Three waterfalls, multiple viewing areas, and two different trailheads provide great choices for an excursion to Little Mashel Falls. The tallest waterfall plunges over 90 feet. The falls are not “little”. The names derive from the Little Mashel River (pronounced like “Michelle”). The official names are Lower Little Mashel Falls, Little Mashel Falls, and Tom Tom Falls, but they are more commonly referred to as Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls, respectively.
The two trails, Pack Forest and Bud Blancher, meet at a 3-way junction between the Lower and Middle falls. Both involve walking a crushed rock road/trail for much of the route. The Pack Forest trail has no facilities. It starts along a network of old roads which require more care to stay on the route, but also allow for much wandering if that is your plan. (Have a map.) The Pack Forest trail provides access to views unavailable from the Blancher Trail: Mount Rainier, and the lovely terraced cascade that heads south from the top of Tom Tom Falls. It has slightly more elevation gain and can be quite muddy where the trail leaves the road. Both trailheads are open year-round. If there are no maps on the Pack Forest trailhead kiosk, there may be some outside the second brown administration building to the right.
From the kiosk, start uphill on “1000 Rd North”. Stay on the main road, at a quarter mile coming to a gate. The “Do Not Enter” sign applies to vehicles, allowing for “Hike In Only”. Continue through young growth forest, passing other roads on either side, as shown on the map. At 1.4 miles, note the intersection with Road 1050 on the right and 1060 on the left. The next junction will be unsigned, and the one you want. So at 1.9 miles, go left on Road 1070 at the ‘Y’ (unmarked). The forest becomes open meadows, with a possible glimpse of Mount Rainier.
Continue straight until 2.1 miles, where a rock is painted with the word “FALLS” pointing left. (Straight ahead leads to a glimpse view of the terraced cascade around Tom Tom Falls.) Go left on dirt/mud trail, around a pond, and down a steep slope into the forest. At 2.3 miles is a 3-way junction that is shared by the two trails.
From the shared junction, uphill to the northeast 450 feet is another junction. To the left (unmarked) is the Middle Falls, the tallest and arguably the best. For Middle Falls, go left 100 feet to an unsigned junction. Left again leads to the base of Middle Falls; right leads to the top. Proper footwear is essential here. Footing can be treacherously slick, and fatalities have occurred. Be careful.
When back on the main trail, follow the sign to the right about 800 feet for a view of Upper Falls, about 150 feet distant. At the top of the falls, the Little Mashel River splits. Part of it tumbles down a terraced cascade to the south, which then makes a U-turn to the north. You would need to wade this to get close to the falls.
Note: The land surrounding the falls has varied ownership, by the University of Washington, the city of Eatonville, and the City of Tacoma (the railroad above Tom Tom Falls - strictly off limits.) Please know where you are, and respect property rights. This is not a park, and there are no garbage cans. Pack it in; pack it out.
WTA Pro Tip: The best times to visit the falls are not during peak runoff when heavy spray can interfere with photography and staying dry.