with Bar Creek. Follow the gravel bars on either side of Bar Creek 600 feet to the bridge.

For a work out, just below the amphitheater, cross the creek to a handline DCR rigged up the hillside. Climb up a 200' gain to the end of the rope. Free climb another 50' until you can finally start down to lose the elevation you have just gained. You will work up a sweat. Follow this trail across the hillside back to open forest from the approach. Descend back to the vehicles.

Red tape

Beta sites

Trip reports and media

Photo album from the first descent:


Sholes Creek Falls was first descended on 9/6/2020 by Kevin Steffa, Tiffanie Lin, Haruka-James Clay Lipscomb, Erik Bernhoft, and Jake Huddleston.


Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

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