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Find the best places to hike as Washington parks reopen

State parks, trails, and public lands reopen May 5 in Washington state for recreational opportunities. (Holly Mandarich/Unsplash)

Hikers, rejoice: Today, May 5, marks the reopening of some of Washington’s state parks, as well as golf courses and hunting and fishing season.

“That includes the majority of state parks, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife land, and Department of Natural Resources land,” said Kindra Ramos, director of communication for the Washington Trails Association.

WTA is a non-profit hiker advocacy group with an extremely comprehensive online hiking guide. You can search for a hike based on elevation, mileage, specific things like wildflowers, or find a trail that allows dogs. Now, WTA.org has been updated to help you find a hike that’s currently open.

“If you have a particular hike you’re interested in and you search the hiking guide, there should be an alert at the top to let you know if it is currently hikable or not,” Ramos said. “One of the easiest shorthands is if you need a Discover Pass to park at the trailhead, you’re on state lands. If you go to WTA.org [and click on] ‘Go Outside’ and then ‘Hiking Guide‘ and ‘Parking Pass,’ you can search, you can click on ‘Discover Pass’ and it will pull up all of the hikes in the hiking guide that require a Discover Pass. You can also do it through our Hike Finder Map so you can see across the state what hikes near you require a Discover Pass.”

Hikers are expected to observe social distancing, so Ramos recommends avoiding popular trails that are usually swarmed with people. There are 100 state parks with more than 400 miles of trails to choose from, so spread out!

“The governor did say that this is sort of a trial run and if places are too crowded and we do see the virus spread picking up, then there is the potential to once again assess risk levels and close particular trails,” Ramos said. “So it’s probably best not to make a full, long adventure out of it. These are opportunities to get some nature but not start your summer. A great rule of thumb is if the parking lot is more than half full, you’re probably going to have some company on that trail. And then really think about having a backup plan if you get to a place and it is feeling a little bit popular. Can you go a little bit earlier in the day or at a different time?”

Last year, 5,000 WTA volunteers maintained more than 600 Washington state trails, but the shutdown has put a hold on these gatherings.

“We are not currently doing trail work,” Ramos said. “We canceled all of our work parties through Memorial Day because of public health safety. That’s something to be aware of as you’re getting out is a lot of trails have not seen maintenance since a pretty rough winter. There may be trees down, there may be more obstacles on trail.”

Ramos said bathrooms also may not be open, so come prepared with toilet paper and consult the WTA website for the rules on How To Poop In The Woods. Yes, seriously. Hikers are advised to bring a mask or wear a bandanna that you can pull over your mouth and nose when passing other hikers. It may be a challenge, but they’d like to hikers to try and give six feet of passing space without stepping off trail and trampling plants.

Public lands to reopen for ‘every type of recreation, except for camping’

Right now, only day trips and hikes are permitted; camping is still banned across the state.

Click here for a list of parks that are open.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram.

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