Want to visit the partially frozen Franklin Falls depicted in dramatic photos? Take the correct Interstate 90 exit or face a four- to six-hour round-trip snow hike.

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Yes, it was a dramatic photo of the partially frozen Franklin Falls taken by The Times’ Erika Schultz. Like a fairy-tale image, but real.

You decided you had to see the falls for yourself.

According to Google Maps, Franklin Falls is only an hour’s drive from Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Perfect for a little trip after your morning latte.

The story with Erika’s photo warned about hiking in the winter in the mountains: “Be wary of slippery road and trail conditions, dress for snow. …”

But what did a whole bunch of you do?

“I saw people getting out in tennis shoes, going out with little kids,” says Kent Verbeck, who works part time in security at The Summit at Snoqualmie after retiring as its security manager.

A short hike with a big payoff, Franklin Falls is one of the most popular hikes for families and casual hikers. In winter, it’s a slippery, frozen wonderland. (Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)

Hiking safety

Hiking can be dangerous at times. Here are five tips from the Washington Trails Association for going prepared and staying safe:

1. Check the latest trail conditions: Read how others have fared when choosing a hike. Contact the local ranger station for current conditions.
2. Let someone know where you’re going: Let them know your intended destination and when you plan to return, and update them if plans change.
3. Pack the 10 Essentials:
  • Topographic map
  • Compass
  • Water and a way to purify it
  • Extra food
  • Rain gear and warm clothing
  • Fire starter and matches
  • Sun protection
  • Pocketknife
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
An emergency shelter, hiking poles, ice ax and snowshoes are also worth considering, depending on the season and where you’re going.
4. Watch the weather forecast: Conditions can change minute by minute. Don’t force a hike. If the conditions aren’t right, save it for another day.
5. Beware of hunters: Wear orange clothing and make noise while you hike if you’re traveling in hunting zones during hunting season.

The driving instructions in the story said to take Interstate 90 Exit 47 for Denny Creek.

Instead — either because the GPS said it’s closer or there was too much congestion at the first exit from people wanting to see the falls — many of you drove farther up to Exit 52, the West Summit, and then to a Forest Service road covered in up to 4 feet of snow. It’s obviously closed in the winter. The GPS didn’t mention that.

At the entrance of that closed road (NF-58) on the way to Alpental ski resort, the state’s highway department had pushed about 10 feet of snow.

“People were climbing over it,” says Verbeck. “They were parking illegally. They think that it’s just a little walk.”

No, says Verbeck, in the snow it’d be more like 4 to 6 hours round-trip — if you had the proper equipment. That’d be hiking boots with crampons so you didn’t slip on the ice.

On Monday, Verbeck spent a couple of hours telling people not to try NF-58.

“Forty carloads of people,” he estimates. “I did it as a courtesy. I could see this as a potential disaster.”

He says the area where people parked illegally is at a “90 degree curve with a little slope. In the wintertime, it can get really slick. You’re going a little too fast and you’ll smash into a car.”

City types going out in sneakers into the mountain snow is old news to Kenny Kramer, director of the Northwest Avalanche Center.

“They’re young, they’re invincible,” he says.

Those beautiful mountains, well, says Kramer, they sure do look inviting. “From our warm homes.”