Spotting Bigfoot in Washington: A few pointers

Crosscut archive image.

In Washington, there have been roughly 600 sightings of Bigfoot over the years, making our state the most likely place to run into the hairy humanoid. Other states have seen him too, of course. Texans call him Old Hairy Bill. Spokanites know him as the Bad Smelling Tree Man. Oklahomans call him the notorious Monkey Man. But most likely, Bigfoot is a native of the Northwest - all the more reason to get to know him.

In one of those online research projects that spirals out of control, this reporter has spent a good deal of time at the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization's website over the past few weeks. There I've sought out the most interesting sightings, and the patterns that emerge among listings across the country. Below, the fruits of this valuable, worthwhile labor. In the sightings listed below, a few of Bigfoot’s most likely characteristics are revealed.

What does Bigfoot sound like?

Whether he’s thumping rocks, howling at hikers, or shrieking into the night, Bigfoot’s got something to say. The site's reports provide a few of his more notable vocalizations, and even a few audio clips.

In 2008, things got a bit weird for a dad and his son while hiking down an unused logging road on Grass Mountain. While sitting down for a snack, they heard a groaning float out from the forest. “It was starting to confuse us so we started to go back down the trail,” their report reads. “After about five minutes of walking fast we heard a rib cage rattling scream behind us that just about scared me stiff.”

Having researched deeper, we're farily certain they heard something similar to the 1978 Snohomish County whoop/howl. You can listen to it here.

In 2014, a couple near Maple Valley awoke to the sound of howling from their backyard. “We heard the howl four times and could hear it echo throughout the area,” their report reads.

We’re pretty sure the couple heard something close to the 2006 Florida Expedition Howl. You can listen to it here.

According to a Snoqualmie hiker in 2004, Bigfoot’s vocalizations sounded more “like a padded baseball bat hitting a large tree trunk very rapidly.” She heard the sounds while hiking down an abandoned logging road. She was taking a break to listen to some frogs.

“The sound was much deeper than the sounds made by woodpeckers,” she writes. “…Much fuller bodied than knocking a dead branch against a tree branch; the sound is more like if 4 people were to hit a hollow trunk in fairly quick succession 1 ½ to 2 times.”

We think she heard something similar to those from the Berry Morehead Expeditions during the 1970’s – you can listen to those here.

Others report that Bigfoot communicates by throwing rocks and chirping. Whether Bigfoot groans, howls or thumps, many feel as though his vocalizations may be the biggest clue into who he is and what he’s like.

In a 1998 report, a self-proclaimed singer/songwriter observed that “the type of voice mechanism and size of [Bigfoot’s] vocal chords/cavity had to be at least the size of a large buck to an elk or bear….I was struck by this bellowing as being from not only a large animal, but also as animal which must be nocturnal AND trying to communicate.”

What does Bigfoot smell like?

If you’re planning on running into Bigfoot, you better bring a clip from the clothesline for your nose. Reporters agree that Bigfoot stinks – big time.

In 2010, a family hiking near Lake Cushman encountered a horrible odor they describe as “a cross between skunk and ammonia...The odor was so heavy we could taste it and our eyes even began to water a bit,” their report reads.

In a 1993 report, Bigfoot started throwing rocks at the firefighter near Skykomish when he started poking around his cave. But the firefighter would have never actually gone into the cave, he says - the stink was too strong.

“As soon as I got closer to inspect, I could smell a foul odor coming form[sic] inside [the cave],” he writes. “The odor kept me from going any further in. I had heard of the foul odor associated with bigfoots and immediately became uncomfortable.”

The Belly of the Beast

With 71 reports, Pierce County has the highest number of sightings in the state. Going by numbers alone, this seems like the most likely place for Bigfoot to pop up.

Perhaps the most detailed account comes from a group of hikers in 2010. While hiking through some waterfalls, they noticed a musky, wet dog smell. Turning a corner, they spotted the creature. A hiker yelped in surprise, and the creature looked up at them for several seconds, before it "moved lightning quick into the trees." They noted that the creature "didn't seem scared but more annoyed."

Following the sighting, a Bigfoot investigator spoke with the hikers, and wrote up a detailed account of what they reportedly saw.

“The color of the fur was black underneath, but a rusty red at the tips,” the report reads. “The fur was long and straight. The face was wide, like an orangutan. The skin color was reddish-tan; like someone who has been using too much fake tanning cream.”

Unfortunately, the hiker wasn’t close enough to see the details of the mouth, nose or eyes. However, he told the investigator that the creature had no visible neck, that his head was cone-shaped, and that his arms reached down to his knees. He estimated the height at around 6’ 4’’.

Like our trusty drilling machine Bertha, no one really knows quite how Bigfoot works, or why it's still here. But despite his disheveled appearance and overwhelming stink, Old Hairy Bill’s still found a way to tunnel into our hearts. To read through more reports – or document your own experience –visit The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization’s website.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Alex Cnossen

Alex Cnossen

Alex Cnossen is a Northwest native and has worked for several local publications, including KOMO, KIRO and KING-TV. He grew up in Portland and loves to run and write. Follow him on Twitter @CnossenAlex. You can also keep in touch via email at