Wilderness Background

Wildernesses in the Pacific Northwest

View Larger Map

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. 

Wilderness Regulations

To ensure that the remarkable resources and values of Wilderness endure, special regulations apply, in addition to general State and National Forest regulations. The following prohibitions apply to all Wildernesses:

  • Possessing or using a motor vehicle, motorboat, or motorized equipment.
  • Possessing or using a bicycle or hang glider. Landing an aircraft, or dropping or picking up of any material, supplies, or persons by means of an aircraft, including a helicopter.

Visitors are reminded that:

  • The use of pelletized or certified weed-free feed is required in all National Forests in the Pacific Northwest.  
  • Pets must be under leash/voice command.
  • Outfitters and guides providing professional services for a fee are required to have a special use permit issued by the Forest Service.
  • Eliminating the introduction of invasive species into Wilderness is the best way to protect native species and maintain natural ecosystem functions.  Check your clothing and equipment for weeds seeds.  Brush animals before and after backcountry trips.  Avoid traveling through or camping in weed infested areas.  

The Wilderness Experience

Wilderness recreation provides the highest opportunity for unconfined travel, challenge, and solitude. Wilderness is an area where natural forces dominate and human activity is limited.  Plan your trip carefully.  Be prepared to take care of yourself and assess the risks before you venture in.  Compared to more developed recreation areas, in the Wilderness, you will encounter the following:

  • Trails are limited and maintained less frequently, usually to a lower width and standard.
  • Directional signs are limited to trail junctions.  
  • Wilderness rangers may patrol the area but the schedule may be infrequent and unpredictable.  
  • Cell phone and radio coverage is limited or absent.   Emergency response may be distant and a long time arriving.  Visitors must rely on themselves and their companions in case of need. 

Fire in Wilderness

Natural fire plays an importance ecological role in Pacific Northwest ecosystems, including in Wilderness.  Natural fire cycles maintain native vegetation and fuel loads.  Managers seek a delicate balance to allow fire in Wilderness in ways consistent with Wilderness values, while reducing the associated risks and consequences to non-Wilderness areas.  As a Wilderness visitor, please do your part to minimize human-caused fires and be aware that hazardous fire conditions and naturally occurring fires may result in temporary access restrictions, smoke, changes in scenery, and transitory blackened landscapes. 

Taking Care of Wilderness

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. lease do your part and take a personal role in preserving this special place. 

  • Be sensitive to the needs and experiences of fellow Wilderness visitors. 
  • Obey all Wilderness regulations. 
  • Practice Leave No Trace Techniques/Principles: Leave No Traces a nationally recognized educational program that reduces impacts people have on our public lands.  Practicing Leave No Trace's seven principles/guidelines is everyone’s responsibility. 

Stock Use: Minimizing Impacts

Some explore Wilderness using stock such as horses, mules, llamas, etc.  The following techniques 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.