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Why is it called Hanging Gardens?

Hanging Gardens is was so aptly named by Wolf Bauer because of the native vegetation perched along the edges of eroding sandstone.  Small Cedars along with other smaller native plants cling to their narrow purchase.

 Women in the Woods discovering the cliffs of Hanging Gardens.

Women in the Woods discovering the cliffs of Hanging Gardens.

Hanging Gardens is a hidden gem that is little known by outsiders.  From its unmarked trail head (find the red gate on the north side of Enumclaw/Franklin Road SE) it is a short walk down an old road and then a primitive trail down to the Green River.

The trail starts as a wide grass footpath through forest and then along a chain link fence on the right.  The fence is to protect city of Black Diamond’s water supply which consists of three under ground springs. On the other side look out for a trail that shoots off to the left.  This undocumented trail meanders along the upper rim of the gorge and eventually connects, via an old grass covered road, that leads to the Icy Creek trail route.

Continue past the chain link and stay on the trail to the right past a widened clearing.  The trail continues downward and is muddy in some places during the wet months.  Towards the bottom, the trail gets significantly steeper as it descends along the sloping ridge line.  Before it reaches a flat area on the left, the trail is steep and there is exposed clay that can be slippery.  Still all the trail is navigable with care and a good pair of shoes or hiking boots.

 Mountain biker navigating the steeper lower section of trail.

Mountain biker navigating the steeper lower section of trail.

The flat area to the left, near the bottom, offers up views downstream and across the river where a large sandstone cliff curves away from the river.  People have used this as an unofficial campsite in the past but camping is not allowed by Washington State Parks on this site.

The trail descends to a flat area through a forest of Cedar, Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir.  As you walk towards the river you get a glimpse of cliff beyond the forest.  A white back drop behind the towering trees.  

 The white sandstone cliff as the sun rises above the edge of the gorge.

The white sandstone cliff as the sun rises above the edge of the gorge.

The trail opens up to a beach that grows and shrinks depending on the river level.  Across from the beach is a 150 sandstone cliff  at the sharp bend in the jade green river.  The "hanging Gardens" of small Cedars and alder along with other smaller native plants cling to their narrow purchase along the edges of eroding sandstone.

 Winter in the gorge.  A time of deeper currents and a quieter shoreline.

Winter in the gorge.  A time of deeper currents and a quieter shoreline.

This spot in the Green River Gorge is great any time of year!  In the fall the orange, yellow, and red colors of autumn contrast with the white cliff wall and the jade green of the river.  In the winter the high water fills the channel and the white water riffles become waves worthy of rafters.  If you are lucky you may even see a white water kayaker or two braving the winter chill to kayak one of Washington State’s top 10 white water runs.  In the spring the new green pops as vine and giant maple along with alder leaves create a new canopy.  Western sword and fiddlehead ferns unfurl and fill in the space between Salal and Oregon Grape.

Then there is summer.  In the late summer the towering wall and thick native forest create a private, deep pool that is ideal for taking a dip and cooling off.

In the warm evenings, the air will be filled with sparrows who have emerged from their hiding places nestled in the cliff walls.  They dart like agile aviators as they catch insects for an evening meal.

 Evening brings long shadows, darting swallows, and the occasional fish jumping out of the deep green pool.

Evening brings long shadows, darting swallows, and the occasional fish jumping out of the deep green pool.

Advice

For information about driving directions, access, and a map visit now posted on the Outdoor Project's website at: Green River Gorge Swimming Hole

The best time to swim in the Gorge is in July and August when the river levels is generally low enough to swim safely.  The best days are the really hot ones!  

For some of the best views of the gorge, head 2.0 miles further northeast on Enumclaw Franklin Road SE all the way to the Bridge Overlook at the Green River Gorge Resort, where under ground springs emerge as waterfalls cascading down into a narrow green alley surrounded by moss covered sandstone.

For more photos of Hanging Gardens.