Forest Recreation: Important Tips from a Forest Ranger - Plan Ahead and Prepare!


Hi, my name is Magenta Widner. I’m a field ranger with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. 

We are seeing how much nature matters right now.  Nature is part of all of us. It connects us to each other and to the bigger world around us. Our public lands need us to act as stewards now as much as ever, so I’m going to talk about the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. 

I’ll address all seven in separate installments. For now, I’m going to start at the beginning with principle number 1: Plan Ahead and Prepare.


  • Adequate trip planning and preparation helps accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land.  Learn about the areas you plan to visit. Read books, check online and talk to people before you go. While our ranger stations are closed, we are still answering phone and email inquiries so you can make sure the site you plan on visiting is open and have some back up options in mind that will allow you to maintain social distancing guidelines if the site you have chosen is full when you arrive.
  • Plan for conservative trips that minimize risk.  If you get lost or injured, it may take longer than usual for someone to assist. Calling up Search and Rescue teams puts a large stress on county resources, volunteers and their families.
  • Look ahead while on the trail so you can plan for stopping to give others a wide berth.
  • Remember to bring a leash for your pet and plastic bags to pick up and pack out your pet’s waste. Currently, Forest Service developed recreation sites are closed which means many locations have closed restrooms and no garbage service.  Make sure you have the supplies you need to hygienically pack out your waste. No one likes to see toilet paper and poop bags in natural spaces.
  • Use caution when crossing snow bridges over creeks, rivers, logs, and other obstacles. Snow can, and often does, melt out from beneath. Bridges may be much thinner than they appear from above.
  • Consider using flotation (snowshoes, skis, etc.) when traveling on snow. By distributing your weight more evenly on the snow, you can avoid post holing and reduce the risk of falling into drainages, tree wells, and other hollow areas. Poles can also help distribute your weight.
  • Please stay on the trail as much as possible. Visitors often step off the trail because an alternate route through the snow appears more direct, but the snow may be thin or melting quickly. Footprints in sensitive areas cause damage and lead others visitors off route. Stick to the trail!
  • Bring the ten essentials and be prepared for unexpected changes in weather. Extra insulation and good navigation tools are very important this time of year. Cold and wet weather with low visibility conditions are common in the spring.
  • Remove all dog and human waste using blue bags or another system! Waste buried in the snow will not biodegrade and will eventually impact our water sources. Please pick up after yourself and your dogs.
  • Lastly, plan on how you will help minimize pressure on smaller communities adjacent to the forest that have limited resources.  Restaurants, rest stops and bathrooms may be closed.   Check on business hours ahead of time so you can make sure you have the food, water and fuel you need for the day.
  • Conservation depends on all of us seeing and doing our part.  Thank you for watching, and thanks ahead of time for planning and preparing.   


For road and trail conditions, click here. For COVID-19 related information, pleace click here.  To speak with a ranger at your local station, click here for contact details.