2014 Washington Parks, Public Lands, and Forests Permit Guide

Wash­ing­ton State offers some of the most majes­tic nat­ur­al scenes played out in the Unit­ed States. With the Cas­cades careen­ing down the cen­ter of the state, there is enough land to be explored to occu­py a life­time. With such nat­ur­al, nation­al trea­sures how­ev­er, comes an intri­cate per­mit sys­tem stained with bureau­cra­cy and con­fus­ing charts. And no one likes get­ting a tick­et at the trail­head, and the mon­ey does go toward keep­ing these resources nat­ur­al, so here for you today is a quick guide on just about every­thing you need to know about the Wash­ing­ton recre­ation areas per­mit­ting systems:

Nation­al Parks
Wash­ing­ton has two Nation­al Parks that charge a fee, Mount Rainier Nation­al Park and Olympic Nation­al Park.  Here’s what you need to know to plan ahead to play free:

  • Day Pass: $15/Vehicle. $5 on foot or bike
  • Annu­al Pass: $30/Vehicle (sep­a­rate pass­es for the two vehicles)
  • Amer­i­ca the Beau­ti­ful Pass: Grants you access to over 2,000 fed­er­al recre­ation sites 

U.S. For­est Ser­vice Lands
Wash­ing­ton has 5 Forests that require a spe­cial per­mit to access by vehi­cle at the trailheads:

Also com­pli­ant with Oregon’s For­est Ser­vice Land, the pass­es can be pur­chased online, at a local ven­dor, or at a For­est Ser­vice Office in the Northwest: 

Wash­ing­ton State Pub­lic Lands
The Dis­cov­er Pass is the go-to tag for the over 7 mil­lion acres of state man­aged recre­ation areas. With a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort between three dif­fer­ent agen­cies, the Dis­cov­er Pass grants you access to over 100 State Parks man­aged by Parks and Recre­ation, 700 Water Access Points & 30 Wildlife Areas man­aged by Fish and Wildlife, as well as 80 Nat­ur­al Areas man­aged by the Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources. Oth­er pass­es are required dur­ing the winter:

Win­ter Recre­ation Sno-Park Pass
Every win­ter, plows move tons of snow so you can gain access to some pre­mier back­coun­try, cross­coun­try, snow fort build­ing, and snow­shoe­ing spots. In this case, the Dis­cov­er Pass will not suf­fice to save you a cita­tion. The rules are con­fus­ing, but here are the guidelines:

  • Sno-Park Pass: You will always need a Sno-Park Pass to engage in some win­ter recre­ation­al activ­i­ty. Unless you can find a spot on the side of the road that won’t get you towed or plowed in, Sno-Parks are the way to go. 
  • Spe­cial Groomed Trails Per­mit: If you plan on cross coun­try ski­ing at Lake Wenatchee, Lake Eas­t­on, Hyak, Crys­tal Springs, Chi­wawa, Cab­in Creek,  Mount Spokane, or Nason Ridge; you’ll also need to get a $40 annu­al groomed trails per­mit. Avail­able to pur­chase at the same loca­tions for a sno-park permit.
  • Sno-Park Pass + Dis­cov­ery Pass: This is where it gets a lit­tle con­fus­ing. If you have an annu­al Sno-Park pass, you don’t need a Dis­cov­er Pass. But if you only have a dai­ly Sno-Park Pass, you need to accom­pa­ny it with either a dai­ly or annu­al Dis­cov­er Pass.

Using this guide will allow you to be wor­ry-free as you explore the best that Wash­ing­ton has to offer. Get out, park your car, go explore, and if one thing is guar­an­teed: Every dime you spend will be worth it.