Where do you like to go on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and what roads do you use to get there?
Forest Service staff are asking you to provide your thoughts on what roads you use to reach recreation destinations like trailheads, campgrounds and lakes within the forest. As part of its Sustainable Roads Analysis (formally called the Travel Analysis Process), the forest is trying to identify a road network that accounts for perpetual budget cuts to forest roads, since the new budget can no longer sustain the current road network. They're looking for your input by April 30.
Help decide which roads to fix and which to let go
The analysis will produce a report that suggests various actions the Gifford Pinchot National Forest could take regarding its road system, such as reducing the maintenance level for roads or highlighting roads that should be closed or maintained.
- Where do you hike? Tell the forest by filling out this Travel Analysis Questionnaire.
- Learn more about the road evaluation process.
WTA: let's fix the roads serving key trailheads
During the initial public comment period last year, WTA voiced concern over the decline in roads that access popular trailheads. The gravel road (FR 4109) leading up to the Silver Star Trail is a prime example. It has deteriorated to the point where would-be hikers must have a high clearance vehicle and drive very carefully to reach the parking area.
Similarly, the roads to Siouxon (FR 5701), Grassy Knoll (FR 6808), Quartz Creek Butte (FR 9075), Glacier View and Lake Christine (FR 59) are just a few of the many roads in very rough shape. Furthermore, unrepaired washouts have made it very difficult for WTA to field volunteer crews on the Snagtooth and French Creek trails in the Dark Divide.
Another opportunity to weigh in: WTA's Hiker Potluck
On May 28, WTA is hosting our annual Hiker Potluck in Vancouver. Our guests from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest will present information about the issues the forest faces and how their Sustainable Roads Analysis will aim to make the best use of their limited roads budget.
We'd like to hear your thoughts on what roads you use to reach your favorite hikes. Please join us and RSVP for the Hiker Potluck today.
More about the road process:
This week, President Obama signed the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act, putting an end to years of uncertainty around the fate of the beloved lookout perched high in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of Washington's Cascade range. The legislation was championed by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen.
The new law protects the lookout from a 2012 ruling by a judge ordering the U.S. Forest Service to remove the lookout after a Montana-based group charged that the process to restore the lookout violated the Wilderness Act. The new law has also provided a small morale boost for the nearby Darrington community, which has been hit so hard by the SR 530 landslide.
A look back at a unique wilderness lookout
Like a sentinel, the Green Mountain Lookout has watched over the Glacier Peak backcountry for more than 80 years. Originally built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of a fire detection system across the North Cascades, the Green Mountain Lookout once housed a seasonal fire spotter.
In 1968 Glacier Peak Wilderness was expanded to include the lookout.
From fire watch tower to wilderness ranger station. In the mid-1980s as airplanes took over the primary fire detection role, lookouts were used by wilderness rangers who patrolled the forest and provided history lessons to eager lookout visitors. Green Mountain Lookout is one of the few remaining lookouts in Washington to carry on that role today.
An effort to preserve Green Mountain as lookouts disappear. More than 600 lookouts once called Washington mountaintops home. Once aerial fire detection took precedence, many of our lookouts were removed by land managers concerned about visitor safety and the cost of maintenance. In that time, an effort was made to protect the remaining few.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1987, Green Mountain Lookout and five other wilderness lookouts on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest were added to the National Register of Historic Places. In the years following, Green Mountain Lookout was adopted by the Friends of Green Mountain Lookout group to “preserve and maintain” the historic structure. (Read more about the restoration efforts over the years.)
Uncertainty and a legal battle. Since 2010, the lawsuit filed against the restoration of the lookout had obscured the structure's future. But after years of litigation and advocacy for the lookout from a broad range of individuals, communities and organizations, the law's passage this week seems to have settled the issue for now.
The road ahead
From trailhead to summit, the hike to Green Mountain Lookout has been called one of the best view hikes in the state. Prior to the series of massive storms in 2003 and 2006 that washed out the Suiattle River Road, the main access road for the lookout trail, hundreds of people trekked up to the lookout, enjoying lush green meadows, wildflowers and jaw-dropping vistas to nearby peaks.
Once the Suiattle River Road reopens, many more hikers will be able to make the pilgrimage to the lookout—this time to celebrate that an important piece of Washington’s history will remain atop Green Mountain for future hikers to enjoy.
Purchase and print a day pass for trailheads where you need a Northwest Forest Pass. Photo of Beckler Peak trailhead by Eric Jain.
Beginning this month, hikers can purchase and print a day pass for trailheads where you need a Northwest Forest Pass. The e-Pass is a new, convenient option for spur-of-the-moment adventures on trails in Washington's National Forests, from Umatilla National Forest to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie.
All Forest Service trailheads in Washington and Oregon with developed facilities (restrooms and trash cans that need to be serviced, picnic tables, etc.) require a pass. This includes most trailheads in the Cascades and Olympics. (S.)
How the new e-Pass day pass option works: purchase, print and go
- . You will need your car's license plate number and the date you plan to hike. (The form will also ask you which forest you area hiking in, but you can change your mind about where you plan to hike after you print it)
- Print the pass within 2 days.
- Display your pass at the trailhead.
Note: The e-Pass print option currently only applies to single day passes, not to annual passes.
Other pass options: an annual pass, earn a pass with trail work
Annual pass: If you plan to hike on trails in National Forest lands more than once, you may want to consider purchasing an annual Northwest Forest Pass for $30. The pass is available at National Forest offices and visitor centers and via private vendors or online. Passes may also be purchased at the Seattle WTA office or on wta.org.
Volunteer to earn a pass: Volunteers who do trail work on Northwest Forest lands with WTA can receive an annual Northwest Forest Pass by volunteering for 2 days of trail work.
Where the fees go: With massive cuts to the federal budgets of National Forests over the last decade, the fees collected by the Northwest Forest pass help support basic services that keep our beloved trails clear and enjoyable to hike, including: trail maintenance, rangers, trailhead security, and restroom and trash upkeep.
Bookmark these pages on passes
Because we have a wealth of public lands managed by different state and federal agencies, the passes, fees and regulations can get confusing. In the links below, we run down all of the various recreation passes for national parks, forests and state lands—from the Northwest Forest Pass to Washington's Discover Pass. Additional information for specific trailheads can be found on many of our Hiking Guide entries.
In a voice vote on the House floor Monday, the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 908 / S. 404) passed and is on its way to President Obama’s desk for signature. Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen championed the House bill to save the lookout. The Obama Administration threw its support behind the lookout earlier this year and is expected to sign the bill.
Last week the bill to preserve the Green Mountain Lookout in Glacier Peak Wilderness unanimously passed the Senate, led by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. The lookout was threatened after a U.S. District Court judge ordered its removal back in 2012.
Good news for Darrington and mountain lookout fans
Passage of the bill into law provides a small morale boost for the Darrington community, which has been so hit hard by the Highway 530 landslide.
“In the days after the tragedy occurred, members of the community and the mayor of Darrington asked for support on issues important to the region," said Rep. DelBene during her floor remarks. "One of their requests to our congressional delegation, to Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congressman Larsen and myself was for our help to pass this bill."
“… The Green Mountain Lookout represents a significant piece of Pacific Northwest history. It deserves to be protected for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy for many years to come. This bill can’t undo what’s been done but as the mayor of Darrington told me, it can be a piece of good news and a victory for inspiring a community that’s been through so much.”
Larsen: an historic save, a first step for recovery
Before the House voted, Rep. Larsen, cosponsor of the bill to save Green Mountain Lookout, also stated:
“The Green Mountain Lookout is one of few surviving fire lookouts in the West, and is only one of six such lookouts within a Wilderness area. It was also an early warning station during World War II to alert citizens to possible aerial invasion.
“The communities in nearby Darrington and Oso are recovering from last month’s tragic landslide that killed dozens of people and shut the communities off from much of the outside world. First responders, FEMA, and other federal agencies have been extraordinarily helpful in recovery efforts.
“Passing this bill invests in the longer term economic recovery of the region. Many people in these communities rely on outdoor recreation and tourism for their livelihoods. Part of that economy is based on access to historic and beautiful locations like Green Mountain Lookout. With the summer recreation season coming up, protecting Green Mountain Lookout sends a message from Congress to these communities: We’re with you.”
Washington representatives defend Green Mountain
What you can do
Please take a minute and thank our legislators for their tremendous support for the Green Mountain Lookout.
- Thank Sen. Patty Murray on Facebook or on Twitter @pattymurray
- Thank Sen. Maria Cantwell on Facebook or on Twitter @CantwellPress
- Thank Rep. Suzan DelBene on Facebook or on Twitter @RepDelBene
- Thank Rep. Rick Larsen on Facebook or on Twitter @RepRickLarsen
Senators Murray and Cantwell helped pass legislation that would preserve the Green Mountain Lookout. Photo by HikerJim.
Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation to preserve the Green Mountain Lookout in Glacier Peak Wilderness. The legislation, championed by Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, would protect the lookout after a U.S. District Court judge ordered its removal back in 2012.
"The Green Mountain Lookout is more than a hiking destination," Sen. Murray said on the floor of the Senate today. "It’s part of the Pacific Northwest’s heritage. It’s a cherished historical landmark. It’s a place where parents have brought their kids for generations, to appreciate the splendor of the great outdoors in the Northwest. And it’s a place that has been a vital source of tourism-related income for the people who’ve been impacted by this deadly landslide that has struck this region."
"One little glimmer of hope"
The congresswomen underscored that the bill, if passed, would be a morale boost to a community devastated by the deadly SR 530 landslide.
Sens. Murray and Cantwell, and Rep. Suzan DelBene recently visited the town of Darrington and have been pressing for federal support for the community. While there, the legislators met with the mayor and other local officials.
"... after we finished sort of our official meeting, the mayor took us aside and told myself and Senator Cantwell and our congresswoman Suzan DelBene that the one little glimmer of hope that he thought he could provide to this community was passage of this Green Mountain Lookout bill," said Sen. Murray.
“This is a significant step forward towards saving a community treasure for the residents of Snohomish County. This scenic lookout is a destination for locals and tourists, historians and outdoor enthusiasts,” added Sen. Cantwell.
Next steps for Green Mountain Lookout bill
The Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Act (H.R. 908 / S. 404) still needs to clear the House before President Obama, who already announced his support for the legislation, could sign it into law.
The bill will now go to the House, where it could be taken up as soon as next week, according to Rep. DelBene. Reps. DelBene and Rick Larsen, who originally introduced the bill to protect Green Mountain Lookout, have been championing the House version of the bill.
What you can do. Please take a minute and thank the legislators for their tremendous support for the Green Mountain Lookout.
- Thank Sen. Patty Murray on Facebook or on Twitter @pattymurray
- on Facebook or on Twitter @CantwellPress
- Thank Rep. Suzan DelBene on Facebook or on Twitter @RepDelBene
- Thank Rep. Rick Larsen on Facebook or on Twitter @RepRickLarsen
Watch the video
Ask anyone who has driven Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road (FS 56) what their experience was like and they’ll probably tell you about the car-swallowing potholes and tire-sucking mud. Others will talk about the time their car axle broke or multiple tires went pancake flat—in one trip.
Soon those experiences will be a thing of the past.
- The long-awaited paving project on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road will begin in early May 2014 and continue over the next three summers.
- The project should be completed in August 2016.
- Ten miles of the Middle Fork road will be paved from the end of the current pavement at the Mailbox Peak trailhead to the Middle Fork Campground.
Paving the Middle Fork means better access for hikers, is a win for the river and fish
Each year, more than 100,000 hikers and other recreationists venture to the Middle Fork to hike, camp, kayak and fish all year-round. The Middle Fork Valley—in the backyard of North Bend and only a 45-minute drive from Seattle—is incredibly scenic, with jagged peaks, towering old-growth trees and a raging river along the road. The Middle Fork is the main access road for a number of popular hiking trails like Mailbox Peak, Granite Creek, Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Trail and Taylor River—to name just a few.
By paving the road, hikers will have easier and safer access to their favorite places. In addition, water quality in the Middle Fork valley will improve due to a decrease of sediment run-off that currently flows off the dirt road and into streams. Old road culverts (those metal pipes that run under roads to allow streams to continue flowing downstream) will also be replaced and made more fish-friendly so trout can migrate upstream.
WTA sees this project as a win-win for hikers and the environment.
How will construction impact my trip to the Middle Fork?
Prep work for construction such as road surveying and flagging will begin on April 14, 2014 and construction will continue through August 2016. See the details and map below if you plan to hike the Middle Fork during this time.
2014 ROAD CLOSURES
The Lake Dorothy Road, which some people use as an alternative to one section of the Middle Fork Road, will be closed to all public traffic. (See map.)
Closures on the main Middle Fork Road will begin May 5, 2014 and extend through October 31, 2014 as follows:
Eastern Intersection of Lake Dorothy Road (Upper Couplet) at Valley Camp to Middle Fork Campground
Road Closed: 12:00pm Monday — 12:00pm Friday
Road Open: 12:00pm Friday — 12:00pm Monday (Up to 60 minute delays may occur.)
Note: The Mailbox Peak Trail and all trails beyond Mailbox will be inaccessible when the road is closed.
CCC Trailhead to Middle Fork Campground
Road Closed: 7 Days a Week - July 28, 2014 to September 26, 2014
As response efforts at the tragic mudslide between Oso and Darrington on Highway 530 enter a sixth day, officials from Snohomish County and the U.S. Forest Service are asking people to stay clear of the area.
Road for responders and residents
On Wednesday crews opened the Mountain Loop Highway through Barlow Pass for emergency and local access. The general public, however, is asked to avoid this route.
“We strongly discourage recreationists and those curious about the slide and recovery activities to avoid the area for safety reasons and to respect the intent of opening this route early, which is to provide alternate access to the community of Darrington," said Peter Forbes, Darrington District Ranger.
Some local area trails closed, others best to avoid for now
He added that recreation sites in this area are remaining closed and inaccessible, including the Big Four Ice Caves area, which is closed due to extreme avalanche conditions at this time of year.
It's probably best to also avoid other nearby trails like Lake 22, Mount Pilchuck and Heather Lake to keep roads and resources free for responders and residents.
Washington Trails Association extends our thoughts and hopes to these communities, along with our support and gratitude to the many first responders. Many of us here have close friends in Darrington, and this is one of our favorite areas to spend time. When the time is right, we will let you know when it is appropriate for all of you to hike in this special place and support the businesses here again.
In the meantime, we ask you to please let the response effort continue and the residents to begin the healing process.
How you can help from afar
The community of Darrington is currently inundated with rescue personnel, volunteers and media, and is not physically or emotionally equipped for any other visitors or volunteers at this time.
If you wish to help, donations of cash are most welcome:
- American Red Cross workers have been providing food and shelter to residents, families looking for loved ones and first responders affected by the slide. People can call 800-733-2767 to donate or text "RedCross" to 90999 and $10 will be charged to your phone bill.
- Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team, an all-volunteer nonprofit search and rescue organization that rescues injured and lost hikers throughout the year has been active in the efforts (and recently had their federal funding cut). Consider making a donation here.
- The Snohomish County website also has a list of other local organizations accepting donations.
- A note of caution when donating: be wary of scams and verify the charitable organization you are giving to.
Want to backpack in Olympic National Park? Change is afoot, so make sure to learn about the changes and weigh in. Photo of a July backcountry camp over Lake Angeles by Carl.
Olympic National Park would like to hear from you regarding its draft plans for managing the park’s official wilderness areas (comprising 95 percent of the park) on everything from trails to bear canisters to self-registration stations.
Public comments informed draft wilderness plan
In 2013, Olympic National Park reviewed comments submitted by the public during the initial development phase of the Wilderness Stewardship Plan. They also collected additional data and conducted a visitor use survey. Now that the park has produced its Wilderness Stewardship Plan Preliminary Draft Alternatives document, it is looking for help from hikers and others to inform their planning process.
Options for managing wilderness trails, campsites, permits and more
Right now, there are three new “alternatives” or options for managing Olympic Wilderness:
- Alternative B: an “emphasis placed on the reduction of the human imprint”
- Alternative C: an “emphasis placed on the protection of natural resources"
- Alternative D: an “emphasis placed on managing visitor use and recreation to provide visitors with a greater range of wilderness experiences”
- There is also a “no action” alternative (Alternative A) which is defined as a continuation of existing management practices.
The Wilderness Stewardship Plan adopts a new zone approach to managing trails, campsites, day and overnight backcountry permits and other features in wilderness. Each alternative defines wilderness management a little differently, but all three have proposed changes that could impact hikers in the park, such as requiring bear canisters throughout the park and removing self-registration stations within Olympic Wilderness. The alternatives also dictate the level of maintenance for trails and historic structures like the Enchanted Valley Chalet, which is dangerously close to collapsing into the East Fork Quinault River.
Since this is an early draft, the options may change or increase before the next round of input from the public.
Ensuring hiker access to trails
WTA is analyzing the Preliminary Draft Alternatives and will be providing feedback to the park, with an eye toward ensuring and enhancing hiker access to trails. Stay tuned to find out more about the Wilderness Stewardship Plan.
Two simple steps to take action
Step 1: Learn about the initial proposed changes
Attend a public meeting. Olympic National Park is hosting three upcoming public meetings where you can learn more about the Wilderness Stewardship Plan, have your questions answered and provide your initial feedback.
Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
Quinault Lake School
Amanda Park, WA 98526
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Civic Center (Meeting Room 1)
525 W. Cota Street
Shelton, WA 98584
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Seattle Public Library
Wright/Ketcham Room; Level 4, Room 2
1000 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA
Can't make a meeting? Details on the draft alternatives can be found on the park’s website, and we'll make sure to keep you up to date here on the Signpost blog.
Step 2: Raise your voice when the time comes
Sign up for our Trail Action Network, and as the process develops over the year, we'll make sure to let you know when it's essential to weigh in.
Palouse Falls, pictured here on a stormy spring day, is now Washington's official waterfall. Photo by Nathaniel Morse-Dayton.
How did trails and recreation fare in the state legislature? The short, 60-day legislative session ended in Olympia late last night with a few important bills that impact hikers making it across the finish line just in time. Here’s a brief look at some of those bills that are currently awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature to become law.
Trail standards to be developed for state lands
This legislation (ESHB 2151) requires the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop an official recreational trails policy that causes the least impact to the land; provides environmental and water quality protection; and maintains the lowest construction and maintenance costs that are reasonable.
The bill also states that DNR should use the United States Forest Service trail standards as guidelines for developing their own best management practices and maintenance guidelines.
Public participation in developing new trails systems and enhancing current ones is also encouraged through the legislation. WTA looks forward to continuing to work with DNR and other stakeholders on the development of the recreational trails policy.
Palouse Falls named Washington’s state waterfall
Scenic Palouse Falls, located in southeast Washington, will become Washington’s official waterfall. Formed by a glacial flood, the falls are over 10,000 years old and contain a series of three waterfalls with the main waterfall dropping over 180 feet. Palouse Falls is within Palouse Falls State Park, which has a variety of hiking trails to explore. Yellow-bellied marmots, various reptiles and a host of wildflowers make their home here.
Grade school students in the town of Washtucna first proposed Palouse Falls as the state’s official waterfall, which led to the legislature passing a bill to make it so -- way to go, kids!
State Parks to benefit from partnerships
In an attempt to help state parks produce more revenue, the Olympia legislature passed a bill allowing for some advertising to take place in state parks. The guidelines for the advertisements are fairly strict.
Ads cannot detract from the integrity of the park's natural, cultural, historic, and recreational resources and outstanding scenic vistas. You might start to notice small signs thanking park donors or event sponsors there but you won’t see any parks being named after software companies or come across beverage billboards on your next hike.
A hiker enjoys the view from a lunch spot on the Middle Fork Teanaway trail, one of three that begin in the new community forest. Photo by David Hagen
A twenty-member advisory group has been appointed to help Washington State departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife develop a management plan for the Teanaway Community Forest, located in the Teanaway River valley of Kittitas County.
WTA contributes a voice for hikers
Nearly 90 people submitted applications to sit on the advisory committee, and WTA was awarded a seat for a representative who will act as a voice for Washington state's hiking community.
“I am extremely pleased that we have such a diverse group of highly qualified and passionate individuals to help the State of Washington develop the management plan for its first Community Forest,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark in a news release. “We are committed to working with our new advisory committee to ensure that the management plan we adopt for the Teanaway Community Forest reflects the values and priorities of the communities that fought so hard for its conservation.”
Plenty of room for everyone
The Teanaway Community Forest is the state’s first community forest. The 50,272 acre-forest was purchased from a private seller in October 2014. It is the single largest land acquisition in Washington state in 45 years and a cornerstone of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, an effort to improve water quality and supplies and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the Yakima Basin.
In collaboration with the departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife, the advisory committee must develop a plan by June 30, 2015 that addresses watershed protection, working lands for forestry and livestock grazing, recreational opportunities, conservation of fish and wildlife habitat, and establishment of an ongoing community partnership to guide management of the forest.
Improving recreation in a popular area
Hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, campers and others already use the Teanaway Community Forest. A few trails such as Yellow Hill-Elbow Peak and the Middle Fork Teanaway begin on the community forest land and the potential for more trails is abundant.
The first meeting of the Teanaway Community Forest Advisory Committee will be held on Monday, March 31 at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds -- Teanaway Room, 512 N. Poplar Street, Ellensburg from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Further details will be announced before the meeting. All advisory committee meetings will be open to the public.
Governor Inslee speaking at the Big Tent Outdoor Coalition about the importance of the outdoor recreation in Washington. Photo by Andrea Imler.
As Washingtonians and hikers, we know firsthand the importance of the great outdoors and what it provides—an adventure, improved health, respite from our busy lives, a profound learning experience for our children—the list is endless.
Yet outdoor recreation continues to be undervalued when it comes to the investment put into it. Look at our increasingly budget-squeezed state parks and national forests, which have struggled to meet the rising demand in outdoor recreation like hiking, camping and bike riding.
Blue ribbon task force: support outdoor recreation in Washington
Yesterday Governor Inslee signed an executive order to create a blue ribbon task force that will look at ways to support the outdoor recreation industry and increase funding for recreation areas. A special focus will be placed on getting people, especially youth and families, engaged in outdoor activities.
“Outdoor recreation is an underappreciated part of our economy,” said Inslee in a release yesterday. “We need to look at ways that we can support and expand this industry to create jobs, increase economic opportunity and support our rural communities.”
Outdoor recreation in Washington directly supports 227,000 jobs and generates $22.5 billion in annual spending on things like equipment, lodging and apparel. Each year, more than two-thirds of Washingtonians recreate outdoors.
"Promoting and preserving" Washington's outdoor spaces
Last week Governor Inslee was joined by more than thirty groups participating in the Big Tent Outdoor Coalition, to announce his new outdoor recreation initiative. The Big Tent Outdoor Coalition is an informal group of businesses, non-profit organizations (including Washington Trails Association) and government agencies committed to promoting the incredible benefits outdoor recreation brings to our state from encouraging personal health to building community.
“This isn’t just about Washington’s economy," said Inslee. "This is also about a generational legacy in our state. We need to leave a Washington that allows every single one of us—young or old—to experience, play and relax in some of the most beautiful trails, parks and lakes in the world. I know we can find a way forward to making sure Washington’s beautiful outdoor spaces are promoted and preserved for generations to come.”
More about Washington's recreation economy
- Outdoor Recreation Boosts Washington's Economy
- See how Washington's recreation economy compares in the 's (OIA)
Senators Murray and Cantwell introduced legislation that would preserve the Green Mountain Lookout. Photo by HikerJim.
Late last week the Obama Administration announced its support for the legislation to preserve the Green Mountain Lookout in Glacier Peak Wilderness. The legislation, championed by Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen, would protect the lookout after a U.S. District Court judge ordered its removal back in 2012.
In a statement, the White House wrote, “The Administration supports provisions that would allow for the operation of the Green Mountain Lookout in Washington State.”
The show of support is welcome in the ongoing effort to protect the lookout, which has been a beloved hiking destination for generations of Washingtonians, who value the lookout for the glimpse of Washington's vanishing history that it provides.
A political snag for the Green Mountain bill
Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Act (H.R. 908 / S. 404) was included in a package of controversial public lands bills voted and passed by the House. Many environmental groups oppose the package, as does the Obama Administration, saying that the package contains “a number of provisions that would undermine the responsible balance of interests and considerations in the stewardship of the Nation's lands and natural resources.”
Both Reps. DelBene and Larsen opposed the lands package and requested that the Green Mountain legislation be heard as a stand-alone bill. The House Natural Resources Committee has approved the stand-alone legislation and a companion bill has been introduced by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell in the Senate where it awaits action.
What’s next for the lookout? Stay tuned
The disappointing House vote on the controversial package may have complicated matters, but there is still time for the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Act to be heard as a stand-alone bill on the House floor. As a supporter of the legislation, WTA will work with conservation and recreation partners to support Reps. DelBene and Larsen in their efforts to protect the lookout.
While the fate of the federal bill remains uncertain for now, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has no choice but to move forward with its first phase of planning for removal of the lookout as a result of the U.S. District Court judge’s order. The Forest Service is looking at options to destroy or relocate the lookout to nearby Circle Peak, which is outside of Glacier Peak Wilderness, or move it elsewhere on the forest.
Stay tuned for ways to get involved in the future of Green Mountain Lookout. Sign up for our Trail Action Network to keep up to date on this and other important issues.
How do you want to play in Larrabee State Park in the years to come? Now is your time to weigh in on the future of trails, stewardship and recreation in one of the oldest and most beloved state parks.
Washington State Parks is just starting the process of planning for the future of Larrabee State Park. Their first step is to listen to the community, learning what kind of experiences and trails visitors value most.
In short, the planners want your input on what to change or what to save in the state park.
Two ways to help create a Larrabee you love
1. Attend the first planning meeting on Thursday, Jan. 16
Attend and speak up at the first planning meeting, scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, in the Fairhaven Public Library, 1117 12th St., Bellingham.
2. Comment in an email or by phone
Can't make the meeting? Live across the state but love visiting Larrabee? You can also provide a public comment by emailing it to Larrabee.Planning@parks.wa.gov or by calling Park Planner Randy Kline at (360) 902-8632.
- Don't want to miss an important step in the Larrabee planning process? Sign up for WTA's Trail Action Network email alerts and get tips on how to effectively speak out for trails.
- Larrabee State Park Planning page
WTA volunteers helped clear the fallen trees from the Graves Creek trail in 2012. Photo by Don Abbott.
A few months ago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report to Congress about U.S. Forest Service trails. The message: "Long- and short-term improvements could reduce maintenance backlog and enhance system sustainability."
2012 funding only covered maintenance on 37 percent of trails
The report underscored a fact that hikers are keenly aware of, in that the Forest Service has more miles of trail than it is able to maintain given current funding, and the result is a persistent maintenance backlog that has negative effects on both the experience of recreationists and the environment. The report also gave this backlog a number that may surprise hikers.
In fiscal year 2012, the agency reported that it accomplished maintenance on only 37 percent of trails and that its maintenance backlog amounts to $314 million nationwide. (By comparison, the recent government shutdown cost more than $300 million per day.) What’s more, the Forest Service estimates that only one-quarter of its trails meet agency standards.
In compiling the findings and making recommendations, the GAO interviewed 16 nonprofit organizations that spanned the recreation spectrum nationwide, including Washington Trails Association. We were asked our views on challenges faced by the Forest Service in performing trail maintenance and our opinion on ways that it could be improved.
As a result of the study, the GAO recommended, among other actions, that the Forest Service:
- Assess the sustainability of the trail system
- Improve Forest Service policies and procedures
- Improve the management of volunteers and other external resources
What could it mean for the future? Without new budget allocations, the Forest Service will rely more and more on volunteer labor to maintain trails. It’s also possible that some trails will be dropped from the inventory and allowed to return to nature.
Join the fight for trail funding
The chronic lack of funding for trails is something that WTA will be focusing on in 2014. It is critical that programs such as the Northwest Forest Pass are reauthorized if we are to keep funding flowing to maintain our current trails. Look for ways that you, as a hiker, can get involved to support trails
This article originally appeared in the Jan+Feb 2014 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.
Last October, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell outlined an initiative that would put 100,000 young people and veterans to work outdoors on conservation and stewardship of public lands, forests, parks and trails. This morning, American Eagle Outfitters pledged a million (out of a total hoped-for 20 million from private sources) toward the effort.
Through the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), the funds will directly support non-profit corps programs that provide work and training experience to young people and veterans on Interior’s public lands.
Rallying resources in service of public lands
With federal funding budgets for public lands slashed to record lows, the Department of the Interior's engagement of private-sector funding could boost much-needed resources to the maintenance and stewardship of federal lands. At the very least, the effort may help fund jobs and energize a generation in the service of protecting public lands.
Rallying the next generation of trail stewards
Connecting young people with stewardship jobs is only one component of the youth initiative Jewell outlined in a speech last October, where she emphasized the need to bridge the growing disconnect between young people and the great outdoors.
WTA has been a longtime leader for connecting youth to the outdoors on all of Washington's public lands. Last year alone, more than 890 kids and teens volunteered with us on 66 youth work parties, making up 26 percent of our total volunteer crews. We also launched the Outdoor Leadership Training program and gear library to empower teachers and youth workers with the training and resources they need to lead safe and fun outdoor adventures.
- Read more about the impact of the chronic lack of funding for trails
- One WTA youth trail crew alum tells her stories of service on Washington's trails
There is an exciting effort underway to improve hiking opportunities near the city of Lyle in Klickitat County. Associated with the Gorge Towns to Trails project spearheaded by Friends of the Columbia River Gorge. Known as GT2T, the project aims to develop a comprehensive trails plan that would better link trails to Gorge communities to meet the growing popularity of trails in the Gorge, generate tourism revenue, and improve access to trails for local residents.
A plan to link town to trail
The idea to link the Cherry Orchard Trail to the town of Lyle initially garnered support from the School Board and the Lyle Community Action Council who have since reversed their decision. Yet a recent public meeting in the town elicited some unexpectedly fervent concerns. Those opposed to new trail developments worry about property owners' rights, maintenance costs, unlawful activities, and the potential loss of tax revenue. Many also felt that the Friends were imposing a plan on local communities without considering their input.
Residents encouraged to provide feedback
In fact, the trails planning effort in Lyle is being facilitated by the National Parks Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program and has involved many local organizations from the beginning. The Lyle Community Trail System Planning Team created a survey specifically to gather input from local residents.
The benefits of a nearby trail
Trail proponents know that hiking trails can offer communities a wide range of benefits, from tourism dollars to easy-access health opportunities for community members.
The Klickitat Trail Conservancy recently issued a statement describing the economic benefits that trails bring to the community including tourism dollars, funds raised by the annual Klickitat Half Marathon, the many hours that volunteers contribute to the maintenance of the Klickitat Trail and the thousands of dollars in taxes paid annually by Friends of the Gorge on the property their land trust owns.
Similarly, there were some local trail proponents who spoke up at the open house for the health and wellness benefits that a trail link to the town could bring.
Washington Trails Association supports the GT2T project and hopes that the stakeholders are able to build trust through the process and ultimately create better hiking trails for all.
The Chinook Pass (SR 410) winter road closure to Cayuse Pass (SR 123 ) starts here at the northeast entry to Mount Rainier National Park. Photo by WSDOT.
Washington's high country is beginning to see some serious snow accumulation. About 20 inches of fresh snow fell on Mount Rainier passes over the weekend, increasing avalanche danger and prompting the Washington State Department of Transportation to close Cayuse (SR 123) and Chinook Passes (SR 410) to vehicles temporarily, though it won't be long before they are closed for the season.
- Chinook Pass, elevation 5,430 feet, is closed from Morse Creek ((MP 74.5), five miles east of the summit to Crystal Mountain Boulevard, about 12 miles northwest of the summit.
- Cayuse Pass is closed within Mount Rainier National Park from the 4,675-foot Cayuse Pass summit to Stevens Canyon Road.
Mount Rainier access in winter
The National Park has officially entered its winter season. As in past years, the road gate immediately above Longmire is closed nightly. For visitor and staff safety, rangers and snow plow operators evaluate road, weather, avalanche and staffing conditions every morning. Visitors planning a trip to Paradise should check for current road status and weather on the park's website or Twitter feed.
In general, the Longmire area will remain open seven days a week.
- Before December 21, the gate at Longmire will open Thursdays through Mondays, at 9:00 a.m. The road will close nightly at 5:00 p.m., with the uphill gate closing at 4:00 p.m. The gate will not open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during this period.
- Between December 21 and the end of March, the National Park aims to provide seven-days-a-week access to Paradise. The target open hours for the road above Longmire during this period will continue as 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., with the uphill gate closing at 4:00 p.m
Overnight camping. The entire park is open for visitor use throughout the winter season, including overnight winter camping with a valid permit seven days a week. Overnight campers should plan their travels with an understanding of nightly or scheduled gate closures. Visitors camping at Paradise between now and December 21 should not plan on driving out on Tuesday and Wednesday when the road is closed.
Carry chains. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park, including 4WD vehicles.
The status of other mountain passes
- For now, the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) remains open, though probably not for too much longer. Last year it closed November 20.
- The Mountain Loop Highway is currently open between Deer Creek Road and Barlow Pass, though it will likely close for winter soon as well. Check the Snohomish County road closure website for updates.
When will the passes open again?
When will the passes open again? Well, that's up to Mother Nature. But in the past, Cayuse & Chinook passes usually open in May. You can see the historical dates .
Mountain pass updates all winter
You can also follow the conditions on all major mountain passes throughout the winter at the Department of Washington's Department of Transportation website or Twitter feed.
How much snow and where?
When planning your winter hiking and snowshoeing adventures, one of the most important steps is to check the weather. Below are some great online resources for mountain weather and road conditions:
- Get detailed mountain forecasts at National Weather Service's Mountain Forecast
- Avalanche forecasts and comprehensive weather data Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center
- Gauge snow depth with the Washington snow map from the National Water and Climate Center.
- WSDOT has up-to-date mountain pass conditions, including cameras on five popular routes.
- It is also wise to call ahead to the ranger station where you plan to hike or snowshoe.
A sustainable road system is key for hikers and other trail users to reach trailheads. Photo by Aubrey.
Don't miss the last Mount Baker-Snoqualmie (MBS) National Forest public meeting to help shape the future of the roads system on the MBS. The meeting, the last in a series, will be held at 5 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at Everett Community College.
Make your hiking preferences a part of the process
The forest is hosting a process to help the public provide feedback about how it manages public access to trails while balancing preserving the environment and stewarding scarce public funds.
This Sustainable Roads Analysis is your chance to provide feedback on where you recreate on National Forests and how you get there. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie staff and local recreation and conservation leaders will be on hand to answer your questions and provide their insights.
Why is access in the MBS so important?
Those of us who enjoy hikes from the 1-90 corridor to the Mountain Loop Highway will be affected by decisions that come out of this process. See the maps of the trails that could be affected.
The public's input will help the Sustainable Roads Cadre (an alliance of more than 20 organizations that Washington Trails Association and The Wilderness Society helped spearhead) make decisions that will manage public access to trails while balancing preserving the environment and allocating scarce public funds. This is your chance to provide feedback on where you recreate on National Forests and how you get there.
Two ways to let your voice be heard\
1. Attend the public meeting.
2. Can't make the meeting? Fill out the survey.
The deadline to fill out a short questionnaire has been extended to November 30 and we want you to weigh in with your feedback regarding road access.
Once you've taken the survey, ensure that your voice continues to be heard. Sign up for the Trail Action Network and receive periodic alerts about important issues that affect hikers, like road access, invites to advocacy-oriented events, and tips for activists.
After twelve years as advocacy director, WTA bids a fond farewll to Jonathan Guzzo. As he takes the next step in his career, he leaves hikers in a much better position than when he arrived in 2001. From trail funding to coalition-building around trails, Jonathan has delivered time and again for hikers.
In 2001, WTA's advocacy program was focused almost completely on the state legislature. During his tenure, he took it from that narrow focus to a program that was effective across a broad range of issues and in many different venues, from state and federal land managers to the US Senate.
In Olympia, Jonathan poured his first three years of work into reforming the Non-Highway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities program (NOVA). This program allocates gas tax revenue for projects that are accessed via a non-highway road (like those on national forests and national parks). His efforts were instrumental in changing the allocation from being 20 percent for non-motorized projects to 80 percent, which has been a boon for trail maintenance projects around the state.
Under Jonathan's leadership, WTA also became a national leader for other funding programs, including the federal Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness and the Recreational Trails Programs as these came up for reauthorization. At the state level, Jonathan successfully advocated for funding for DNR lands and Washington State Parks.
Jonathan's collaborative approach brought together trail groups that had squabbled for years, uniting hikers with equestrians and mountain bikers in particular around issues of mutual importance. After researching a ground-breaking report about the state of recreational access on Washington's public lands last year, he took a lead role in pioneering the Sustainable Roads Analysis Process on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This public process is culminating November 13 in Everett, and will help the Forest shrink the size of its massive road system.
"I'm proud of the work that I've done at WTA," reflected Jonathan Guzzo on his long tenure. "Our advocacy program is as respected as an innovative, engaged and effective model for positive change. Over the past twelve years, I have worked hard to address difficult issues in a collaborative spirit, and we've won important victories in the process."
Jonathan is taking some well-deserved time off before taking on his next professional venture.
"The time is right for me to take on new challenges and learn new skills. I'm looking forward to watching WTA as it continues to succeed on complex issues and win victories for hikers."
And WTA looks forward to working with Jonathan in whatever new position he takes on. We thank him for a great twelve years!
We missed Mount Rainier so much we could hug it. Photo by karmot from Skyskraper Mountain earlier this year.
With the federal government shutdown officially over, we rounded up some key information to help you get out hiking Washington's federal lands in all their autumn glory.
What we know, and what you need to know to go hiking
- National Parks are open. All three of Washington's National Parks opened today, as staff return to work and begin opening facilities. Check their websites and social channels for more information.
- National Forest and BLM staff are back on the job. Staff were headed back to work today with normal seasonal hours.
- National Forest Passes are once again for sale.
- Hikers are incredibly generous with each other. This can be a tough season for judging conditions. You helped each other out with very detailed information in your trip reports. Hikers, thank you so much for being such an incredible community.
- We sure missed our federal land manager partners. From the rich body expertise provided on trail, in ranger stations on social media channels, we sure felt the absence of federal staff during the shutdown and are glad to have them back on duty. If you head out hiking, make sure to thank a ranger for their service.
- In Washington, we are very lucky to have great hiking options on a diversity of lands. You all did some incredible hiking, and we loved seeing fall unfold in your trip report
- Find a great fall hike. Check out recent trip reports, look for larches, hike a State Park, take the Hike of the Week, or find your hike in our seasonal suggestions.
Time will tell
- Seasonal closures. This is normally a transition season on public lands, when snow and end-of-season reductions in staffing limit facilities like campgrounds, roads, and some ranger stations and interpretive centers. It might take a few days to sort out exactly what's open and what's closed for the winter season.
- Unreported trail damage. WTA had to move trail work parties off of 12 trails on National Forest lands during the shutdown, but beyond maintenance to those trails, wet and snowy weather may have changed the landscape of many other trails, and put other forest crews behind on their seasonal maintenance.
- Long term impacts. It may be a while before the full impacts of the shutdown on the employees, parks, and surrounding economies are fully tallied.