“We’ve told people to stay off these trails" – teen hiker miraculously survives 400-foot canyon plunge

Teen hiker rescued after falling 400 feet in Washington
Washington officials say what appears to be a trail is actually a dangerous washout used by many hikers (Image credit: Mason County Sheriff's Office)

A Washington teenager is lucky to be alive after falling around 400 feet while hiking over Memorial Day Weekend.

According to a Facebook post by Mason Country Sheriff's Office, which you can view below, the 19-year-old fell down the side of a steep canyon at High Steel Bridge southwest of Hood Canal in Puget Sound on Sunday. Reporting by NBC states that the boy was hiking underneath the bridge on what's described as "a former trail" when he slipped and tumbled all the way down to the Skokomish River below.

Dramatic images show rescue teams from the sheriff's office and fire department rigging up a rope system from a winch on the back of one of their trucks and hoisting the boy to safety. Miraculously, the teenager walked away with minor scrapes to his arms sustained in the long fall.

Posted by masoncosheriff on 

“We’ve told people to stay off these trails because they’re dangerous, but people either haven’t seen the warning signs or are disregarding it,” rescuer Tim Ripp tells NBC.

The bridge itself has been the site of five to seven falls each year, many of which are fatal. Ripp explains that the trail the hiker was on is actually a washout that many people use. It lies underneath the bridge, which at over 420 feet is the tallest road bridge ever built in the US, and according to a 2021 trip report in Washington Area Hikers, the trail is closed because it is too dangerous.

Hikers are reminded to observe trail closures, which can be in place for many reasons including your own safety. When searching for new hiking trails, use a reliable source (not Google Maps) and if you arrive at a new trail and discover it's not as established as you'd expected, don't be afraid to turn back and live to hike another day.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.