5 Tips to Hike Responsibly

  1. Have a plan B—and C, D, and E. Follow the Facebook page for the national forest or other public land you want to visit, such as the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF), and take advantage of resources like the Pacific Northwest Forests app to find hiking trails, trail conditions, maps, permit information, and campgrounds. The “Near Me” function is useful when your intended trailhead is full. The new TREAD Map app, set to launch this summer, also offers real-time parking lot and trail conditions for areas like the OWNF. 
  1. Carry out human waste and toilet paper —even on day hikes. “We strongly encourage people to bring bags… The reality is that even when you’re hiking for a day, you can’t always control when nature calls,” says Chris Bentley with OWNF, the land agency responsible for the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  Human-waste bags are available for purchase at your local gear shop or online. 
  1. Stay on designated trails—especially on trails that receive a lot of traffic. “Wandering off trail inevitably leads to unofficial trails, and those cause erosion issues,” says Bentley. “Also, sensitive plants in alpine high step area don’t bounce back like they do on the rainy west side.” 
  1. Plan for contingencies and hazards—even if you’re only out for a few hours. “I can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard of people showing up with flip flops and a 20-ounce bottle of water, ready to do a 10-mile hike. That’s totally unwise,” says Bentley. He stresses the importance of hiking with the 10 essentials and being equipped to spend the night out if something goes wrong. 
  1. Be honest about your skill level—even if you really, really want to do a specific hike. “Just because you’ve heard from a friend that there’s a beautiful view doesn’t mean that you are prepared to take that journey to get there,” warns Bentley. The most common rescue situations happen when people who aren’t prepared try a hike that’s beyond their ability and they get injured, tired, or sun stroke. “We do have instances of people losing their lives because they were not prepared.” 

Check out the Recreate Responsibly website for more information about outdoor recreation safety.

Read more about the hiking in the Central Cascades region in this story from our July-August 2020 issue, “Loving Leavenworth.”

Ice Lakes // Photo by Ryan Parsons.

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