Host Spotlight: Restoring Public Access and Camping at Naked Falls
“I wanted to create a culture of mutual respect and kindness, and a sense of stewardship over the river and land around it. I felt a responsibility toward it.”
When Hipcamp Host Steven Epling was told he could no longer visit one of his favorite places, he decided to take matters into his own hands. Recently, Steven has reopened public access to Naked Falls, a breathtaking and fairy-tale-like destination in southern Washington that has held a special place in his heart since childhood.
Steven grew up playing in and around Naked Falls as a teen, and soon came to feel a deep sense of commitment to the land. He was disappointed and heartbroken as access became more and more limited, and Naked Falls faced a series of progressively stricter restrictions.
In 2006, the county outlawed camping at the falls, and in 2016, Weyerhaeuser timber company that owned the property closed it to the public entirely. They arrested everyone who visited that summer, and had regular patrols to prevent visitors from accessing the land. Steven quickly began his quest to regain access.
Hipcamp: How did Naked Falls get its name?
Steven: What I’ve been told my whole life and by others is that it’s because of the nature of the landscape—the river bed is very exposed and the water recedes into shallow channels. There’s around a half-mile stretch of flat area where you can lay out in the river and sunbathe there. It’s very remote and there didn’t used to be a lot of people who knew about it, so folks would go out there and lay naked on the rocks in the river.
HC: When did you first learn about Naked Falls?
SE: In 7th grade, my friend Dan was kind enough to invite me to his birthday party, which included camping at Naked Falls. We had the best time. Dan took me to this spot that was just great for cliff-diving. There are a couple of waterfalls that are raging in the winter, but it’s calmer in the summer and you can slide off of the waterfall. It was like a little playground or a natural waterpark. I fell in love with it.
Every summer, I would quit my job during high school and go out to the river all the way until I had to become a responsible adult.
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