Pendleton, Ore. — With snowfall across the Blue Mountains, people are heading to the Umatilla National Forest for recreation opportunities. While winter is a great time to explore public lands, recreation staff and emergency responders urge forest visitors to follow these tips to help ensure a safe experience while on National Forest lands.
Umatilla National Forest roads are not maintained for winter travel. Visitors traveling to the Forest are doing so at their own risk and should plan ahead before starting their trip. The Umatilla National Forest does not plow roads or clear them for downed trees or boulders in the winter. Many Forest roads close during the winter to protect wildlife, road surfaces and to support winter recreation opportunities (see the Umatilla National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) for specific seasonal road closure information). The conditions of roads that remain open during the winter can change dramatically and without warning. Winter storms often bring wind, snow and rain that can substantially affect road and trail conditions, causing hazards and obstructions in roadways.
Always check weather and road conditions before leaving home. Prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies. Traffic may be heavy around popular winter recreation sites so have a backup plan if the site you wanted to visit is full.
The Umatilla National Forest is experiencing large numbers of visitors on the Forest this time of year. Many sno-parks are filling up early on weekends. Permits are required from Nov. 1 to April 30 to park in designated sno-parks. If a parking lot is full, do not park in no-parking zones, do not block other vehicles, and ensure highways remain clear for through traffic. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles need unhindered access to operate safely and save lives. Highway snowplows need extra-wide road space as they have “wing” plows that stick out more than eight feet from the right front edge of the truck to remove snow. Vehicles blocking traffic or parked illegally are subject to ticketing and towing.
Additionally, the Forest encourages visitors to practice the following winter safety travel tips:
- Know the area and what to expect; ALWAYS check avalanche and weather reports prior to departure. Consult maps and local authorities about high-danger areas, safety information, and regulations for the area you plan to visit. Do not rely solely on navigational devices.
- Monitor snow conditions frequently.
- Bring extra food, water, and clothes.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the need for tree markings, rock cairns or flagging. Obtain a Motorized Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) for the area you’re visiting.
- Show a friend a map of your planned route and let him/her know when you expect to return. Remember to notify that person upon your return.
- Make certain each member of the group is adequately prepared for harsh winter conditions.
The public is encouraged to monitor the Umatilla National Forest Facebook page and website for updates on forest conditions Additional information on winter travel is available on the Umatilla National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/umatilla/ or at any forest office. Visitors are encouraged to contact their local ranger district office before heading out.
Umatilla National Forest MVUMs are available at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/umatilla/maps-pubs/?cid=stelprdb5414334. Additionally, the MVUMs can be downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet via the Avenza app or the Pacific Northwest Forests app.
Information on local road conditions is available at https://www.tripcheck.com/.
Additional information about the Umatilla National Forest is available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/umatilla.