Vance Creek Viaduct – Shelton, Washington - Atlas Obscura

Shelton, Washington

Vance Creek Viaduct

The second tallest railway trestle bridge in America proved too much of a draw, and is now off-limits thanks to social media. 

Sorry, Vance Creek Viaduct is permanently closed.

A hidden gem of the Olympic Peninsula, the secluded location of Vance Creek Viaduct and its attending trail were a little too compelling, and eventually closed due to the  oversharing of Instagrammers.

Built during the Great Depression, the bridge towers a lofty three-hundred-and-forty-seven feet over Vance Creek, making it the second tallest railway trestle bridge in the United States. Commissioned by Simpson Logging Co. in 1929, the bridge served as a major artery for local logging operations until its abandonment in the 1950s.

The decommissioned bridge proved a popular, if clandestine, destination, and out-of-towners looking to add a little excitement to their hike would often solicit directions to the property from locals. With railway ties spanning more than a foot apart in some places and still others burned away by vandals, progress across the bridge was tricky. Brave souls dogged enough to venture out to the middle were treated to a majestic view of Mt. Rainier on clear days, and those willing to make it all the way across could continue down to the base of the bridge for a hard-won glimpse of its substructure.

In the early 2010s, photos taken on the bridge began to trend online under the hashtag #THATNWBRIDGE, presumably in an effort to maintain the secrecy of the location. It was all for naught, however, and in late July of 2014 the owners of the property closed it down; the nearby turnoffs utilized by hikers are now patrolled and ticketed in earnest.

Update November 2018: As of 2018 the area around the bridge is now open to the public. The owners have posted large informational signs and bulldozed the walking path into a road leading to the bridge. They dug around the end of the bridge, removed railroad ties, and tacked razor wire to the top to deter climbers. Hikers are encouraged to park at the turnoff and use the designated trails to view the bridge. Climbing on the bridge is still strictly prohibited and will result in a trespassing ticket if caught. Visitors are encouraged to not start fires, litter, or vandalize the structure and surrounding forest. 

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