For many hikers, the idea of taking a walk in the woods may seem like no big deal. Just grab your boots, throw a few essentials in a pack and hit the trail, right? For 21 students who recently volunteered a day on Cougar Mountain's Precipice Top Trail, the journey into Washington's wild spaces proved a little more complicated. For one thing, it started in Burma.
Before February 20, many of the students—refugees from Burma—had never had the opportunity, gear, or transportation to get out and enjoy Washington's trails. But by taking advantage of the workshops and resources of WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training program, the youth program leaders at Coalition of Refugees from Burma were able to provide their students a day of team-building and camaraderie while improving a trail in peaceful woodlands of Cougar Mountain.
OLT: Training and equipping community leaders
In October, Siobhan Whalen, the Youth Programs Coordinator for the Coalition, attended WTA's Day Hike Gear Orientation. Participating in the workshop qualified Whalen for access to WTA’s new gear lending library to outfit students and chaperones. A mini-grant from WTA also covered expenses for the bus and trip costs.
"Without the mini-grant, borrowed boots, rain-gear, water bottles and backpacks, this incredible group of teens simply wouldn't have been able to spend the day on trail with us," said Andrew Pringle, the Outdoor Leadership Training Coordinator.
Building a community, along with a new trail
The students completed a tremendous amount of work building a brand new section of trail on public lands in their community.
"They picked up quickly on what needed to get done, worked well together as teams, and got a lot of nice new trail constructed," said Jack Simonson from King County Parks and Recreation. "I was really impressed with their motivation and the quality of their work."
Even better, the students got to spend time with each other away from the stresses of building a new life in a new country, something that Whalen said the teens don't always get a chance to do.
- The Coalition for Refugees from Burma is non-profit association focused on providing culturally and linguistically appropriate social support services to improve the living conditions and quality of life of refugees from Burma resettled in Washington State.
- Learn more about WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training program. If you are a teacher or youth leader, find out how to sign up for the upcoming Day Hiking workshop on April 19 or the upcoming Camping workshops in June.
Organizing and packing your food and backpack the night before a hike can help get you out the door.
Sometimes getting out the door feels like the hardest part of going on a hike. We checked in with our Facebook community about their planning, packing and streamlining strategies. More than 50 hikers weighed in with tips on fine-tuning their exit strategy.
Plan ahead for the season
It's no surprise that planning ahead was a universal theme in the tips shared by your fellow hikers. But those weren't limited to prepping the night before a hike. Steps you take at the beginning of the year or the season will eliminate barriers to getting out the door.
- Buy annual parking permits so you're not always scrambling at the last minute to find a weekend vendor. —Neely O. B.
- For backpacking, in the spring I dehydrate a bunch of fruits, veggies and spaghetti sauce and put together dinners for future use. I store them in individual bags in the fridge, then just grab and go when I'm planning an overnight or multi-night trip. —Susan Elderkin, a WTA staffer.
Stay ready, organize your gear, use a checklist
- We keep our packs ready all the time. I replenish packs during the week, change batteries, check snacks. Winter season has different needs. We keep extra cold gear in the SUV at all times in winter.
We pick our destination the night before, which gives us a MUST LEAVE THE HOUSE time... Green Trails maps and all Passes stay in the vehicle. —Debby A.
- Have the stuff in the back of your car in case of a Hiking Situation. —Nathan M.
- Keep most of the ten essentials in your pack at all times, ready to go. Also keep a pack-list. Check off each item the night prior and throw in the last minute stuff (food) the morning of. —Rashel F.
- Dedicate a box or a set of drawers to outdoor gear. Keep ten essentials together. Also: reduce the amount of gear you have down to the gear you ACTUALLY use. That takes the decision out of it. It's not, "oh, which gloves should I use?" Instead, it's "pack cold weather gloves." —Rebecca J.
Packing the night before helps get you out the door
- Pack your bag the night before, drink a cup of coffee, GO! —Tyler A.
- Pack the night before. The best thing for me is to make breakfast burritos the night before. Get up, put them in the oven to heat while taking a shower, you have a hot meal high in protein to eat on the way to the hike. —Meagan L.
- I am NOT a morning person, so I get everything ready the night before and set it by the door. My permit, directions to the TH, phone and wallet are set right beside my car keys if I'm driving. Then I set up coffee pot to start brewing, and make my lunch. The next AM, I just get up, grab a bite, throw the stuff in the car and go. —Linda R.
How to (literally) get out of bed
Do you spring out of bed with a twinkle in your eye, ready to bound up a mountain? Then this section is not for you. Even if hiking is THE THING YOU LOVE TO DO MOST IN ALL THE WORLD, that doesn't necessarily make getting out of bed easier. So, if you're inclined to trade your first-born for ten more minutes in bed, your more reasonable night-self may need to trick or bribe your morning-self into motivating.
- Make plans I'm excited about! —Mary R.
- I set two alarms. The one on my clock gives me time to make breakfast & coffee and leave with plenty of time to get to the trailhead. The other is on my cell and set for about 20 minutes later. It lives across the room so I HAVE to get out of bed. —Anna Roth, a WTA staffer
- Another trick: get a vehicle you can sleep in the back of, like a Subaru Legacy wagon, then drive out the night before and sleep at the trailhead. —Paul B.
- Getting pastries from the local bakery for the road gives great incentive to get in the car! —Rebecca J.
- According to a recent study, a week camping in the woods is also a great way to teach your body to wake up more easily.
This makes perfect sense, but when you roll in from a day or weekend of hiking, packing for your next trip isn't always the first thing on your mind. If you need a little motivation to take this extra step, turn your usual post-hike beer or meal into a post-unpacking/restocking treat. You'll thank yourself later.
- Hiking with kids (one with special needs - requires packing in and special equipment) always goes best when we've checked our equipment several days ahead. Growing feet and varying nutritional needs can really throw us off! Keeping packs loaded, unloading and sorting as soon as we return home, and checking everything the night before all allow for extra opportunities to remember random items. Like restocking our bandaid supply. —Carrie W.
Remember, there's no right way to plan a hike
You might be trying to streamline your hiking routine, but not everyone plans ahead or uses checklists the same way. (An informal poll of WTA staff found that while spreadsheets and laminated checklists are essential for some staff, others have never used a written checklist to pack.)
As long as you check trail and weather conditions, take your ten essentials and tell someone where you will be, there's nothing wrong with waking up and seeing where the day takes you.
This month we're working in several locations that need some special attention and we'd love to have your help! Join us for a day full of safety, fun, and work, and make your mark on the trails you love.
Puget Sound - O'Grady
March 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22
O'Grady Park provides a unique retreat only a few miles east of the heavily populated Green River valley around Auburn. Venturing here, hikers get a sense of a wilder river, with little noticeable human impact. A plethora of flora and fauna call the Green River Natural Area home, and many locals and visitors use the trails for hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding.
The main trails at O'Grady are about two miles in length, and are in need of some WTA love. Volunteers can expect to work on trail rehabilitation, reroutes, and finishing a new trail that is just over one mile long.
Northwest Washington - Sharpe Park
March 15, 16
Despite their relatively short length, the user-built trails at Sharpe Park need some major repair in order to get them up to standard. Join us as we work at this unique location, home to the largest undeveloped waterfront on Fidalgo Island.
We'll be rebuilding sections of rooty and rocky trails. In addition, expect to do a bit of general maintenance on some of the park's more popular, established trails. So come for a day of trail work near Anacortes, and afterwards, explore this little-known gem on Fidalgo Island.
Eastern Washington - Riverside State Park
March 15, 27
Riverside State Park supports a wide variety of recreational activities such as camping, picnicking, swimming, fishing, and boating. Its freshwater marshes, running rivers and beautiful countryside, and its rich history combine to make this area a popular destination for all manner of outdoor enthusiasts.
Join WTA as we pick up where we left off last fall: building a 3/4 mile new section of trail to reroute the existing trail off of private land and onto state and county land. This is a great opportunity to get some rock work experience and enjoy springtime in Spokane.
Southwest Washington - Paradise Point State Park
An 88-acre camping park with more than 6,000 feet of freshwater shoreline, Paradise Point State Park packs a lot into a little space just east of I-5. In this tiny retreat are stands of majestic Douglas firs and cedars, as well as swimming on the Lewis River and campsites in open grass or wooded areas. There's even a small apple orchard to explore.
Despite being just off a major roadway, the park is often overlooked, so it needs some WTA TLC. The loop trail that follows the Lewis River is slippery and rooty, and you'll get the chance to improve the tread in this area. In some sections, we may even be completely rerouting the trail to a more favorable grade. Come discover a hidden treasure in southwest Washington!
If you're looking for a rewarding, challenging and fun vacation this summer and you love camping, take a look at these five volunteer vacations. These are week-long work parties that connect hikers with much-needed trail maintenance projects in beautiful locations throughout Washington.
On a Volunteer Vacation, WTA provides you with a week of fine cooking, fun folks and a meaningful project—led by one of our skilled crew leaders. You'll accomplish some important trail work during the day, get to know your fellow volunteers over camp chores, and have plenty of time left over to sleep, eat, relax, hike and enjoy your wild surroundings.
So take a look at these five trips that have space remaining and join us this season on trail.
South Fork Skokomish at LeBar: Repair trails in a rainforest
July 12 - 19
From towering old-growth firs and Sitka spruce to the majestic Roosevelt elk, everything in the Olympic rainforest is big and vibrantly alive. Even the Skokomish River itself thunders and crashes, making an echoey tumult through the lush greenery that creates a wilderness experience many hikers won't soon forget.
What's special about this trip:
While many people can only take a day or so to enjoy this area, you could spend an entire week here working on trail and soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells of the impressive Olympic rainforest.
Why the trail needs you:
Trails on the well-watered Olympic Peninsula require yearly attention. WTA's trip to Lebar offers the chance to work on puncheon (or bridge) construction, a popular task on any work party. Trails on the well-watered Olympic Peninsula require yearly attention.
West Fork Humptulips: Woodworking on the West Fork
July 12 - 19
A wide variety of ecosystems call the West Fork Humptulips River bottom home. From the ubiquitous groves of old-growth forest, to meadows teeming with critters, this region of the Olympic Peninsula is brimming with all manner of life. Because it skirts the edge of one of the largest roadless expanses of the national forest, the West Fork Humptulips offers one of the most all-encompassing wilderness experiences available in the state.
What's special about this trip:
We promise an easy hike in with your gear transported for you to a shelter at Humptulips, so all you need is your day pack on the way in and out. Work crews on this trip will get the opportunity to practice their woodworking skills (no experience needed), while camping in one of the most diverse river valleys on the peninsula.
Why the trail needs you:
The location's singular name allegedly comes from a Native American phrase that means “hard to pole”— referring to its location near the shallow Humptulips River. The fact that it's shallow is lucky for hikers, since trails here cross the river multiple times, but all that water crossing the trail can wear it down, making it unpleasant, even unsafe, to hike on. That's why we'll be replacing decking on a failing puncheon just one mile from camp.
Cathedral Rock Trail: Sanctuary just off the PCT
August 9 - 16
This destination on the Pacific Crest Trail offers silence and solitude surprisingly close to the I-90 corridor. You'll be working in the shadow of the awesome spire of Cathedral Rock and camping at Squaw Lake, a popular day hike destination, where you’ll be able to take a dip or fish for trout at the end of your work day.
What's special about this trip:
On your day off, go explore Cathedral Rock up close or push on to Peggy’s Pond, a fairytale tarn set in the gorgeous Alpine Lake Wilderness.
Why the trail needs you:
Because this section of the Pacfic Crest Trail is relatively close to the Puget Sound metropolis, the trail gets plenty of use, and WTA is working to restore it after the early summer traffic has blown through. We'll be working on drainage, treadwork, repairing trail structures and brushing.
Wild Sky Wilderness: Now with even more berries! (and fewer bugs)
August 30 - September 6
Trek along burbling Pass Creek, through magnificent stands of hemlock and Douglas fir on your hike in to this scenic backcountry camp location. Though the heavy brush might hint at heavy bugs, you can rest easy; this late in the season the bugs won't be a bother. Plus, you can stop and snack on handfuls of juicy huckleberries along the way to camp.
What's special about this trip:
Besides the huckleberries, you mean? Mid-week, you can venture up to Dishpan Gap or the aptly named Kodak Peak (don't forget your camera!). Either of these areas offer broad vistas of the rugged Henry M. Jackson Wilderness.
Why the trail needs you:
You'll be giving back to this wilderness trail during the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Help rehabilitate an area that hasn't seen much trail maintenance in recent years. By the end of the week, you'll be impressed by how much of an improvement you've made.
Mount Adams at Riley Creek: Bask for a week in fall colors and alpenglow
September 6 - 13
Camp for a week just off the Pacific Crest Trail with Mount Adams right in your front yard. Enjoy a moderate four mile hike into camp accompanied by vibrant fall colors all around you. And this late in the season, you won't need to worry about bugs! Relax in camp in the evening, basking in the majestic volcano's alpenglow as the sun sets.
What's special about this trip:
On your day off, be sure and explore the Pacific Crest Trail in either direction, or simply relax in camp with your fellow volunteers.
Why the trail needs your help:
We'll be working north and south on the PCT within four miles of camp. Enthusiastic thru-hikers will have been walking the iconic trail all season, so WTA is heading in to fix treadwork and drainage and generally rehabilitating the trail for next season. Come for a week and explore the remote wilderness around Mount Adams.
Doug Murray, Lezlie Cox, and Pauline Cantor (left to right) are ready to get those shiny orange hats dirty. Photo by Anna Roth
On a work party, the crew leader—the person wearing the blue hard hat—is in charge. But WTA work parties often have so many enthusiastic volunteers that the crew leader sometimes needs a little help. Enter our volunteer assistant crew leaders, better known (and easily identified) by the orange hard hats they wear.
ACLs help the crew leader by providing guidance and a helping hand to volunteers, as well as insight and feedback to the crew leader when it comes to the project at hand. This season, we're happy to announce five new volunteer orange hats joining our team. Come out to a work party in your area and you just might meet one of these excellent individuals.
Doug Murray: ditching the desk job for a grub hoe
Where you'll run into Doug: On trails in Puget Sound.
Favorite tool: The tool that gets the job done most efficiently, but I'm partial to the grub hoe.
Favorite snack on trail: GORP
First WTA work party: Bean Creek Basin week-long (volunteer vacation) in 2012.
Why did you volunteer? After 30-plus years doing a desk job and raising kids it was high time to get outdoors and do some physical labor.
Lezlie Cox: snacks on seaweed and wields a Pulaski
Where you'll run into Lezlie: On trails in Puget Sound.
Favorite tool: Pulaski
Favorite snack on trail: On cold work parties—cheese. On hikes—seaweed and chocolate-covered coconut macaroons.
First time volunteering with us: I volunteered in 1997, but my memory fails in the particulars.
Why did you volunteer? Greg Ball and the enthusiastic if slightly demented volunteers of WTA.
Pauline Cantor: volunteered for a week, and still at it 7 years later
Where you'll run into Pauline: On trails in Puget Sound.
Favorite tool: Green grubber
Favorite snack on trail: Almonds and dried apricots
First WTA work party: A week-long work party (volunteer vacation) on Buck Creek Trail in the Cascades with Janice O’Connor in 2007.
Why did you volunteer? Our kids volunteered for WTA while in high school and we were getting their WTA magazines. Over lunch one day, we noticed an article advertising the week-longs and thought it would be interesting to try out. We had a really fun time with Janice and the other volunteers and have been volunteering ever since.
Frank Lacey: met his future wife on his first WTA work party
Where you'll run into Frank: On trails in the Northwest.
Favorite tool: I think the grub hoe is my favorite tool.
Favorite snack on trail: My favorite snack would be an Odwalla bar.
First WTA work party: My first WTA work party was in 1999 on a weeklong (volunteer vacation) with Greg Ball as our crew leader. It was on that trip that I met Jeroldine, we were married two years later.
Why did you volunteer? I want to give back by helping maintain the trails that I love so much.
Richard Pedersen: hooked on the fun, the challenge and the satisfaction
Where you'll run into Richard: On trails in the Northwest.
Favorite tool: The shovel
Favorite snack on trail: A Clif Bar, for now the Pecan Pie flavor
First WTA trail work party: I first worked with WTA on the Baker River Trail in June 2010.
Why did you volunteer? I had recently retired, moved to Bellingham, and was looking for an outdoor organization to get involved with. WTA and trail maintenance caught my fancy. After the first work party I got hooked on the fun, the challenge of working in the dirt and rocks, and the satisfaction of leaving the trail in better condition than I found it.
Les Baddgor: wished he had picked up the green grubber earlier
Where you'll run into Les: On trails in the Southwest.
Favorite tool: Depends on what we are doing, probably the green grubber.
Favorite snack on trail: Probably an apple.
First WTA work party: I was with the Thursday crew at Cape Horn in the Gorge.
Why did you volunteer? I have been a member of WTA for several years and always wanted to join a work party, but never did so until after I retired. I wish I had started sooner.
More trail maintenance resources:
- Join WTA on four trails that need your help this February.
- Check our work party schedule for the latest and greatest locations.
- Planning further ahead? Sign up for a volunteer vacation or a Backcountry Response Team Trip and spend some quality time with your ACLs in the backcountry.
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)
Snow and rain can't keep Washington's hikers inside, even in winter. Find fresh ideas for getting outdoors by following in the footsteps of trip reporters who faithfully reported their adventures over President's day weekend. They've got great destination ideas and tips for making cold-weather hiking more fun (like KatieMae's post-hike thermos of hot cocoa).
Seasonal safety basics
From the dramatic winter waves of the Pacific to snow-dusted oaks in the canyons of Central Washington, winter weather can paint some amazing views for hikers willing to explore this time of year. Plus, you'll find you get the trail to yourself a whole lot more.
The key to a successful, safe and fun winter hiking or snowshoeing trip is preparation. Hikers and snowshoers need to do plenty of advanced planning and take every precaution before hitting a trail in winter months. Check out our guide for safer backcountry exploration in winter, and start planning your next outing!
Six trails, one weekend in Washington
From a coastal walk at Ebey's Landing to a guided snowshoe at Commonwealth Basin, you can find a lot of different kinds of hikes this time of year. Match the photos to the trails and trip reporters who captured them below, and then dive deeper into trip reports for more ideas for your winter hiking.
Top row left: "The trail winds across the open prairie/farmland until it reaches the bluffs. Though we were bent over into the wind feeling like it was going to take us away, the views were gorgeous. ... Luckily we had a nice hot thermos of hot cocoa waiting for us at the car. Overall I would recommend this hike. Rain or shine, you will definitely feel alive!." —Ebey's Landing by KatieMae.
Top center: "This was a guided snowshoe walk into Commonwealth Basin via the PCT (ish). Because of the heavy snow we've had recently, we amended our route ... Our guide was very informative about the wildlife and the forest as we hiked through it. If you have the opportunity to join one of these guided hikes I highly recommend it."
Top right: "The falls were running robustly due to the precipitation. Views included the Skykomish River valley, as well as occasional peek-a-boo glimpses of Mt. Stickney. ... We never had the trail to ourselves, but folks were genial, and we had an unqualified wonderful time." —Wallace Falls by Taum Sauk
Bottom center: "Fun family time at the Sanctuary. ... This is near the Boeing Everett Plant, but you will almost forget that you are in the city while exploring these trails.
Bottom right: "We had an enjoyable short hike up Sugarloaf on a super windy, but otherwise dry Sunday afternoon. ... We managed to get some views, but the wind was so strong and cold (but invigorating!!), that we didn't linger too long before heading back into the trees to complete our loop." —Sugarloaf by calixtomoon
It may be cheesy, but we don't care. The truth is that we love you and Washington's trails. Hikers, trail runners, volunteers, members and supporters: you're the heart and soul of this community.
So from all of us here at Washington Trails Association to all of you, Happy Valentine's Day. And since we can't hand-deliver Valentine's to all of you, we offer a little poem instead.
Hug a tree
Use your knees
Spot a snail
Fix a trail
Feast your eyes
High-five the sky
From the wild coast to the high divide
Grab your loved ones and head outside.
Happy Valentines from Washington Trails Association
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.
Update 2.19.14: The lottery opening was delayed by a few days. Dates below reflected the updated date window from the Forest Service.
There is no place quite like Washington's Enchantment Lakes Basin in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Backcountry camping in the Enchantments ranks high on many Northwest hikers' wishlists.
Because of the area's popularity, all overnight visitors must obtain a permit if they want to camp in the Basin between June 16 through October 14 in 2014. Most (75 percent) of those permits are issued through an annual lottery, which opens in a few days. If you know you want to backpack in the Enchantments this year, start planning now, and mark your calendars with the following dates.
How to apply for an Enchantments permit
The application process this year will work almost exactly like last year. If you want to get in the running for one of the coveted permits, follow these basic steps (and then cross your fingers). First you apply between February 15 and March 2. If you win a permit in the lottery, then you need to confirm and pay for it between March 6 and March 31.
Step 1. Apply for a permit at recreation.gov Feb. 19-Mar. 5
The 2014 Enchantment lottery will open on February 19, 2014 and end at 11:59 p.m. on March 5, 2014. (Applying early doesn't give you preference for a permit, so just make sure to get your application in during this window.)
- Set up an account at www.recreation.gov. This can be done at any time (even right now). You can use the same account to reserve other permits or any of the campsites that use the National Recreation Reservation Service system.
- Fill out an application at www.recreation.gov on the Enchantments Permit page. You'll be able to select your preferred zone to camp in (see map) (Core Enchantment, Snow Lake, Colchuck, Stuart Lake or Eightmile/Caroline), the dates of your trip, and the number in your group (maximum of 8 heartbeats) in your party.
It's a good idea to research where and when you'd like to go before you start the application process since making changes to an application may not be easy or even possible once you've submitted it.
You will be charged a $6.00 non-refundable application fee. At this point, you will NOT have purchased a permit, but rather will have entered the lottery.
Step 2. Check the results on March 9, and confirm and pay for your permit
The lottery results will be posted on recreation.gov on (or just after) March 9, at which time applicants can log into their recreation.gov account and find out the results of their application. If you apply, set yourself a reminder to check back during this period; don't count on an email.
If you score a permit, the next step is confirming and paying for your permits between March 9 and March 31. You'll also be asked to provide additional information about party size, the length of your stay, and pay for the permit. This is when you will be charged the $5.00/person/day fee.
If you don't win one of the lottery permits
- After the pre-season lottery permits are awarded, you can search for and reserve any of the few dates that were not filled at recreation.gov on the Enchantments Permit Area Page. This option is expected to become available at 7:00 a.m. PST on April 1, 2014 or soon thereafter.
- You can still try for the small number of daily walk-in permits. Read more about the logistics of trying for one of these permits issued daily (except Sundays) at the Wenatchee River Ranger District Office.
- Day hike the Enchantments. Treat this season as a chance to gather intel about the area by day hiking it. Take a few hikes and get a feeling for the zones and where you might like to plan a trip in 2015.
More details and trip planning resources
- Explore the Enchantments. To get a sense of the different trails within the Enchantments, you can search for trails and Trip Reports in our hiking guide. Scope out some of the classic views of the Enchantments in our photo gallery.
- Choosing a zone. More information about the application process, rules and advice about how to choose a zone can be found on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website and Recreation.gov Enchantments page.
- Improve your chances. The Forest Service also has this to say about improving your chances for a permit. "Bear in mind that the most popular time to go is August, and the most popular days to start a trip are Fridays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If you really want to do a Friday-Sunday trip in mid-August, by all means apply for that trip, but remember that you’re odds of getting a permit will be less than if you tried for a Monday-Wednesday trip in July."
- Group size. If you are coordinating with friends or family, remember that group size is limited to 8 people, and that you will need to all camp in the same location.
- More resources. This second half of this page has , including information about the zones, what to expect, fire restrictions and more. Note: If you usually hike with a dog, you will also need to arrange to leave her at home as part of your plans. Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the Enchantments Basin and on the Ingalls Lake Trail.
- Mountain goats. Depending on where you go, you might encounter mountain goats on trail or in camp. Know what to do if you encounter mountain goats.
Why is the permit and lottery system in place?
We often hear from people who wonder why they need a permit to overnight on public lands. While the system may not be perfect, there are very good reasons why someplace like the Enchantments Basin now uses a permit and lottery system.
- Reduce impact. The permit process keeps the Enchantments from being loved to death. The craggy peaks, lakes and unique alpine character of the Enchantments makes them like no other place on earth. They are special, deeply beloved, and overwhelmingly popular with hikers. But like all alpine habitats, they are also ecologically sensitive. Beloved places draw crowds, and the truth is that crowds leave an impact. From waste management to preserving the vegetation underfoot, limits keep the growing popularity of this destination from destroying it.
- Keep it wild. The dramatic scenery is only part of what makes the Enchantments special; this is a designated national wilderness area, and permits help protect the wild plants and animals who call the area home. Permits help match the number of overnight visitors to the designated camps, so you won't face the choice of having to pitch your tent in a less than ideal spot or on top of delicate alpine vegetation.
- Protect your experience. Part of the magic of the Enchantments experience is the solitude of a wilderness experience. With more and more interest from visitors, regulating the number of overnight visitors helps keep your overnight adventure a wild one, while also preventing conflicts over a limited number of campsites.
- Equal access to the opportunity. These lands belong to all of us, and while it may not be a perfect solution, a permit lottery—combined with the limited number of walk-up passes—goes a long way toward providing a fair allocation process and ensuring equal access to the opportunity.