PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On Feb. 20, the Bureau of Land Management is waiving day-use, recreation and standard-amenity fees for its public lands to honor George Washington’s birthday, providing free access to more than 16 million acres of public land across the Pacific Northwest.

“The BLM invites the public to visit the unique and diverse natural landscapes and visitor facilities on BLM-managed lands to celebrate the life of the first U.S. President,” the BLM said.

The “fee-free day” includes the waiver of all costs associated with visitor centers, picnic and day-use areas and sightseeing on National Conservation Lands. Fees for groups, overnight camping, cabin rentals, and special recreation permits will still apply unless explicitly waived by a BLM officer.

In preparation for its second fee-free day of the year, the BLM has provided a list of some of the best BLM-managed spots to visit in Oregon and Washington during the winter:

The Wildwood day-use area located 40 miles east of Portland, off Highway 26. (BLM Oregon and Washington Flickr)

Where to go with snow

  • Burns: Steens Mountain offers an array of winter recreation opportunities, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and skiing. Individual permits must be obtained through the Burns District Office. 
  • Lakeview: Gerber Recreation Site is popular for ice fishing and open year-round for camping. The paved roads are not plowed but remain clear of snow most winters. Wood River Wetland offers hiking, dog walking, bird watching, hunting, and (when there’s enough snow) snowshoeing. Be aware that the parking area is not plowed in the winter, so parking is not always available.
  • Medford: Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are available at the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument and Table Mountain Winter Play Area. 
  • Washington State: Split Rock Recreation Site at Palmer Lake offers ice fishing (or regular fishing if there is no ice). Visitors can also hike on the Similkameen Rail Trail from Oroville to the Enloe Dam or on the Cowiche Canyon Trail (where there is usually little to no snow). The Yakima River Canyon Recreation Site is a great location for winter camping. If winter is mild, the Juniper Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area is a good option for recreation, and if the winter is cold, the Fishtrap Recreation Area offers ice fishing and cross-country skiing.
The Slocum Creek Wilderness Study Area located east of Owyhee Reservoir in Malheur County. (BLM Oregon and Washington Flickr)

Where to go with little to no snow

  • Northwest Oregon: The West Eugene Wetlands offer disc golf, the Sandy Ridge Trail System offers mountain biking, Shotgun Creek Recreation Site is open to off-highway vehicles, and the Wildwood Recreation Site has an underwater salmon viewing chamber.
  • Medford: Sites such as the Upper and Lower Table Rocks, Cathedral Hills, and Mountain of the Rogue offer winter hiking and tend to be free of snow. 

The BLM will also waive recreation, standard-amenity and day-use fees for visitors on the following dates in 2023:

  • February 20 – Washington’s Birthday
  • June 19 – Juneteenth National Independence Day
  • August 4 – Great American Outdoors Day
  • September 23 – National Public Lands Day
  • November 11 – Veterans Day