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Road Access: Helping Get Hikers to Trailheads

Posted by Allie Tripp at Jul 02, 2019 02:00 PM |

We’re taking a look at roads across the state as part of work to ensure access to trails.

The “road conditions” marker on a WTA trip report can strike fear in the hearts of would-be hikers. Decades from now, when cars hover off the ground, perhaps road conditions won’t keep us from our next favorite hike. But for now, the quality (or lack thereof) of a road can make or break our access to our favorite trail.

With the help of our supporters, WTA has been advocating to maintain and improve road access and conditions for decades. We also support the decommissioning of some old roads and the conversion of roads to trails when it makes sense (example: the Lower South Fork Skokomish River Trail). Often, we author or sign comment letters in favor of keeping roads open and maintained, especially when they offer access to multiple trailheads.

Trip reporter louix shared a helpful roadway shot on their recent trip to Church Mountain.

But this work takes an enormous amount of time and collaboration. For example, the reopening of the Suiattle River Road in 2014 was the culmination of 11 years of collaboration between federal, local and tribal governments. Hikers rejoiced at the renewed opportunity to access the historic Green Mountain Lookout and the lush, forested Suiattle River Trail. Well-maintained roads are critical not only for hikers, but also for trail maintenance crews, and it is critical to our mission that we speak up for roads across the state.

You can help


Have poor road conditions ever prevented you from accessing a hike? Tell us about the condition of the road in your next trip report. This information is critical to WTA’s advocacy efforts and is often considered by our partners and land managers when they assess road maintenance issues.

As part of our new campaign, Trails Rebooted, we're taking a close look at roads that access trails across the state. We will identify key roads that provide access to outdoor opportunities, and aim to provide recommendations for how we can create a sustainable road system that meets the needs of hikers for decades to come. Watch for details about this work in late 2019.


Are you heading out on a hike in the near future? Help us speak up for roads by pledging to include information in your next trip report about how the road condition to the trail is. Some examples of details to add could be:

  • What road(s) did you travel on? (ex. North Fork Teanaway, FS Road XX)
  • What kind of vehicle did you used? (ex. Subaru Forester with All Wheel Drive, Prius)
  • What kind of surface is the road? (ex. gravel, paved)
  • How long is the road? (ex. 5 miles)
  • Were there potholes? (ex. not too many, large but easy to avoid)
  • Did the weather affect travel? (yes/no)
  • What's the overall condition of the road? (ex. While there were a few large potholes, they were avoidable. Overall any type of vehicle could reach the trailhead as long as they drive slow.)

P.S. We love seeing road photos from your travels, too!

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Washington Trails magazine.  Support trails as a member WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.