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.
In the last week, we've gotten lots of questions from you about the shutdown. We hope that it is in its waning hours, but we've tracked down answers to some of the most common questions in case you want to go out hiking in the meantime. If you have a question you don't find the answer to, please add a comment and we'll see if we can answer it.
What is closed? What is open?
Open: Trails on National Forest lands are accessible and open, as are all Washington State Parks and county and city parks. Even though national forests remain accessible, there are very few rangers attending to the needs and safety of visitors. Ranger stations are closed and bathrooms could be locked at trailheads. Most, if not all, campgrounds are also closed.
Closed: National parks -- Olympic, Rainier and North Cascades National Parks -- are closed, as are national wildlife refuges, national recreation areas and national historic areas. This includes roads, visitor centers, campgrounds and trails.
Is it really a big deal if I just hop the gate at a National Park?
Hikers will find gates and signs stating that national parks and trails are closed. Please don't ignore the signs. Doing so puts a skeleton crew of our park rangers (who are working without pay) in a bad spot as they work to protect resources that are under threats of litter, vandalism, poaching and more.
If you do encounter a ranger who asks you to leave, please be kind. They are just doing what they've been asked to do, which is to protect our public treasures so that we can all enjoy them when the parks re-open.
Those who defy the closure are also at risk of arrest for trespassing, and law enforcement officers are still on the job.
Can people with Enchantments permits still go?
Yes! Permits for the Enchantments are required through October 15, and they are being honored by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, which has posted a notice on the ranger station door stating that if hikers had printed their permits they are good to go and those who had not could print their confirmation email from the lottery process.
What are the costs and long-term impacts of the shutdown likely to be in Washington?
As each day presses on without a resolution to the stalemate in Congress, the effects to federal workers and the communities that rely on tourism from parks' visitors add up.
Even federal workers who are still working are not getting a paycheck. Some families may not be able to meet mortgage payments on their homes, or purchase needed supplies. Communities on the Olympic Peninsula, near Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Park are seeing cancelled reservations during the peak autumn season.
In the parks and forests themselves, critical end-of-season maintenance projects have been deferred, which could put some structures at risk this winter.
Is WTA still running trail work parties?
Yes and no. Volunteers are working trail projects in state parks and on county land, but Forest Service agency personnel directed us to cancel our work parties on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Olympic National Forests during the shutdown for liability reasons.
One way to get out on trail this fall without worrying about the federal shutdown is to volunteer with us. Here's the schedule of where you can volunteer (note that some Forest Service work parties are still on the schedule in hopes of a resolution).
Where can I hike?
We are actually pretty lucky in Washington that so much excellent fall hiking is still available to us, and that we have such a responsible community of hikers to help keep each other informed.
We have put together a list of trails that are open and at their peak color right now, some National Forest trails options for folks on the hunt for golden larches, as well as some extra state parks you should visit this autumn.
Don't forget to check out Trip Reports for where other hikers are hiking during the shutdown.
This whole thing has been so frustrating. Is there anything I can do?
The only way your public lands will be re-opened is for Congress to end their budget stalemate. Take action by writing your Senators/Representative today. Email them or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with your elected official.
Ask them to work with their colleagues to re-open our public lands and to fund them adequately. Please add a personal story to your note. Congress needs to know how this is affecting people like you.
Contact our Senators
Contact your Representatives
More questions. What are you wondering?
Ask your questions below, and we'll do our best to round up answers.
Hikers and other recreational trail users have something big to celebrate this week, the purchase of 50,272 acres in the Teanaway region by Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
The Sept. 30 purchase secures a popular area of forest and shrub-steep lands that have been under heavy development pressure. The Teanaway is enormously important to hikers, as it is easy to access from many central and western Washington communities, and provides a variety of trail experiences on a beautiful landscape.
Cooperation preserves recreation lands, Yakima River headwaters
The Teanaway acquisition reflects more than a decade of collaboration between a diverse group of stakeholders from state and local governments, agriculture interests, tribes and non-profits to address water and fish issues in the Yakima Basin. The largest single land transaction in Washington state in 45 years, the purchase has been a key component of the Yakmia Basin Integrated Plan because, in part, the headwaters to the Yakima River start in the Teanaway region.
“The Teanaway Community Forest is one of the most beloved landscapes in Washington, and it will be cared for and managed for years to come to reflect the values and priorities of the community that has worked so hard to protect it,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands for the state of Washington. “That’s the beauty of the Community Forest Trust model: it allows local communities to help protect the forests they love.”
The Teanaway Community Forest will be managed collaboratively by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, with input from the local community and interested stakeholders.
Road closed signs will be a familiar sight to hikers wanting to access national parks during the government shutdown.
Updated: Oct. 3, 2013.
Due to the impasse in Congress, the federal government shut down at midnight last night. Aside from the many impacts to federal employees and programs, the shutdown also impacts hikers, campers and potentially trail volunteers.
What effects the shutdown will have are still being determined, and we'll continue to update this blog as we learn more. (Agencies' “close down procedure” asks that managers and supervisors arrange for securing their offices, canceling meetings and events and communicating with their partners, the public and their employees about what it means.)
Here's what we know now:
National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges are closed and gated
The National Park Service has been very clear about the impacts to its 401 sites around the country. They are closed. You can read its contingency plan here.
- All 401 National Park Service sites are closed across the country. This includes Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park, as well as smaller units in the San Juan Islands and elsewhere. National Wildlife Refuges will also be closed.
- Roads that go through or around National Parks will remain open—SR 20 across North Cascades National Park and SR 410 around Mount Rainier—but roads that provide access into the park will be marked as closed or gated. For instance, there is no access to Mount Rainier's Paradise, Olympic's Hurricane Ridge or Hoh Rainforest or Cascade Pass in North Cascade National Park. For mountain pass conditions, check with Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT). All trails and activities along these roads through the National Parks are curtailed.
- All visitor centers and facilities are closed. People already in campgrounds or overnight facilities were given 48 hours to leave.
- All permits for backcountry camping and climbing are rescinded. No new permits are being issued. Update 10/2: The contingency plan also states that day use visitors—and that would include hikers—would be asked to leave the park. As such, WTA does not recommend hiking in National Parks during the shutdown. The Pacific Crest Trail Association is also advising the same for PCT thru-hikers.
- All National Park Service websites have been taken offline, and staff has stopped posting to their social media streams.
- The majority of National Parks employees have been furloughed. In the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 118 employees are on furlough because of the shutdown and approximately 40 concessions employees are similarly affected. (Nationwide the shutdown has furloughed more than 20,000 National Park Service employees.)
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
- Update 10/1: At the Mount St. Helen's Monument, the Johnston Ridge Observatory and Science and Learning Center at Coldwater are closed during the lapse in federal government funding. According to Mount St. Helens Institute (a private, non-profit organization), Climber’s Bivouac, the climbing route and all hiking trails will remain open, though bathroom facilities at all parking lots and trailheads will be locked.
National Forest trails not closed to hikers, but camping, facilities are closed
The effects to hikers in Washington's National Forests are less clear than in the parks. Here's what we do know, though these are subject to change and will be updated on this blog as we learn more. You can access the U.S. Forest Service Contingency Plan here.
- Forest Service visitor centers and offices are closed.
- Trailheads and trails in National Forests are not closed, but hikers could encounter gates. Trailhead facilities like toilets and garbage will not be serviced.
- Update 10/3: The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has asked WTA not to sell Northwest Forest Passes. But as a precaution, continue to hang your Northwest Forest Pass at trailheads. You probably don't need it, but Law Enforcement Officers will still be working, and many of the trailheads are patrolled by county sheriffs.
- Campgrounds operated by the US Forest Service will be closed within two days, although some campgrounds operated by concessionaires could remain open.
- Road projects may be halted, and some are going forward on a case-by-case basis.
- The U.S. Forest Service and recreation.gov websites have been taken offline and staff are no longer updating or posting to social media channels.
- Update 10/3: Got an Enchantment permit? Here's what one hiker told us was posted as a note on the door of the Wenatchee Ranger Station: "If you have a printed permit, please enjoy your trip. If you have not printed your permit yet, it is not possible to do so; however, you may print your confirmation letter that was emailed to you when your application for a permit was granted, and take that with you on your hike. If you do not have a NW Forest Pass, leave a copy of your confirmation on the dashboard of your car." Additional Hiker info: See the comments below from schifferj for more info about snow conditions and passes.
- The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest's Sustainable Roads public engagement meeting in Everett on October 9 has been cancelled.
WTA trail work parties on federal land cancelled
Update 10/2: WTA has cancelled work parties on National Forest land for the first weekend in October. We will be able to resume on federal land work parties when government operations resume. Where possible, we will redirect these work parties to state or county properties. And in a fit of optimism, we will keep our October 11-13 work parties for National Forest land on the schedule.
NOAA shuts down, but you can still get weather updates
If you rely on on the National Weather Service to assess conditions before you head out hiking, you'll still be able to get that information during the shutdown. NOAA.gov and most associated websites are unavailable, but because the weather.gov site provides information "necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the Federal Government shutdown."
The silver lining: state and local lands are open
Hike and camp on state and local lands. Washington State Parks and Fish & Wildlife lands remain open for hikers and recreation users and people should bring their Discover Pass to hang in their windows at these sites. County lands remain open as well, and there are many great places to hike close by urban centers.
Volunteer on city, county and state trails. WTA's trail work on these lands will also go forward. We have work parties this weekend scheduled for Taylor Mountain in King County, Big Rock in Spokane County and Dosewallips State Park on the Olympic Peninsula. You can still sign up for these work parties and others.
Share your experience
Have you already been impacted by the shutdown on national public lands? Been turned away from a National Park or asked to leave a campground? Share your story with us in the comments below?
For the second time this summer, multiple mudslides have closed the North Cascades Highway (SR 20). Last night's heavy rains and thunderstorms unleashed enough mud and debris across the road to close the North Cascades Highway from milepost 147 (10 miles west of Rainy Pass) to 171 (9 miles east of Washington Pass).
With heavier rains expected today, Washington State Department of Transportation's Dave Chesson said that WSDOT crews do not expect to reopen the highway until sometime next week. Crews will likely wait until the rain subsides and it is safe to begin cleanup efforts, since more debris may come down as the day progresses. Chesson said that crews are also working on getting a few vehicles parked at the Pacific Crest Trailhead out of the closure area.
The key access road through the North Cascades had only been open a few weeks, after eight mudslides closed it in early August. Travelers looking for updates can call the hotline at 360-707-5055, visit the North Cascades website, follow WSDOT and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on Twitter for updates.
The Cascade River Road to the popular (and spectacular) Cascade Pass - Sahale Arm Trail was unaffected by the mudslides. It remains open.
Three-mile section of SR 410, west of Naches, closed
Farther south, multiple mudslides, the deepest of which is between 6-8 feet deep, closed a section of SR 410, 20 miles west of Naches. WSDOT closed the road between milepost 105 and 108.
Crews are currently assessing the extent of damage and expect to begin the cleanup process Friday, possibly reopening the road as early as this weekend. A detour is available via the Nile Loop Road.
Icicle Road outside Leavenworth closed at the 10-mile mark
Mudslide at Stehikin buries parking lot, damages businesses
Updated 9.6.13 at 5:19 pm: The North Cascades National Park Complex also reported that a massive mud and rock slide in the community of Stehekin Thursday night buried vehicles in the long term parking area and at the mouth of Imus Creek. Businesses affected were Discovery Bikes and Stehekin Reservations and Fly Fishing Shop. Most of the bicycles were damaged or washed into Lake Chelan and the log cabin office for fly fishing and reservations was surrounded by mud and rocks.
An historic NPS storage shed at the Imus Cabin was filled with water and mud, the storage shed at the Lake House was damaged, and mud encroached on the public laundry building. Gas is currently turned off to that area to reduce the potential for fire. There were no injuries.
National Park employees, assisted by local residents, are clearing the road, and currently it is partially open for shuttle service and the public. Assessment of the work needed to recover the damaged vehicles and to stabilize the slide debris is currently underway.
Bicycle rentals are temporarily suspended, shuttle buses are operating as passage through the site is allowed. NPS boats have been shuttling people around the slide area to ensure pedestrian safety. The Imus Trail is closed to public use pending a safety assessment, trail repair and bridge replacement.
Hiking after a heavy rain
- When hiking during or after very heavy rains, it's a good idea to take a little extra caution and watch your footing around any steep drainages, along hillsides, some shorelines and on snowfields. Drainages around recent fire activity can be particularly unstable to mud and debris flows.
- Rivers can also swell unexpectedly, even this late in the season, so make sure to carefully assess any creek or river crossings.
- If you see a landslide across a trail, let your local ranger station know. You can also report landslides to the Department of Natural Resources.
Pitch in to help trails
- Flooding can also erode and damage trails. Washington Trails Association volunteer crews often help repair or work to protect trails from flooding. If you'd like to join the effort this fall, we've got some great volunteer opportunities coming up this month, some of which can help you earn your National Forest pass.
Between Sept. 6 and Oct. 10, photos will be the best way to enjoy the views from Sulphur Mountain. Photo by HikerJim.
The Suiattle River Road will be closed to all human visitation (no boots or bikes) from milepost 11.6 to the end between September 6 and October 10 for long-awaited repairs.
As true connoisseurs of Washington's hiking seasons know, September is one of the best months to be out -- air crisp and fresh as a newly-laundered sheet, honeyed sunlight and ripe berries conspire to make any hiker's heart beat faster. While hikers may lament the restricted access the Glacier Peak Wilderness trailheads that we've visited on foot or by bike since the road washed out in 2003, there's good news in store.
Work on the Suiattle will begin post-Labor Day
The Suiattle is being closed so that the Darrington Ranger District can commence work on the road and reopen it to passenger vehicles for the first time in more than a decade.
They will be drilling or blasting on a substantial rock face, doing some small-scale timber falling and moving a lot of dirt -- work that's potentially dangerous to anyone other than hardhat-clad professionals.
Construction marks the first step in an open Suiattle
Keep in mind that the road won't reopen to cars by October. It will likely be a couple of seasons before you can drive to the Suiattle Trailhead again. But this marks a crucial first step, and Washington Trails Association couldn't be happier about it.
Since 2003 and 2006, when landslides closed the Suiattle River Road past milepost 12 (effectively locking out hikers from some great trails in the Cascades) WTA has been heavily engaged with the Suiattle Road repair process, drafting the sign-on letter referenced in the article, helping convene the groups that signed on, and rallying hikers to speak up for the road.
"I can't wait for the road to be open to the public"
The Darrington Ranger District and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie staff deserve several pats on the back for their tenacity and hard work. We agree wholeheartedly with Peter Forbes, Darrington District Ranger, when he says "I'm excited that work has started, and I can't wait for the road to be open to the public."
For more information on this project, please take a look at the project page on the Federal Highways Western Federal Lands Division website.
While the burn ban has lifted in some western state campgrounds, everyone can celebrate National Smores Day with a little ingenuity. Photo by John Tomlin at Flapjack Lakes.
Campfire ban lifted on western state lands
Yesterday, the campfire ban on state lands was lifted for areas west of the Cascade crest. That applies to State Parks and Department of Natural Resources lands in the western part of the state.
Since Tuesday was National S'mores Day, the timing is perfect for a s'mores cook-off. If you're in the high country or in the eastern part of the state, though, you'll still need to eat your s'mores raw or cook them over a backpacking stove. (Either way, we'd love for you to share your photos or video with us in a Trip Report.)
The ban, which includes fires in campgrounds and grilling with briquettes, remains in place in Eastern Washington. And with fire danger still present around the state, it's essential to practice campfire and backcountry fire safety.
Crews work to clear North Cascades Hwy, but not before weekend
Road crews have been hard at work on repairs to two very popular North Cascades roads that washed out after thunderstorms with intense rains last weekend. Here's what you need to know before the weekend:
Crews with the Washington Department of Transportation have been working daylight hours to clear 8 mudslides totaling 30,000 cubic yards of mud and debris on from Highway 20, the major east-west route through North Cascades National Park. They've made tremendous progress, but the road won't be open this weekend.
"Travelers should make plans to take an alternate route," advises Jeff Adamson from Washington State Department of Transportation.
Once the mud and debris are cleared, Adamson says, the WSDOT team will still need to fix a guardrail, complete some drainage and ditching work and repair some pavement damage before the road can open to traffic. More rain has also hampered the effort, though it hasn't caused any new slides yet.
The road is closed from the winter gate east of Diablo at milepost 147 to milepost 157 east of Rainy Pass.
Cascade River Road open
On the Cascade River Road, road crews and rangers coordinated to build a temporary one-lane road across the washout in record time to evacuate 65 hikers and their stranded vehicles.
While the road remains closed to vehicles at milepost 20 (the Eldorado Creek parking area, 3 miles before the road's end), foot traffic is allowed past the closure point to the popular Cascade Pass Trailhead and Boston Basin access point.
Update: Aug. 21, 2013
At least eight mudslides have closed the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) west of Rainy Pass. Photo courtesy of WSDOT.
Thunderstorms with intense rains caused wash-outs of two very popular roads this past weekend in North Cascades National Park.
Eight mudslides close North Cascades Highway near Rainy Pass
Highway 20, the major east-west route through the park, is closed for further notice due to a series of at least eight mudslides between mileposts 150 and 155. The road is closed from the winter gate east of Diablo at milepost 147 to milepost 157 east of Rainy Pass. As of Sunday, the largest of the slides is estimated to be a quarter-mile long and 25 feet deep. WSDOT reports that Rainy Pass is accessible from the east.
Before the highway can reopen, the hillsides will need to be analyzed and stabilized by experts, but it is expected that the Washington Department of Transportation will make the repairs as soon as it can. This could take days or even more than a week, however. You can view photos of the slides and follow developments on WSDOT's excellent Flickr page.
Cascade Pass trailhead inaccessible
Heavy rains also caused the Cascade River Road to wash out at milepost 18, which stranded approximately 30 vehicles parked at the Cascade Pass trailhead about 1.5 miles above the washout. Sixty-five stranded people spent an uncomfortable night in their vehicles, while National Park Service employees helped them get word to friends and family at home that they were safe. (Read a first-hand account of the experience from our news partner, The Seattle Times.)
The wash-out on the Cascade River Road is estimated to be approximately 15 feet deep and 40-60 feet wide. Plans have been developed to build a temporary one-lane road to allow stranded vehicles to leave the area as soon as possible, possibly by the end of the day on Monday.
While it is likely that the wash-out on Highway 20 will be cleared by WSDOT in the near future, the timeline for repairs on the Cascade River Road is less clear. In the past it has taken months or even seasons to repair. The trail to Cascade Pass and the Sahale Arm is one of the most popular (for a reason) hikes in North Cascades National Park and a fine place to for late summer and fall hiking.
Update on 8/13/2013 from North Cascades National Park on Twitter:
Cascade River Road Update: Successfully evacuated stranded visitors late yesterday. Road reopened to vehicles to MP 20; foot traffic to TH— North Cascades NP (@NCascadesNPS) August 13, 2013
The road is closed to vehicles at milepost 20, the Eldorado Creek parking area, 3 miles before the road's end. The Cascade Pass Trailhead and Boston Basin access point are not accessible by vehicle. Foot traffic is allowed past the closure point.
As repairs to the Suiattle River Road slowly begin to approach reality, Ron Judd, a staff writer for The Seattle Times, has written that examines the challenges hikers are facing in accessing some of Washington's wild places.
The long road to the Suiattle River Road repair
Judd's piece focuses on the critical function that core access roads play for hikers who wish to visit Washington's wild places, places like the west side of the Glacier Peak Wilderness, which the Suiattle River Road accesses.
Since 2003 and 2006, when landslides closed the Suiattle River Road past milepost 12 (effectively locking out hikers from some great trails in the Cascades) Washington Trails Association has been heavily engaged with the Suiattle Road repair process, drafting the sign-on letter referenced in the article, helping convene the groups that signed on, and rallying hikers to speak up for the road.
And one day, hopefully very soon, climbers will be able to summit Glacier Peak from the west side of the Cascades, and hikers will more easily be able to visit the sprawling, stream-riven meadows of this incredible wilderness.
How to get involved in fighting for smart, sustainable access to trails
As WTA continues to advocate for the Suiattle and other critical access roads through our State of Access Report and our efforts with the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on their Sustainable Roads Analysis project, this kind of coverage is important.
Even more importantly, we urge hikers to get engaged on these issues. We can't afford to keep all roads open, for good fiscal and ecological reasons. But the key access points that hikers depend on are worth fighting for.
Here are two actions you can take right now:
1. Help create sustainable roads in National Forests. You can attend one of four upcoming public meetings in Darrington, Monroe, Bellingham and Everett hosted by the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as part of a public process to help guide how its 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.
2. 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. Sign up now.
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions bill continues to show momentum for passage in 2013. After having passed the U.S. Senate on June 19, its companion bill, H.R. 361, received a hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation on July 23.
If enacted, the legislation would protect 22,000 acres adjacent to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and designate both the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic. The additions would be primarily between the current southern border of the wilderness and I-90, in the Pratt River Valley and south of the Middle Fork SnoqualmieTrail. The legislation enjoys the support of a broad swathe of the non-motorized recreation community, including the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and Back Country Horsemen of Washington.
WTA has been a supporter of this legislation since it was first introduced in 2007. It's passage in the Senate, and this House hearing, is closer than it has ever come to becoming law. WTA is pleased that the House Natural Resources Committee offered a hearing, and we'd like to thank King County Councilman Reagan Dunn who testified in support of the legislation at the hearing. We'd like toacknowledge Congressman Reichert and Congresswoman DelBene, the principal supporters of the bill, as well as Congressmen McDermott and Smith have also signed on. Their leadership has been essential to shepherding H.R. 361 through the legislative process.
The next step would be for the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation to refer the bill to the full House Natural Resources Committee, who then would have the task of marking up the bill to the House floor. We will keep you posted on developments as they occur.
King County voters will start to see ballots for the August 6 election appear in mailboxes any day now. When those ballots arrive, please take a moment to vote Yes on the King County Parks Levy.
Yes on the King County Parks Levy
The proposed King County Parks Levy continues current, essential, funding for an incredible parks system. The Levy will continue to supply 70 per cent of King County Parks' budget for the next six years. The levy raises $18.77 per thousand dollars of property valuation -- or about $56 annually on a house valued at $300,000.
That will pay for important recreation projects at Cougar Mountain, Marymoor, Soaring Eagle, Preston and many other treasured local parks and trails.
Support vital trail systems and outdoor experiences
Washington Trails Association volunteers have worked hard to maintain King County trails over the years, and we've enjoyed a strong relationship with the Parks. This levy is essential to maintaining and improving the vital trail systems throughout the King County Park system.
In 2012, WTA volunteers completed 160 work parties on King County lands, working a total of 15,338 hours. We're on track to match those numbers this year. We commit so much time and energy to King County Parks because they serve so many hikers.
These lovely places are your backyard wilderness and home to many a formative outdoor experience. They're an essential component of Puget Sound's quality of life and economic strength. Voting yes on the King County Parks Levy is your expression of commitment to the values that make our region great -- our love of nature, our sense of place, and our commitment to providing key outdoor experiences to everyone who lives here.
Broad support, Seattle Times endorsement for levy
WTA is not alone in supporting the King County Parks Levy. A host of other organizations have been engaged in this effort, and last night, it earned The Seattle Times' .
So please take a moment and fill out your ballot as soon as you receive it, voting in support of the King County Parks Levy. Hikers across the region will thank you!