At the start of 2011, Washington’s hikers faced the daunting proposition of losing access to our state lands, from Deception Pass to Mount Si to Frenchman Coulee to Beacon Rock. Each day brought a new list of potential closures and various proposed solutions, from per person fees to agency consolidation to higher license renewal donations.  Hikers had questions: Would parks be open? Would we pay to visit them? How much?

discover pass
© Jim Cahill courtesy of WTA

Now that the Discover Pass has been enacted by the Washington state legislature, we have answers. We know that our state lands will remain open and that hikers will need a new $30 annual vehicle pass to visit them.

If you’ve been following this legislation in the news or on Washington Trails Association’s site, you know that the path that brought us to these answers was a long and winding one.

As the voice for the Evergreen State’s hikers, WTA knew it was our job to make sure there was funding for state trails in the state budget. We also knew that any new fee would have to be a fair amount that hikers would be willing to pay. When the original proposal was released last year, the fee proposed was $40 per person, not per vehicle. WTA pushed back, advocating for a fee structure that was more reasonable for hikers and would be easier to enforce than the original option forwarded by the agencies.

discover pass
©Susan Saul Courtesy of WTA

Here are the important changes that WTA was able to bring about in the Discover Pass thanks to the support of hiker activists:

• WTA lobbied legislators to change the user fee proposal to a $30 per vehicle pass, much like the Northwest Forest Pass.

• We advocated for a lower volunteer hour requirement to earn a free annual pass, and were successful in changing this requirement from 40 hours to 24.

• We pushed for a single pass for all three agencies instead of a confusing multi-pass system.

Not all hikers agree that the Discover Pass is a good solution, but many, including the 2,000 hikers who signed a petition supporting it, see it as the only way to ensure that these special places receive the dedicated funding they deserve. This critical legislation to keep our State Parks, DNR and Department of Fish and Wildlife sites open and maintained would not have passed without hikers voicing their support for it.

In coming weeks and months, WTA will be providing information on how and where to purchase an annual Discover Pass and day passes. The agencies who administer this pass have only a few months to get it implemented before it becomes required on July 1 and WTA will be keeping hikers informed every step of the way.

And if you are now wondering what pass you’ll need to have for your summer hiking, head to WTA’s website for advice: and

discover pass
© Kelly Heintz – DNR Courtesy of WTA


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