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Maintaining Access to Trails

Getting to the trailhead of your favorite trail depends on well-maintained backcountry roads.

Getting to the trailhead of your favorite trail depends on well-maintained backcountry roads. When these connectors wash out or are damaged, dozens of trails to your favorite wild places can become inaccessible. Join WTA to help create a rational and sustainable system of backcountry roads designed and maintained to provide wildland access while minimizing environmental impacts.

Suiattle Road Before and After
Reopening the washed out Suiattle River Road, a key corridor to Glacier Peak Wilderness trails, in 2014 was the result of years of hiker advocacy and partnerships. Photos by Kim Brown and muledeer.


Creating a more sustainable roads system

The challenge: With more than 14,000 miles of roads, Washington's six national forests have an extensive road system that supports a variety of public needs. However, it is simply too big for the Forest Service to maintain with current funding levels. All national forests must identify a more ecologically and financially sustainable road system.

  • WTA has partnered with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to implement a public outreach process, giving hikers a voice in determining the future of the forest's road system.
  • After several public meetings last year, the Forest Service recently released its draft Travel Analysis Process (TAP) for Gifford Pinchot National Forest, but the plan did not address many hiker concerns. The proposal does not represent the final plan. WTA and other user groups like the Gifford Pinchot Task Force have asked the Forest Service to consider recreation concerns in the final plan.

Reopening the Dosewallips and Index-Galena river roads

Background: The 15-mile Dosewallips River Road provides access to the east side of the Olympic Mountains and is a popular destination for those who live in Puget Sound and visitors making a multi-day tour of Olympic National Park. In January 2002, a storm washed out the road 10 miles in and five miles from the Dosewallips River trailhead, leaving it inaccessible for cars and additional miles to walk for hikers. The Dosewallips road provides a number of important recreation opportunities, including two campgrounds and a number of trailheads, and is one of only two roads on the east side that allowed visitors motorized access into the park.

The Index-Galena River Road is located off of Highway 2 near the town of Index. The road was severely damaged by flooding in 2006. It provides easier access to multiple campgrounds and hikes in the Wild Sky Wilderness and elsewhere.

  • Each road provides critical access for trails and wilderness that hikers love. WTA supports reopening both roads due to the tremendous recreational value they provide.

State of Access Report: roads to fix, roads to let go

The challenge: Since 1966, WTA has focused on preserving trail opportunities and funding. In the past ten years, dozens of trails have become inaccessible because roads that led to them washed out or were otherwise damaged.

The Westside Road at Mount Rainier and the White Chuck River Road on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS) are two examples of roads that will likely never be reopened. The Suiattle River Road on the MBS is a recent success story of a road reopened after being washed out for over a decade. Given trends in climate change and declining agency budgets, more roads will be damaged and careful consideration will need to be given when deciding the fate of our forest roads.


    >> Sign up for the Trail Action Network to learn when important decisions are being made on road access issues.