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News / Clark County News

Get outdoors: State and national parks free for Juneteenth; Saturday marks Washington Trails Day

Volunteers will greet hikers to talk about preserving natural resources

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 18, 2024, 12:44pm

The Juneteenth federal holiday isn’t just a day to ponder the complicated history of our nation — and to celebrate its promise of freedom for all. It’s also a day you can enjoy many of our public lands for free.

In honor of today’s Juneteenth holiday, entry fees are waived at many state and national parks, national forests and other public lands. Here in Washington, you can park at trailheads or recreation facilities without paying an entry fee or displaying a pass at sites owned and operated by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management.

“Juneteenth” is a portmanteau of June 19, 1865 — the date the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced in Texas, bringing freedom to the last Confederate slaves at the end of the Civil War.

Three days after this year’s Juneteenth holiday comes Washington Trails Day, June 22. Washington Trails Day is a celebration of hikers and hiking and the Washington Trails Association, the largest state-based hiking nonprofit in the U.S. In addition to encouraging hiking, the association stewards land and builds trails. Its message for this year’s Washington Trails Day is to stay on the trail.

Washington Trails Association staff and volunteers will greet hikers at trailheads across the state Saturday to discuss why straying from designated trails is a bad idea.

Washingtonians are outdoorsy people, WTA reports, with 90 percent of residents hitting at least one trail each year, according to a 2022 survey.

That’s a lot of feet tromping down the great outdoors. It can mean a lot of destructive impact on the land, unless hikers are careful and responsible.

“When a majority of our growing state is spending time on trails, how we hike really matters,” the WTA said in a statement. “Staying on trail preserves the plants, animals and cultural resources in the landscape, lengthens the life of trail infrastructure, and keeps trails safe and easy-to-follow for fellow hikers.”

WTA’s pointers for hiking sustainably are:

  • Don’t take shortcuts (like shorter switchbacks);
  • To protect fragile ecosystems, such as wildflower meadows, camp only on durable, designated camping surfaces;
  • To prevent trails that widen and sprawl, walk single file on narrow trails, and walk through — not around — muddy spots;
  • Know who has right of way when hikers are passing one another, and practice trail etiquette.

The WTA suggests hikers take a Stay on Trail pledge. Find the pledge, and learn more about Washington Trails Day, at www.wta.org/get-involved/action/celebrate-washington-trails-day.