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October 1, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Planning a hike or campout? Federal shutdown complicates things

Mount Rainier National Park's Paradise Inn, which was to have ended its season Oct. 7, has closed for the year, as part of the federal government shutdown. (file photo by Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Mount Rainier National Park’s Paradise Inn, which was to have ended its season Oct. 7, has closed for the year, as part of the federal government shutdown. (file photo by Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

If you’re planning an outing to a National Forest or National Park, expect to find closed gates in many places, and good luck nailing down information on where you’re heading: Basically, staffers have almost all shut the doors and gone home, or aren’t answering phones, because of the federal government shutdown.

A phone call Tuesday to the Outdoor Recreation Information Center at Seattle’s REI store, usually a good source of information on both National Forests and National Parks, got this recorded message: “Because of the federal government shutdown we have been furloughed. We cannot check phone messages until the government reopens.”

National parks and their campgrounds are closed, and rangers are giving backcountry hikers and campers 48 hours to get out of the parks. Try to even check the Mount Rainier National Park website for information and all you get is a screen telling you the park is shut down, with a link to the Department of Interior website for more information. That website includes this information about national parks: “Guests staying in hotels and campgrounds will be notified of the closure and given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.” Click here for more details.

Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Randy King advised in a press release that park visitors in all overnight facilities have been given until 6 p.m. Thursday to make travel arrangements and leave the park. Mount Rainier’s Paradise Inn, which until Monday was scheduled to end its 2013 season on Oct. 7, on Tuesday was notifying visitors to its reservations website that the inn is now closed until next May.

National wildlife refuges, such as Nisqually, near Lacey, are included in the shutdown.

Websites for both Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest remain online if you want to search for latest trail reports or plan future outings, but if you want information about closures, the sites both link to a U.S. Department of Agriculture page that simply says “this website is not available.” But here’s a look at the Forest Service’s shutdown contingency plan, which can give you some clues.

A call to Central Washington to check on whether National Forest campgrounds were locked up in that area got this tidbit of information from Rick Lewis, the ranger at Pearrygin Lake State Park, near Winthrop: “Up in this area they don’t have gates on their (National Forest) campgrounds.” So maybe you’ll be lucky, depending on where you’re headed.

Hikers thinking of a late-season trek might bet that nobody will be out checking for passes and permits on national forest lands. But word is that law-enforcement personnel will still be working, and some trailheads are patrolled by county sheriffs, so continue to hang your Forest Pass. If a Forest Service road to your trailhead has a gate that can be closed, it’s a crapshoot whether you’ll get through. The Washington Trails Association has a good roundup of info here.

Best bet? Grab your Discover Pass and head to a Washington State Park, where they dodged their own government shutdown just last July. The welcome sign is out.

0 Comments | More in national parks, Northwest, Outdoors, Parks | Topics: federal shutdown, mount rainier closure, national forest shutdown

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