Q&A: The Shutdown and Hikers
Questions and answers to common questions about the impact the federal government shutdown is having on hikers in Washington state.
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.