Of the many Bigfoot sightings compiled on the Internet, the number in Washington is striking. If you look into what kind of territory the reports suggest the creature prefers, maybe that’s no surprise.
Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, seems to appear where wilderness and civilization meet, usually areas with plenty of water and heavy woods. Another thing many sighting sites have in common: brushy, sloping foothills where huckleberries flourish. Who can blame Sasquatch for loving huckleberries?
Interest in Bigfoot is as high as ever. An enterprise called the Sasquatch Genome Project recently made a splash by claiming it had DNA analysis proving Bigfoot’s existence. The Animal Planet show “Finding Bigfoot” has its season premiere in November.
Washington Bigfoot tales go back decades, maybe even centuries: furry bipedal figures striding across roads or meadows, unexplained vaguely human- or ape-like screams echoing through forests, giant footprints left in mud or snow.
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For a number of people here, the search is more of a lifelong hobby than a passing fancy. A handful of groups based here go on regular expeditions looking for evidence.
Decades after a sighting in his youth, retired military man Kevin Jones joined up with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, or BFRO. The avid outdoorsman has since led BFRO camping trips with the “squatch-curious,” hoping to “let them enjoy what I’ve enjoyed.”
He says the rules for seeing Sasquatch are the same as for finding any wildlife: Be patient and keep your eyes on the forest, especially at night.
If nothing else, searching for Sasquatch is an excuse to spend time outdoors — spots big on sightings also tend to be great for recreation. I’m with comedian-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait, who’s touring the festival circuit with “Willow Creek,” a Bigfoot-themed horror film: “If you go looking for Bigfoot and you don’t find him, the byproduct is you went camping.”
Just in time for Halloween, when things go bump in the night, here are some of Washington’s most prominent Sasquatch sites, along with some nice hikes to take while you’re looking.
1. Mount St. Helens
Sample sightings: The whole St. Helens area is rife with reported sightings, from footprints near Morton and Mossyrock to strange footsteps and loud howls on the mountain’s south flank. One of the most famous — and violent — Bigfoot sightings ever occurred in Ape Canyon, on the mountain’s southeast slope, in 1924. Prospector Fred Beck and four other men claimed “hairy apes” or “abominable snowmen” attacked their cabin in the night, jumping on the roof and pounding on the walls.
“A most profound and frightening experience occurred when one of the creatures, being close to the cabin, reached an arm through the chinking space and seized one of our axes by the handle,” Beck later wrote in a short book, “I Fought The Apemen of Mount St. Helens, WA.”
While you’re looking: The Ape Canyon Trail is 11 miles long (round-trip) and popular with mountain bikers; nearby Lava Canyon is 5 miles round-trip. Even if you don’t see Sasquatch, the geology of these lahar-carved canyons is fascinating. If you want to really scare yourself, hike into Ape Caves to the west and imagine Bigfoot hiding out in one of the dark lava tubes. Details: wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/ape-canyon
2. Mount Rainier foothills
Sample sightings: The area between Puget Sound and Mount Rainier is one of the state’s most “squatchy.” For some reason, a slew of sightings have happened in the forests east of Fort Lewis, and recent footprint reports have come from the shores of Alder Lake and others.
While you’re looking: On a recent sunny weekend, I hiked the Glacier View trail just west of the national park. It’s one of a handful of trails that get close to that side of Mount Rainier. From atop a rocky knob above treeline, I got an in-your-face view of the snow-packed peak. The weather wasn’t conducive to sightings, but who needs Bigfoot when you have that big mountain? Details: wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/glacier-view-1
3. Along the coast
Sample sightings: One of the most startling reports on the BFRO website comes from Ocean Shores, where last winter a man reported a creature on his property described as “hairy and brown, with silver gray hair on its back. It reminded me of a giant pile of steel wool.” The man said the creature looked right at him, crawled on all fours and then, once it was in the forest, stood upright and walked away.
This is one of many sightings in the diverse landscape between the coast and the mountains all the way from Grays Harbor up and around the Olympic Peninsula.
While you’re looking: Aside from beachcombing and hiking, there’s a lot of non-Bigfoot wildlife to spot in the tidelands and hills surrounding the Olympic Mountains. Trails tend to be muddy at this time of year, so stick to flat lowland options like the 8-mile (round-trip) Spruce Railroad Trail on the shores of Lake Crescent — and keep your eyes peeled for giant tracks. Details: wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/spruce-railroad
4. Walla Walla / Blue Mountains
Sample sightings: Kevin Jones says he had his first sighting in “the Blues”: Looking through his hunting rifle scope, he saw an upright figure walking swiftly across a hillside. “I felt guilty pointing my rifle at it because it was so human,” he said. Campers, hunters and hikers on both sides of the Washington-Oregon border have reported seeing a biped wander across a slope or finding giant tracks in the snow.
While you’re looking: The Oregon Butte trail southeast of Dayton is 6 miles round-trip and takes you up to a fire lookout that also makes a great wildlife-watching spot. Details: wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/oregon-butte
Christy Karras is a Seattle-based freelance writer.