Federal Shutdown: What it Means for Hikers, Campers, Volunteers
Due to an 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 trail volunteers.
Looking for information on the 2018 government shutdown? Get updates on our latest blog.
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- All permits for backcountry camping and climbing are rescinded.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?
Permits Still Required?
"Packpup" on Oct 01, 2013 05:25 PM
Just a suggestion
"Loren Drummond" on Oct 01, 2013 04:55 PM
Don't you already have one?
Besides, pass fees in part fund the lands that you would be using, including their roads and trails on which we travel, whether or not there are people manning the visitors' centers or restocking privies' TP.
"HikesWithCameras" on Oct 01, 2013 05:25 PM
Bummed about my Mt. Rainier permit
Sweeper on Oct 03, 2013 08:10 AM
bradtherunner on Oct 07, 2013 01:42 PM
Republican / fiscal sanity .... really?
NUGECREW on Oct 08, 2013 10:11 AM
Texas Sunshine on Oct 08, 2013 10:11 AM
ladamsfrog on Oct 05, 2013 09:37 PM
You are misinformed or disingenuous.
Piecemeal funding of the budget (National Parks here, Head Start there) is just further evidence of the simplistic thinking that fuels the Tea Party. You should be embarassed to repeat these talking points on WTA.
Please, share specifically how you are "fighting BOTH parties to get our country back" (its OK if you just provide examples of how you are fighting the GOP, I trust you on the Dems) and also, where and whom you are hoping to get it back from. I'm sure it will enlighten all of us.
"the lonely misanthrope" on Oct 07, 2013 01:42 PM
Wags97 on Oct 02, 2013 12:01 PM
"Susan Elderkin" on Oct 03, 2013 08:11 AM
I have a couple of questions:
1) Any updates to this closure info, will they be posted in the comments or will the actual post/article be updated?
2) Pertaining to the Enchantments - We have had a day hike planned since August for this weekend. Does anyone know if there are gates on the FS roads that could be potentially locked on us?
3) Snow this week... It looks like it should clear up and get a little bit warmer the next couple/few days, do you think snow/ice will still be a problem?
teamravegreen on Oct 03, 2013 10:07 AM
In general, it is unlikely you will encounter an unexpected gate on USFS land, unless it was for planned winter or wildlife closures. But a locked bathroom - yes.
"Susan Elderkin" on Oct 03, 2013 10:07 AM
schifferj on Oct 03, 2013 12:06 PM
Core via SNow lake
Miek on Oct 03, 2013 02:00 PM
Core via Snow Lake
Personally, I didn't want to posthole my way up and wasn't sure (even though I've been up the trail many times) that I would be able to route find my way with a high degree of confidence given that many of the cairnes will be snow covered. My guess is there will be at least twice as much snow up high as there was at Snow Lake.
Bottom line, it will be sketchy. If you're planning on through hiking forget it. Be well prepared for winter (with a capital W) conditions.
Unless things change between now and tomorrow you will NOT run into any rangers - everything is locked up tight! The permit thing would be the least of my worries.
schifferj on Oct 03, 2013 04:42 PM
Core via Snow Lake
Miek on Oct 03, 2013 04:42 PM
schifferj on Oct 03, 2013 08:11 AM
Mt. Rainier backdoor trails
snowhat on Oct 03, 2013 12:13 PM
Roads will be gated
While no communications from the National Park Service said specifically that trails are closed, the parks themselves are officially closed and federal law does state that entering a park during a closure could be considered trespassing. I would play it safe and stick to public lands outside of national parks.
"Susan Elderkin" on Oct 02, 2013 12:08 PM
I've wondered about Mowich myself as I had plans for this weekend. I'm assuming that the gate at the Paul Peak trailhead - a few thousand feet inside of the NPS boundary - will be locked. The road up to that point though is state highway. Even if the budget issue was resolved today, I can't imagine the NPS opening up the gate for just a few more days before they shut it again for the winter. I'm thinking Mowich is done for the season.
"OldManSounds" on Oct 03, 2013 12:13 PM
taylork on Oct 03, 2013 12:58 PM
"Susan Elderkin" on Oct 03, 2013 12:58 PM
"snert 42" on Oct 08, 2013 12:29 PM
"FloridaNative" on Oct 05, 2013 07:10 PM
Thanks for your feedback
"Loren Drummond" on Oct 08, 2013 12:29 PM
Tipsoo Lake/Naches Peak Loop Trail
uniqparadox on Oct 05, 2013 09:42 PM
Too much snow
ladamsfrog on Oct 05, 2013 09:42 PM
"snow pounders" on Oct 08, 2013 10:02 AM
Texas Sunshine on Oct 09, 2013 06:16 PM
"snert 42" on Oct 08, 2013 11:15 AM
federal shut down
"snow pounders" on Oct 09, 2013 06:16 PM
"If you already have a reservation which is either partially or fully impacted by facility closures, we will automatically cancel that reservation and issue a full refund to the credit card used for the initial purchase transaction. No additional cancellation fees will be charged to the customer for reservation cancellations as a result of facility closures."
As I see it, my Enchantments reservation was at least partially impacted by facility closures in that 1) Pit toilets were closed at all trailheads (Stewart Lake/Colchuk Lake, Eightmile Lake, and Snow Lakes) 2) There was no one in place to even ATTEMPT rescue services should I have encountered a problem and 3) there was no information available from rangers as to weather conditions/snow conditions in the area, and 4) There was no ranger presence to discourage fires above 5000' and possible other infractions.
Given those facts, I fully intend to pressure recreation.gov for a full refund of the $41 I spent for my Enchantment reservation. It remains to be seen if they will honor their statement.
schifferj on Oct 13, 2013 03:22 PM
Know your land-management agency!
See the above comments related to Mount St. Helens- the Enchantments are Forest Service managed wilderness, and the same rules apply. That is, the County Sheriff is wholly responsible for SAR, EMS and other non-wildfire emergency functions on USFS land within his/her county. As in any designated wilderness managed by the USFS, the typical FS employee role is to notice that someone is overdue (based on permit data, at some point) and to then call 911, activating whatever county assets exist for that location (through the sheriff's office). That normally means that a volunteer SAR group will be your eventual salvation, but such a response may take far longer than you are expecting under the "ranger" model. Only NPS rangers operate under the multiple-hat model, meaning the same folks do SAR, law enforcement, EMS, firefighting, etc as the situation warrants. Nothing even remotely similar exists within the Forest Service. Sorry.
"snert 42" on Oct 08, 2013 08:05 PM
schifferj on Oct 13, 2013 03:22 PM
Pilchuck gates and toilet open
lazy_grrl on Oct 08, 2013 02:37 PM
Access to Heliotrope Ridge and Climber's Bivy?
"jesso435" on Oct 09, 2013 02:42 PM
Which roads are closed?
ethanpw on Oct 11, 2013 07:45 PM
Forest roads 25 and 99 should be open, according to the last Forest Service update, but all USFS facilities (restrooms,interpretive centers, etc)along them are closed. Wait until Sunday to take your drive, as the low cloud ceiling will preclude any mountain views before then. All of next week looks very good!
"snert 42" on Oct 11, 2013 08:06 PM
Lastly, a trip south on FR25 (connecting Rainier NP to the east side of Mt. St. Helens) is great but "rustic." There is NO fuel available between Randle (US12) and Cougar (FR90). That's a distance of 63 miles, not counting your side trip out to the end of FR99 to see the crater and Spirit Lake..
"snert 42" on Oct 11, 2013 08:06 PM