The Vance Creek Bridge and High Steel Bridge are two historic bridges in Mason County, Washington. These bridges were built in 1929 for the logging railroad of the Simpson Logging Company. The Simpson Logging Company is the predecessor of the Green Diamond Resource Company which still owns the land around both bridges.
Both bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This means you should treat these places with respect. Enjoy the views and magnificence of these bridges. Don’t leave anything behind and just take pictures.
It’s fairly easy to get to either of the bridges. You will have a paved road up to the last few miles when the road turns into a dirt road as it becomes Forest Service Road. You don’t need any special vehicles to make it up there, a compact car is sufficient. Be aware that it could be very muddy after rainfall and you might not want to attempt the drive without four-wheel drive. The road is in pretty good conditions with some potholes here and there. Once you are on the Forest Service Road, traffic is minimum. You can check Google Maps for directions to the bridge. I used the turn by turn navigation feature of maps and it brought me right where I needed to go. While driving to the bridges, I encountered flooded parts of the W Skokomish Valley Road. There is an old out of service 76 gas station along the road, which makes for a good photo op.
Here are the locations on Google Maps:
Again, please be respectful and stay on the road. Park your car out of the way and don’t block any road or gates. Also, don’t hike down on either side the bridges as it is dangerous and there are posted signs for trespassing.
High Steel Bridge
The High Steel Bridge was built after the Vance Creek Bridge and is spanning the south fork of the Skokomish River. With a length of 685 ft (209 m) and a height of 375 ft (114 m) above the Skokomish River’s South Fork, puts the bridge in as the 14th tallest bridge in the United States. It is the highest railway arch bridge ever built in the United States. Originally the bridge carried a single track of railroad to allow logging trains to haul back timbers to the mills. In 1950, the bridge was converted to road use and got a paved surface with guard rails and a small sidewalk. Be careful, the guard rails on the north side of the bridge are only about 3 feet (1 meter) high. The bridge seems to be located in the middle of nowhere and sometimes the bridge is covered in light to dense fog. This gives the bridge a mysterious feeling.
Don’t try to hike down on either side of the bridge. It’s dangerous and a couple who came here told me about a horrifying story about a man who rescued his kids who climbed down but had to give his life for it. Also, don’t throw down anything of the bridge. There is a bunch of trash on either side of the bridge. Take your trash home and respect this historic site. The Vance Creek Bridge is just a few miles south of the High Steel Bridge.
Vance Creek Bridge
This bridge was built before the High Steel Bridge and trains transported the building material for the High Steel Bridge over this bridge to reach the construction site. Both bridges were built by the American Bridge Company for the Simpson Logging Company. The Vance Creek Bridge spans 827 feet (252 m) over the Vance Creek at a height of 347 feet (106 m), which is slightly less than the High Steel Bridge. It is the second largest arched railroad bridge in the United States.
To get to the bridge you have to take a 0.6 mile (1.1 km) long hike. Park your car near the lot at the locked gate. Don’t drive down the road even when the gate is open. This is all private property and it is open to the public to hike it. On your way, you will see a sign on your left reading “Side View“. Follow this small trail and the red ribbons on the trees to get to an impressive viewpoint of the Vance Creek Bridge. From there you can see the whole bridge. I would highly recommend you to take this trail for the best pictures of the bridge. Why? The actual Vance Creek Bridge is closed and you are not allowed to walk on it or cross it.
Vance Creek Bridge Side View Trail
Vance Creek Bridge Trail
High Steel Bridge
An old bridge with a great view of a river and waterfall. The road over the bridge is still passable.
Take the trail back from the viewpoint and follow the main road/trail and follow it down to the bridge. Thanks to social media, this bridge gained more and more fame over the last few years. Before that, it was only known to locals. Since the bridge is not safe and people vandalized the bridge, Green Diamond Resource Company decided to completely close off the bridge. They dug out the approaches on either side and added razor wire at the supports of the bridge to stop people from climbing the bridge. There are many signs all around the bridge and clearly visible that it is illegal to get on the bridge and to climb it. Many of the railroad ties are already missing and others are rotten. However, that doesn’t stop people from climbing the bridge.
When I visited the razor wire around the approach on the north side was cut. People stacked up woods on the inner side of the approach and a rope was dangling from the top to help people climb the bridge. Remember, it is illegal to climb the bridge and it is trespassing. Sheriffs come out here from time to time and people already got caught and had to pay $150 fines and they would even put them into court. So be aware and stay safe. I visited two days in a row, never climbed the bridge but always saw other people on the bridge. The first day there was a whole group of them out there.
For me, the vandalism is worth than the people climbing the bridge illegally. Some idiots, sorry but there is no other way to say it, set some of the railroad ties in the middle of the bridge on fire, which started another fire at the bottom of the gorge. These people should go to jail not just being fined. Even tho many people climb the bridge illegally, nobody has fallen off the bridge in recent years.
You can hike all the way up to the approach, but don’t climb it. Take the alternative trail to get a side view of the bridge. Take nothing but pictures and stay off the bridge. Police and the owner company are checking regularly. During one of my visits, I met a young woman, who was out here with her friends. We started talking a little bit and she told me that it was her fifth time out here and she climbed the bridge every time so far. Her friends, which are smart, didn’t. Please respect this area and your own life.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.