Emerging from a Rough Winter for Roads and Trails
As the snow melts, damaged roads and trails are hindering hikers hoping to access their favorite trails.
Every winter does some damage to trails and the roads that lead to them. From potholes and a few fallen logs to more serious avalanches and landslides, roads and trails need plenty of regular annual repair to prevent them from becoming lost to hikers.
But as the snow begins to melt out, it's clear that this winter has proved especially tough.
High profile trails inaccessible by car
Some very popular trailheads will be inaccessible this season, and others may require alternate approaches. Reports continue to come in as snow melts. Here are a few of the biggest ones we know of.
Yellow Aster Butte
Forest Road 3065 is one of the rougher roads in the Mount Baker area, and this year it was damaged even further. A washout made it impassable two miles from the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead. The photo above shows the damage, which also affects access to Winchester Mountain and Twin Lakes.
Due to a washout that occurred in early winter, Forest Road 63, which leads to Blanca Lake is inaccessible by vehicle and will be gated 4 miles from the trailhead so work can begin on the road. The extent of the damage can be seen in the photo above.
West Fork Foss River and Lakes
Trees down and a landslide that occurred in November is blocking access on Forest Road 6535 approximately three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead for West Fork Foss River and Lakes. Later this summer, WTA will be hosting three Backcountry Response Teams on the trail past the landslide. Sign up for one today.
Currently, Forest Road 4500 (Harts Pass road) is closed due to snow and a landslide. There is maintenance scheduled to take place in the spring when snow levels allow work to begin.
Other notable closures
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest was hit hard this winter. Forest Roads 23 and 25 are both washed out at milepost 11, and and Forest Road 2801 will remain closed after April 1st for repairs due to flooding in the area. For more information, check out their map showing affected areas. Trails like Sunrise Peak have been impacted, but visitors can still access these trails from the south end.
The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has its share of closures as well. With the cycle of wildfire and erosion, the Entiat area has had a few seasons of limited access. Read their entire road closure report here. And, on the Naches Ranger District, Forest Road 1000 which accesses the South Fork Tieton trailhead is impassable 3 miles before Conrad Meadows.
Despite the numerous closures this spring, there is some good news: Mount Rainier area passes are opening soon. Chinook Pass currently plans to open by Memorial Day, and Cayuse Pass opened to traffic recently. Highway 20 also reopened recently, allowing increased access to the North Cascades.
Park responsibly, drive cautiously, report damage
"Roadbeds at higher elevations where the snow is just melting off are saturated and road shoulders are very soft and easily give way," says the Forest Service. They recommend visitors drive slowly and cautiously, since there could be road damage around the next bend.
"I can’t stress enough that people need to take care when driving in the woods as the roads melt out," says Forest Engineer Jason Peterson. "If the road is soft and wet, please don’t drive on it and avoid driving through snow drifts as conditions change with the warming temperatures throughout the day."
If you do encounter road damage, in addition to noting it in your trip report, you may also want to report the road number, milepost number and/or nearest stream crossing to the local ranger district office.
When parking near a washout or road closure be sure to leave enough room for you and others to turn around without parking in or too close to the road. Park responsibly and allow room for others to access their vehicles.
If you encounter a washout or damage to a road or trail, you can help other hikers by filing a trip report about road and trail conditions you encounter. And remember, always check the road conditions with the land manager before you head out, and go with a backup plan or two.