Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Trip recommendations, current conditions, and other trail related Q&A
elijaHayes
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Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by elijaHayes » November 26th, 2019, 10:42 pm

Hey Everyone,

Stumbled across this forum trying to find an answer to this question. What is the policy on off trail hiking in National Forests? I live in Klamath Falls and a chunk of the Winema Fremont National Forest is much closer than most of the remote hiking trails. I'm confident in my ability to navigate and I own bear spray and a first aid kit, but I'm wondering if there's any reason to not hike cross country in the forest or if there's anything to be aware of if you do.

Thanks!

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Bosterson
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by Bosterson » November 26th, 2019, 11:49 pm

Go for it! There are no official rules about going off trail unless the area is closed to entry.

That said, there are best practices. Don't get lost, know your own capabilities and limits, etc. (It sounds like you already have that part covered.) The really big best practice that I would stress is Leave No Digital Trace. This is especially important for off trail to prevent hordes of people descending on the same area and creating user trails and other environmental degradation.
Will hike off trail for fun.

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retired jerry
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by retired jerry » November 27th, 2019, 6:06 am

In Oregon you probably don't need bear spray. Bears are more afraid of us and run away.

If you get lost SAR will have a difficult time finding your body. Let someone know where you're going. I've been carrying one of those InReach Minis - you can communicate via satellite and let people know where you are if you need help.

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texasbb
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by texasbb » November 27th, 2019, 7:07 am

Off-trail is where it's at. I'd say the biggest best practices are to carry the 10 essentials and tell someone close to you where you're going and when you expect to be done so they have an idea where to look for you if you break an ankle or something.

pcg
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by pcg » November 27th, 2019, 9:06 am

Bosterson wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 11:49 pm
The really big best practice that I would stress is Leave No Digital Trace.
Good point and easy to overlook. When I first got an inReach I walked all over my property testing it out, leaving breadcrumb tracks. A couple years ago someone posted a heat map online of where people had been hiking. Out of curiosity I looked around my property and found someone had been walking all over it, then I realized it was me. This website had harvested my tracks from the Delorme site (not yet Garmin) and put them online. I went back and discovered my tracks were "public" and immediately changed it to "private". I typically leave a breadcrumb every two hours, in case I run into trouble and am unable to activate an SOS, someone will still have a general idea where to look for me when I show up missing. But these tracks go to a website. So if you aren't careful about your settings some app or website will harvest your tracking data.

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BigBear
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by BigBear » November 27th, 2019, 9:11 am

I agree with Bosterson, especially in reference to "leave no trace." It is important to note the difference between short-cutting and going off the grid. Your off-trail exploits should not create a confusing side trail or undermine the established trail by creating an erosion problem.

The other issue is that you are on-your-own. If you get injured, you're going to have to crawl your way back to the relative civilization of a maintained trail to have any hope of rescue. Telling someone where you are at is a good idea, but without exact GPS coordinates, that amounts to little more than a warm feeling.

I believe that Willamette NF's new draconian trail fee system and virtual ban on public entry to public lands will encourage quite a bit of off-trail hiking. Given the low level of experience of many of these persons, i suspect a lot of lost hikers will be the result.

Good luck to you, and don't be afraid to stop and retrace your steps if the destination becomes too obscure.

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drm
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by drm » November 27th, 2019, 10:51 am

The only thing I would add is that if you are new to off-trail traveling, start moderately, not with your most ambitious trip. And think about escape routes - is there a trail nearby that would be easy to find. For example, if you head east, is there a north-south trail you basically have to run into.

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adamschneider
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by adamschneider » November 27th, 2019, 11:47 am

Got a GPS? Got a cell phone to function as a backup GPS? Go for it.

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Bosterson
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by Bosterson » November 27th, 2019, 11:51 am

adamschneider wrote:
November 27th, 2019, 11:47 am
Got a GPS? Got a cell phone map and compass to function as a backup
Fixed it for ya. ;)
Will hike off trail for fun.

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retired jerry
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Re: Off Trail Hiking Policy in National Forests

Post by retired jerry » November 27th, 2019, 12:01 pm

another thing is to keep an eye backwards to get back out

look at big landmarks like ridges and valleys

think about what it would be like if you got lost to keep the mindset of scouting out those landmarks

read stories about people getting lost going off trail and learn from their mistakes

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