Baker City, OR – With the Memorial Day weekend around the corner, National Forests are gearing up for the start to the traditional Northwest recreation season. A wide range of activities awaits in Oregon and Washington’s 16 national forests, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and Crooked River National Grassland: camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, caving, hunting, mushrooming, bird watching, and simply driving for pleasure to name a few. Summer is a great time in the Northwest to get outdoors and explore the forest you haven’t quite made it to yet.
On the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, there are campgrounds, trailheads, boat launches, and many other undeveloped attractions awaiting you. Unlike some public lands, you can camp nearly anywhere in your national forests – please just leave your site cleaner than you found it.
A lot of snow remains at higher elevations on the Wallowa-Whitman, such as in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and on some of the upper mountain roads; however this is a great time of year to visit Hells Canyon and the lower elevation trails around Baker City, Enterprise, and La Grande. Some campground and trailhead maintenance may be delayed due to addressing safety concerns, such as hazard trees, rocks on roads, water testing, etc. so before travelling, please check with the local Ranger District to obtain current information. You may also find current condition information on the Forest web site at this location: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ConditionReports.
If you are looking to travel the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, please be advised that Forest Service Road (FSR) 39 is under construction beginning at the junction of Highway 86 (out of Halfway, OR), going north on FSR 39 for 13 miles to the junction with FSR 66. This section of the road is referred to as the North Pine section and is closed to all travel at this time. The detour route (FSR 66) for the construction is still inaccessible due to high elevation snow levels. However, travel to Hells Canyon Overlook is accessible via FSR 39 from Joseph, Oregon. Please see the Forest web site for complete construction information and schedule of operation: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/WallowaMtnLoopRd.
Some campgrounds require reservations – www.recreation.gov – and some trails require a pass to help us keep them maintained – Passes and Permits in Your Northwest Forests. However, all 24 million acres of National Forest System lands in the Northwest belong to you and beckon for you to come visit.
Good news: There are three fee-free days and a fee-free weekend left this year, two coming up in June:
- National Trails Day – June 7
- National Get Outdoors Day – June 14
- National Public Lands Day – Sept. 27
- Veterans Day Weekend – Nov. 8-11
For other Oregon and Washington Forest’s recreational opportunities and restriction information, check out what’s available at: Your Northwest National Forests.
Wallowa-Whitman Ranger District’s Contact Information:· La Grande Ranger District: 541-963-7186 · Wallowa Mountains Office (Eagle Cap, Hells Canyon NRA, and Wallowa Valley): 541-426-5546 or 541-426-4978 · Hells Canyon NRA Clarkston Office: 509-758-0616 · Hells Canyon NRA Riggins Office: 208-628-3916 · Hells Canyon NRA Creek Visitor Center and Boat Launch: 541-785-3395 · Whitman Ranger District: 541-523-6391
*Photo by Sarah B. Anderson