Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is still open, despite the closure of trailheads and campgrounds

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Despite rumors to the contrary, the Forest Service says the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is not closed.

Trails, undeveloped areas, dispersed camping and most roads are still open, the Forest Service says.

Confusion likely stems from the Forest Service’s announcement March 27 that it was closing developed recreation sites in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

That closure included campgrounds, snow parks, restroom facilities, rentals, fire lookouts and most trailheads in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

So, how do you get on a trail when the trailheads are closed?

The Forest Service says there are other places recreationists can legally park on roadsides, then walk or bike in.

Parking at the trailheads was closed because it was encouraging crowds, the Forest Service said.

If parking along a road, avoid damaging vegetation, don’t park or hike on private property or block driveways, the Forest Service said.

But some specific roads and high-use areas have been closed completely.

“Some of the area closures include the Icicle Road and recreation areas along that route near Leavenworth due to the amount of use and crowding it draws,” said Deborah Kelly of the Forest Service. “There is also popular climbing area on the Methow Valley Ranger District near Mazama that also is under an area closure, because it draws high use.   These closures are  to discourage crowding.”     

The official closure notice runs through Sept. 30 but the Forest Service says that could be rescinded early, if conditions permit.

If you do head into the forest, there may still be areas that are inaccessible because of wet, muddy and snowy conditions.

Cabins and campgrounds may take longer to reopen because of preseason work that has to be done first, the Forest Service said.