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Trip reporters. Photos by Emily Nguyen, Brendan McCullough and Timothy Miller.

The Wisdom of Crowds

How WTA's crowd-sourced information makes us all better hikers. By Anna Roth

Wikipedia works on the wisdom of crowds. The enormous online encyclopedia relies on a massive group of volunteer writers and editors to keep its collection of free-to-access articles current and accurate. Similar to Wikipedia, works on the power of many people working together. Since our inception more than 50 years ago, we have been tapping into the knowledge of the hiking community to share current trail information. What started as a small print newsletter with a handful of readers a month has grown into an online powerhouse that receives more than 13 million views per month. 

It would be impossible for just one person to keep all of Washington’s hiking information current. There are 4,000 hikes published on and many more trails across Washington waiting to be added. New hikes are researched and written up by dozens of generous volunteer authors, then reviewed and edited by just two WTA staffers. Those volunteers generously help hikers get the information they need for safe, fun hikes, including turn-by-turn driving (and hiking!) directions. 

But those dozens of volunteer writers also have lives of their own, which means they can’t be checking trail conditions 24/7. But you know who can do that? The hiking community in Washington. 

Trip reports from around the state in 2022.

You are Washington’s hiking community.

Thousands of people — hikers just like you — are on trails and in parks all over Washington any given day. And some of those thousands write trip reports. Trip reports are a recount of trail conditions, shared by folks who have visited the trail recently. Just like the Wikipedia editors who keep the world’s largest free encyclopedia current, trip reporters keep Washington’s largest comprehensive trail database current. And just like the wiki editors, trip reporters don’t have to have training or any special writing skills. They’re hikers from all backgrounds of life who write trip reports for many different reasons. 

Some record their adventures for themselves, while some write beta for others to use. Despite receiving dozens of trip reports a day, not every trail has a current report! Conditions change so much and so quickly in Washington that trip reports are always helpful, but that’s particularly true if a trail hasn’t had a report in a couple weeks. In winter or spring, a report just a few days old could have out-of-date conditions. That’s because as snow melts and storms bring debris and sometimes even trees across trails or roads, access to trails can change day to day. 

Trip reports don’t just help hikers understand access. A hiker may be the very first person to encounter a tree blocking the road to the trailhead or a trail wash-out. If that person writes a trip report, it can help the land manager discover — and then address — the damage, as well as prompt WTA staff to research and share a new way to access the area that has been affected. 

Trip reports give hikers the information they need about on-trail conditions, as well as whether the hikes will work well for them, their dogs or their kids. Photos by Christopher Neir and Lena Tsaoussis.

Trip reports are relevant especially if you’re on those less-often-visited trails. Maybe you spotted a particularly notable animal deep in the backcountry or saw a bridge was failing in your local park. That knowledge is valuable and worth sharing. 

Together, we know a lot. So this year, share your trail knowledge in a trip report and help us all be better hikers.

Top 3 things to include in a trip report:

    • What you saw (Full parking lot? Downed trees? Trail issues? Maybe just a nice view?)
  • Something you wish you'd known before, like if the toilets at the trailhead are open or stocked.
  • Photos! We love to see photos of trail damage so our crews can help address it. Bonus points for photos of you packing out trash.

What hikers like to read in trip reports:

    • What the road was like (Gravel, potholes, mud? Hard to cross?)
    • Bathrooms (Wow, people love hearing about bathrooms)
    • Whether there were campsites available
    • How you got to the trailhead

tipsoo lake Shyloe Neizman.jpg
In all seasons, and all across the state, trip reporters are helping hikers, land managers and WTA. Photo by Shyloe Neizman.

Bonus items WTA staff love to read in trip reports: