Donut Falls Rappel – Trip Report

Donut Falls often fills to capacity with hikers during the warmer months, but not in winter. I pulled into the parking lot at about 6:30 am, with just enough light to see without a light. No other cars were in the parking lot.

Donut Falls Rappel
Early dawn at the Donut Falls Trailhead

I planned to run the 1.6 miles to the falls in quick time.

Donut Falls Rappel
Donut Falls trail

My intention was to rappel through the donut hole from above into the waterfall chamber. I wasn’t sure I’d actually be able to rap through the donut hole because the water flow can get very strong. It was already early April so warmer, longer days were melting plenty of snow.

I forged ahead with high hopes that I’d be able to rappel donut falls into the waterfall chamber.

Donut Falls Rappel
Donut Falls from within the waterfall chamber

I got an early start to the day for several reasons. Leaving early would mean colder air and harder snow which is better for running on and also means less snowmelt coming down the waterfall. I also thought I’d see fewer people if I was up early.

On the trail

When I got on the trail, my plan seemed to be panning out. The snow was hard, the air was still, and I was alone.

I ran on the pavement until I got to the trail. In the summertime the gate at the main road is open and you can drive further up to the upper trailhead. In winter, the gate is closed so you have to start at the main road.

We’ve had a ton of snow this year and even though it’s April, there’s still plenty of snow on the trail.

Donut Falls Rappel
Plenty of snow

My main concern was that too much water would be flowing in the stream that I wouldn’t be able to rappel through the donut hole.

Things looked promising as I progressed up the trail. After a bit, the trail and the stream bed merge. At this point I had high hopes because the stream was still entirely snow covered.

donut falls rappel
Trail on top of snow covered stream bed

I ran a bit further up the trail and before I long I arrived at Donut Falls.

At Donut Falls

The Donut Falls waterfall chamber has two entrances.

This is the lower entrance that goes in through the side.

Donut Falls Rappel
Side entrance to Donut Falls waterfall chamber

I put on my headlamp and slid down inside the chamber on my back to check it out.

Donut Falls rappel
Inside the Donut Falls waterfall chamber

The waterfall was flowing, but there was enough space that it looked like I could rappel without getting totally drenched. I also thought I’d be able to land the rappel without getting my feet too wet.

I crawled back out of the chamber and went up to the actual falls.

Donut Falls rappel
Donut Falls donut hole

This is the donut hole I planned to rappel into from above. Most of the water was falling on the outside edge of the hole and I would be rappelling on the inside edge so I figured I could stay mostly dry.

Donut Falls Rappel

I put on my harness and helmet and proceeded to hike up above Donut Falls to set up my rappel. The snow here was soft and deep so it took some work to get up the slope.

donut falls rappel
Climbing above Donut Falls to set the rappel

I trudged through the snow to a big tree above the donut hole and tied my rappelling rope to the tree with a retrace figure eight. I tossed my rope, hooked in, and began my descent.

Learn how to rappel safely here.

Here’s a video of my rappel


Successful rappel into Donut Falls

Despite the spring weather, I got my rappel in without getting pounded by the falls.

After my rappel, I made my way down the trail pretty quickly.

Learn more about winter trail running here.

Read about my winter ascent of the Pfeifferhorn here.

Donut Falls Rappel - Trip Report

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