Spirit Falls Exploration C4

Spirit Falls on the Little White Salmon River Skamania County Washington.

In the previous edition of Curious Gorge I errantly gave directions down to Spirit Falls via a route crossing over a parcel of private land.  This was a mistake and I regret the damage that I helped cause to the land owned by the Crow family.  It was my error.  When I first wrote about accessing Sprit Falls back in 2010 there really was no path at all down to the falls.  However, since then there have developed a number of different footpaths, most of which illegally trespass down over the posted “no trespass” private Crow land.  But, there is one path that goes down the rugged steep loose dangerous slope on land owned by Washington Fish and Wildlife, and then once it gets “beneath” the Crow property, this path then crosses onto the private land owned by SDS Lumber Company on which Spirit Falls sits.   Thus, there is no completely legal way to access Spirit Falls, except that SDS is often kind and generous in letting visitors access some of their timber lands for recreational purposes.  Currently their are no posted “no trespass” signs on the SDS property.  The SDS property begins just as the footpath nears Spirit Falls, just before the tiny flowing creek that you need to step over.  If you look uphill just before the creek you’ll see a yellow-signed “Witness Post” indicating the SDS land boundary.  All access to Spirit Falls is thus contingent on the goodwill of SDS and can be restricted at ANY TIME!  This means visitors need to be on their best behavior and to help others be on their best behavior too.  No Smoking, no fires…of course no littering.  Please pick up any trash left by the less conscientious.

I have personally met with the Crows and they are super nice and conscientious people.  They have and have had legitimate concerns about visitors trespassing over their land.  People were making all kinds of braided paths.  Not only that, but people would often disrespect and “mouth off” to the Crows as if the visitor had some inalienable right to trespass to see Spirit Falls.  I don’t blame the Crows at all for getting mad at some of the rude visitors they’ve had to put up with….and I take at least some of the blame for alerting the public to the existence of Spirit Falls.  I’m personally embarrassed that I made the mistake of directing Curious Gorge readers down over the private property to the north of the semi-signposted Fish and Wildlife lands.  Hopefully these maps will help eliminate future conflicts and hopefully SDS will continue its good-neighbor policies if visitors treat Spirit Falls and all the surrounding private land with the utmost respect.



Sprit Falls, Little White Salmon River

Sprit Falls, Little White Salmon River

28 thoughts on “Spirit Falls Exploration C4

  1. Unfortunately, access to Spirit Falls as of 5-25-15 has been closed off, or at least the landowner has posted no trespassing signs at the access point to hike down to the falls. Other hikers reported their cars and license plates were being photographed and a not-so-nice note left on their windshields by the landowner.

  2. it Looks like it is private property and the owner is
    I haven’t checked to see if there is an alternate route but just south of the original “path” is Federal GOV land….

    1. Craig there is a beautiful natural asset there, true. That’s just the first step though. Your lack of respect for the land – destruction of the hillside you describe in your original post – and lack of contrition regarding your trespass/harm of Anita’s property is shocking to me. It has turned me off of the entire curious gorge site, for which I formally had respect. I think that you get a lot more response and cooperation from the Crow family with an apology/acknowledgement of what Anita has written. I don’t know the Crows but I would happily support their stewardship of this asset and the land in general, even it means fewer people get to see it. Do right by nature enthusiasts please and remove your original post until you can be responsible.

      1. For some reason I just got this…I have no Idea what I said that Jim is jumping on me!?!? I have not gone down to Spirit Falls since I had any knowledge of a trespassing issue and for sure since signs were posted. I also have property in the National Scenic area and do not condone trespassing or destruction of trails or property!!! Jim, are you sure I am the person you wanted to reference???

  3. Thank you to those who do not trespass on our land, which my parents purchased in 1957. I am afraid the slope will never be restored where illegal trails now exist; such a shame even the nicest of people have no respect for the land/landowner. And shame on the Curious Gorge author and publisher who failed to determine land ownership and therefore show a photo of people on private land and direct folks to use private land.

  4. Thank you for asking. It appears enough people are going down to the falls by going out the spiny narrow ridge and then off the ridge towards the falls that a “trail” is visible. This route is on U. S. Fish & Wildlife land. I do not know how the USF&W feels about this situation. However, you should note the land along the west and east shore of the falls itself is private, in the ownership of a local timber company. Land ownership in Skamania County is easily found by going the the County Assessor’s web site and viewing their “aerial search” map. If you click on a parcel it will tell you who the recorded owner is. Although the line on the map may be off some, it is easy for anyone to tell who owns the land between the Cook Underwood Road and the Little White Salmon river.

  5. It appears enough people have gone out the spiny narrow ridge south of our land, and down off the ridge towards the falls, that a trail is visible. This route is on U. S. Fish & Wildlife land. I have not talked to the local USF&W Manager regarding this situation and do not plan to do so. It should be noted however, that the land on both sides of the river at the falls is private, in the ownership of a local timber resource company. Land ownership in Skamania County is very easily found on the Assessor’s web site using their aerial map search option. It seems you have already done this and I thank you for that.

    1. Hi Anita,
      Thank you for taking the time to help educate people, regarding visiting these falls. I am planning to photograph there next week. I am a reputable photographer who has done everything possible to respect the land and it’s owners. For clarity, are you able to let me know where I can park and hike to the falls, so I can be sure that I do not intrude onto your land?
      Thank you,

      1. David, head down the path from the corner of the parking area (SE), the corner overlooking the hatchery down below. That path, on Fish & Wildlife lands, initially over talus rocks, skirts the Crow property and once below the Crow property it skirts left (north) and crosses onto SDS Lumber property. Spirit is on SDS land…you can see the boundary posts if you look around right before you get to the little bitty creek you hop across. Hope that helps….scott

      2. SLC (Broughton / SDS Lumber) owns the plot of land next to the falls. They have some helpful information about hiking on their property here:


        and here:


        They seem pretty open to people responsibly using their land for recreational hiking and the like:

        “We are glad to share our lands with the public and hope our friends enjoy the recreation opportunities our commercial forest lands provide”

  6. Yes Craig, I’m sorry if it sounded preachy, but such is electronic communication. My comment was aimed at you because you’re an outdoor nature blogger but you’re missing the points:

    Anita was clearly bummed at the destruction of the hillside, and has made it clear (like the signs did) that it was private property (on both sides of the falls). I don’t know her, but I think she’s been overly reasonable with you. (for the record I love the Curious Gorge book & have bought several copies; I’m taking issue with just this post for these reasons):

    Your original post says:

    We … were immediately confused – there were… signs that read “Private Property: No Trespassing. Not exactly helpful.”

    You go on however: “we decided to trek down the hillside regardless of the signs; we had driven more than three hours in the blasting heat of an unusually hot day, and Spirit Falls is supposed to be a public area. Screw the private property signs.”

    Ok, so you don’t respect private property at all. No biggie, I’m hip to a little rebellion there. But you go on to describe your own impact on ecosystem, which is not good stewardship of the land:

    “The hillside …is steep. Very steep. And it is a tricky hill to navigate, … moss covered rocks that move at the slightest touch. … a rock turned under my foot, fortunately the result was only a few scrapes, no serious injuries. …The rocks were covered in moss, but the moss was dry and dead, crunching under our feet as we descended.”

    You have a picture of the “hike” down, where a bunch of vegetation has been disturbed.

    I’m sorry to seem the asshole of “asshole hill” here. But you don’t seem to show the kind of respect for the land that is due. For your information, there are not 13 falls in the area, there are HUNDREDS. And many of them are quite off the beaten path, not on maps, etc.

    I’m sorry to preach and I didn’t mean to make you feel badly; I just didn’t feel you were respecting Anita’s excellent points. These falls are, unfortunately, inaccessible for public exploration. For some REALLY great falls, hikes, swimholes, etc., explore any river in the Gifford Pinchot lands, or follow the Washougal WAY up onto logging land where hiking and swimming are permitted.

    Thanks for understanding

    1. Hey Jim, it took me a long time to post this comment because I was puzzled by it and who/what you were referring to, but eventually I just said “what the hell” and clicked “approve”. Alas. Anyhow, for your info, I do take my responsibility seriously as an author, and since Anita had alerted me to my wrong I had since changed my book, but all the old copies still had my errant directions. I have met with the Crow and we have come to an understanding as to their issues and my errors. I now know EXACTLY where all the boundary corners are…and I know exactly how much you have to venture on to SDS Lumber lands to see Spirit at all…..and I hope to have all new directions in my upcoming revised/expanded 4th edition of Curious Gorge. Cheers, scott

  7. Craig I apologize – my screen was showing the blog in a way that made it look like you were the author of the original post.

    My comments are (obviously) aimed at the original blogger “tomtptiv”

    Craig I owe you beers and I’m sorry!

    As for tomtptiv, my comments stand!

  8. Regarding the land owned by SDS Lumber (SLC) bordering spirit falls, they seem fairly open to people responsibly using their land for recreational hiking and the like.



    “We are glad to share our lands with the public and hope our friends enjoy the recreation opportunities our commercial forest lands provide.”

  9. Ted, there is ample room to park along the Cook Underwood Road’s south side, just before you reach the big 90 degree left corner, well before you reach Mile Post 2. Our property is clearly marked in this area and there is no reason to trespass. Most people are not trespassing, and are going out the spiny narrow ridge off the end of the big corner, after you get about half way out the ridge they have made a new trail going northeasterly down towards the river. If you come up the this same way you will not be trespassing, see the purple line on Scott’s map. We put signs up on the scree slope, but we still have trouble with people tearing them out down and coming up the old trails made in previous years.

    Thank you for contacting us, enjoy,
    it is pretty hazardous down there this time of year especially, with all the rain.

    1. Sorry if I caused any confusion, I meant that there is land owned by SDS bordering yours that also leads to the falls. They seem okay with folks hiking on it, so taking the alternate route (off your property) is a viable alternative. I certainly wouldn’t want people trespassing on my land either

      1. The only other land bordering the cook underwood road is US Fish and Wildlife land, SDS does not have land providing access to the falls from the road.

      2. Ted, there is no land owned by SDS or Broughton along the Cook Underwood Road which provides access to Spirit Falls. SDS/Broughton own the land around the falls itself, and up hill towards the Road in one small area, but our land borders the Cook Underwood Road on both sides from near the big horseshoe bend, where we have rocks along our south boundary, all the way North up the Cook Underwood Road, up hill and way past where our mail boxes are at, we own both sides of the road. Our land is posted all the way up the Road on the east side, but not all the way on the west side. The Skamania County Assessor has a glitch in the parcel boundary at one point. We had our land surveyed prior to posting our No Trespassing Signs. The only way to access Spirit Falls from the Cook Underwood Road is via US F & W land, then on to SDS/Broughton land. Please do not encourage trespassing, double check to ensure the facts. Drop in to discuss if you’d like. Indeed SDS/Broughton are the best neighbors. They support our community. They issue permits for use of their land, and allow such within reason, no fires however! It is that time of year again.

  10. This is a fantastic discussion on this topic. Really grateful for all the clarification and the Legal route down to spirit falls. Will spread the word on the appropriate route to take to access the falls.

  11. THIS discussion clears up a lot of confusion! Thank you for taking the time to thoroughly research and for discussing it personally with Anita, and providing maps.
    It still seems prudent to NOT advertise this falls any more than we already have as photographers. Currently it seems to be on the bucket list of a large number of photographers. I worry about all the lovely moss being destroyed, too many footsteps

    .Unfortunately, well meaning websites like this make it worse.

    While this website added a message https://www.theoutbound.com/washington/hiking/hike-to-spirit-falls About no public access.

  12. This place looks absolutely gorgeous and I would like to see it. I totally respect no trespassing through private properties so before I go, is there a path to it without trespassing?

    Thank you!

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