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How to Drive on Forest Roads

You don’t have to drive forest roads to hike in Washington, but with terrific trails to visit on seven national forests, you probably will at some point. Here are a few tips to help you navigate these potentially tricky roads.

You don’t have to drive forest roads to hike in Washington, but with terrific trails to visit on seven national forests, you probably will at some point. Here are a few tips to help you navigate these potentially tricky roads.

Photo by Kristen Smith.jpgCars lined up at a trailhead. Photo by Kristen Smith.

1

Pay attention to signs. Clearly posted routes using white horizontal numbers on a brown background indicate routes that are better suited to passenger cars than are roads marked by signs with vertical numbers. Also keep a lookout for parking signs when you arrive at the trailhead to ensure you're parking in designated areas.

2

Go slow, and keep to the right. Besides saving your car from pothole damage, it will also give you time to stop if you encounter an oncoming car, logging truck or obstacle.

3

Exercise passing courtesy. When approaching another car on a single-lane road, look for a turnout to wait in and let the other pass. Give drivers going uphill the right of way, even if that means backing up.

4

Don’t tailgate. Don’t drive so close to another vehicle in front of you that all you see is their dust. Back off and give them lots of space. 

5

Park for the people. Park well off the road, but don’t block turnouts. Make sure emergency vehicles or vehicles with horse trailers can pass. 

6

Clear your vision and stay seen. Keeping your headlights on at all times will help others see your car amid a cloud of dust. Wipe off your headlights before leaving the trailhead — especially in evening hours — to remove accumulated dust.

7

Don’t count on Google, cell service or roadside assistance. Have a detailed map and extra supplies in your car in case you get a flat or get stuck. It might be awhile before you can flag down help.

8

Check recent trip reports for your hike before heading out. Trip reports often mention any rough road conditions or hazards to be aware of.