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Local national forest campgrounds to open

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Most campgrounds in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest will be in full operation by Friday, May 28, in time for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

The national forest covers much of the west side of the Cascade Mountains and extends from Mount Rainier north to the Canadian border.

Fifteen full-service campgrounds, which offer drinking water, toilets and garbage pickup, are operated under a special-use permit by Recreation Resources Management (RRM). Fees for campsites can vary from $15 to $20 per night, depending on additional amenities offered (a few sites also offer showers and electricity). Ten campgrounds, which do not have water, are also operated by RRM with fees of $11 per night. At all fee campgrounds there is a charge of $5-$7 for an additional vehicle at a campsite.

More detailed information about specific campgrounds may be found at www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/recreation/activities/campgrounds/index.shtml.

The Memorial Day weekend is traditionally one of the busiest times for camping on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest with most sites filled to capacity. Approximately 60 percent of the sites may be reserved in advance by calling the toll-free number (877) 444-6777, or by visiting www.reserveusa.com. There is a reservation fee of $9 per campsite. The remainder of the sites in these campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis.

In addition to the facilities described above, the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest also provides:

* Free camping at three primitive campground sites;

* Thirteen group camping areas (fees range from $40-$150 per night; reservations are required);

* Twenty-seven picnic sites, some of which require a Northwest Forest Pass.

Only one campground - Sulphur Creek - will be closed this season due to last October's record rainfall. Flooding from last October's storm damaged 17 campgrounds and one picnic site, primarily in the Darrington and Mount Baker ranger districts in eastern Snohomish and Skagit counties. Most of the flood-damaged campgrounds will be fully open with the exception of Mineral Park and Marble Creek campgrounds, which may have a portion of sites closed due to ongoing flood repair work. Flood damage also closed the Mountain Loop Highway between Barlow Pass and Bedal Creek.

Hiking season is also gearing up.

The snowline across the forest still hovers between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. As a result, low-elevation trails are open while most high-elevation trails remain blanketed with snow.

Water from last October's flood combined with winter storms did an extraordinary amount of damage to more than 15 popular trails and 25 trail bridges, primarily in the Mount Baker and Darrington ranger districts located in eastern Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish counties. This includes a 30-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Many of these trails will be inaccessible to hikers this season. For more detailed information, visit www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/.

Recreationists are also reminded that a Northwest forest pass is required at trailheads in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Hikers may buy a $30 annual pass or $5 day pass at national forest ranger stations, a number of which will be open on Saturday. Passes are also available at local vendors (for a list, visit www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/passes/) or may be ordered by calling (800) 270-7504.

The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest will offer two "free" days this year, at which time Northwest forest passes will not be required at trailheads or other designated sites. "Free" days will be: June 5 (National Trails Day) and September 18 (National Public Lands Day).

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