A Summer Adventure in the Green River Gorge
If you are looking for something fun to do on a hot (very hot) summer day, a trip to Hanging Gardens in the Green River Gorge is one of those off-the-beaten Path adventures.
Getting there is half the adventure. Hanging Gardens is located in Southeast King County between Black Diamond and Enumclaw. The access is off of a country road that passes by a few houses and then continues on. It passes by future roads that currently are gated and lead to nowhere in particular. Locals know that the gate just pass the old gravel pit leads to Hanging Gardens. You’d barely register it as you drive by as there is a lonely gate with a few dirt pullouts beside the gate and across the road. There aren’t any official signs (last time I looked) so you have to use the information and directions on Outdoor Project’s website listed below.
Once you find the trail, behind the gate, it is pretty straight forward. Follow the trail downward. It will hug along a chain link fence to the right for awhile (the city of Black Diamond’s water supply). Then it continues past a more open area before the trail narrows and enters the forest before dropping down more steeply to the river. As you descend the cedars grow taller. You catch glimpses of the white sandstone cliffs as you get closer to the river. At the end the trail emerges onto a rocky beach and across the river is a three hundred foot sandstone cliff face with ferns, bushes, and trees growing out of pockets of sandstone.
Its one of those places that can make you feel like a Huckleberry Finn as you adventure off the beaten path and into the wild river corridor. When the water is low it is a kid friendly destination. There are hanging gardens on the cliff walls, swallows darting through the air, and round rocks to skip at the water’s edge. At low water you can hike along the shoreline and see different geology exposed such as coal walls, sandstone shelves, and other rock formations. If you are lucky you might catch the flight of an eagle, osprey, or Kingfisher. If you are even luckier you might catch a glimpse of a river otter.
It is usually safe to go there to swim in mid July and August. Visit the American Whitewater website for up to date information on the water level flowing through the Gorge. Anything above 300 cfs is too high for swimming. Always consider a life jacket and if you are unsure if it is safe to swim ordon’t go. Also never go in the water to swim in the spring and early summer.
For detailed information on directions to get to Hanging Gardens and trail information visit Outdoor Project’s “Green River Gorge Swimming Hole”