North Cascades National Park is inviting public comment on a proposal to construct additional backcountry campsites on the Bridge Creek Trail for long-distance hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
That trail section is popular with day users and is also the shortest route to Stehekin, according to the environmental assessment (EA) issued by the National Park Service (NPS) in January.
Additional backcountry camps for PCT permit holders are needed to address crowding from increased usage over the past several years, according to the EA.
Backcountry overnight permits increased 45% in 2016 and went up another 13% in 2019 before dropping early in the COVID pandemic. But in 2021, PCT hikers rebounded to more than the 2016 levels, according to the EA.
In 2020, the NPS created drop-in camps to avoid crowding, and both the PCT Association and U.S. Forest Service limited the number of hikers per day.
NPS proposes to modify the Bridge Creek and Six-Mile camps to accommodate additional long-distance hikers. Other changes are intended to reduce human-bear conflict by adding more separation between cooking and sleeping areas.
At the Bridge Creek Camp, NPS would add space for up to 20 drop-in hikers. They might also add outhouses and food-storage lockers.
At the Six-Mile Camp, NPS would add a new, separate cooking area and a second food-storage locker. NPS would also reconfigure the campground to accommodate more tent pads, for an added capacity of between 15 and 20 people.
The original proposal also called for relocating hiker and stock camps on the Brush Creek Trail, in the northwest corner of the park, to move them out of the floodplain. Portions of that trail and the existing camps burned in the 2022 Chilliwack Complex Fire and are expected to be closed for the 2023 summer season and possibly beyond, according to the EA. NPS will reevaluate plans for the area, since the proposed location of new campsites was affected by the fire.
People can comment on the proposal through March 8. The EA and a link to submit comments are at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/BCCampMods2023EA.