The Promise of Wilderness
The 1964 Wilderness Act is a promise that special places designated as Wilderness will endure for present and future generations. Wilderness is carefully managed to protect its primeval character so that ecosystems remain undeveloped and intact, natural processes unfold without intervention, and humans may visit but not stay.
The opportunity for solitude, personal challenge, and self discovery Wilderness recreation offers comes with the expectation and responsibility for developing the outdoor skills required in a remote, rugged, and primitive setting. In return, spending time in Wilderness reminds us of our deep connection with nature and helps keep our lives and perspectives in balance.
Wildernesses in the Pacific Northwest
Oregon Wildernesses by forest
- Deschutes, Ochoco, Fremont-Winema, Malheur, Mt. Hood, Rogue-River Siskiyou, Siuslaw, Umatilla, Umpqua, Wallowa-Whitman, and Willamette National Forests.
Washington Wildernesses by forest
- Colville, Gifford Pinchot, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, Okanogan & Wenatchee, and Olympic National Forests.
Wilderness is the wildest of the wild. It has no roads, no development. A great trip involves planning and preparation to be safe and enjoyable. To ensure that the remarkable resources and values of Wilderness endure, special regulations apply, in addition to general State and National Forest regulations. The Wilderness requires sustained commitment and careful stewardship by the Forest Service, visitors, and the public to insure its remarkable resources and values remain for future generations. Please do your part and take a personal role in preserving this special place.
What is the current fire danger? Are there current campfire restrictions in place? During times of high wildfire danger, campfires may temporarily be prohibited.
Are there any fire closures or restrictions in the area? During or after a wildfire, temporary closures may be in place. Closed areas may have unstable soils, falling-rocks, or fire-weakened trees.
Does the area you are visiting allow campfires? Campfires are prohibited in many high-use, sub-alpine and alpine wilderness areas. If campfires are not allowed, understand the alternatives to wood campfires. Do you have a camp stove or other alternative to provide a fuel/heat source?
Do you have the correct recreation pass? Many trailheads require recreation passes. You can purchase passes online, at most forest service offices, or from private retailers.
What wilderness permit will you need? Does it need to be reserved in advance? Research and request the proper wilderness permit. Wilderness permits may be required for day use or overnight camping. Most permits are free and can be filled out at the trailhead. However, for some popular wilderness areas permits must be reserved in advance.
Is there a group size limit? Generally, groups are limited to no more than 12 people and 12 head of stock. Check the specific area you are traveling to for group size limits. If you have more than 12 people, groups must be totally separated (out-of-sight and sound) from the other group at all times.
Leave your bikes, drones, and motorized equipment at home. The use of motorized and mechanized equipment is prohibited in wilderness areas. This includes: vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles/ATVS/OHVS, motorboats, chainsaws, carts or wagons, and drones. Persons requiring wheelchairs are allowed to use non-motorized equipment for mobility.
Leave the fireworks at home. Possession and/or use of fireworks or other explosives is prohibited on national forest lands.
Have a plan and communicate it. Make sure that more than one responsible person knows your plans. They need to know where you are going, parking, and hiking; which vehicle you are taking; who is with you; and most importantly when you plan to return.
Know current conditions and your limits when choosing a location. This includes evaluating physical strength and stamina, time available, difficulty of terrain, elevation gain, time of year, and trail conditions.
Plan for emergencies. Do not rely on a rescue. A rescue may be difficult or impossible due to weather conditions or terrain. Carry first aid gear and other emergency or self-rescue equipment.
Don’t rely on your devices. Cell reception is not reliable in wilderness areas. In an emergency you may not be able to call for help. If you rely on GPS for navigation, always have a paper map and compass as a backup. Know how to read the map and use the compass to know where you’re going and how to get there.
Wildernss Know Before You Go Handout
Click the image or here for a printable PDF
Do you have the ten essentials? These items are the minimum amount of gear that should be carried on any trip: extra clothing, extra food, topographic map of the area, compass (know how to use it!), flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries, sunglasses, and sunscreen, pocket knife, matches in waterproof container, candle or fire starter, first aid kit. Expand this list based on location, time of year, and length of trip.
Be bear aware - store food securely. If required, make sure you have equipment such as a bear canister or hang bag and rope to keep food safe from wildlife. Cook and store food and scented items (such as toothpaste and sunscreen) away from sleeping area.
Pack it in, pack it out. Carry plastic bags to haul out your trash. Plan meals to avoid generating messy, smelly garbage.
When nature calls - pooping in the wilderness. Make sure you have adequate human waste and hygiene supplies. Be prepared with a small garden trowel to bury waste or wag-type bags, toilet paper or wipes. Bring sealable plastic bags to pack out toilet paper, wipes, and feminine hygiene products. In some wilderness environments, all solid human waste must be packed out.
Can I bring my dog? Generally speaking, dogs are welcome, as long as they are leashed or under voice control. Leashes must be no more than 6 feet in length. Popular areas, trails and destinations may be closed to dogs, or leashes may be required.
The use of pelletized or certified weed-free feed is required for stock animals. All hay, cubed hay, straw, mulch, and other such products used or stored on national forest lands be state certified as weed free.
Help minimize stock impacts:
When trails are wet, select hardened trails to reduce damage; Avoid tying or picketing stock to trees. Hobbles, highlines, or portable electric fences have less impact. Move highlines and fences frequently during the day; Always rest horses at least 200’ from water. When watering stock, use an established ford or low rocky area, or bring water to your stock using a collapsible bucket; Scatter manure, remove excess feed, and filled in pawed areas before you leave; Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species. Clean you stock and gear before leaving home. Feed stock with processed or certified weed-free feed a few days before and during your visit.