MAZAMA - The U.S. Border Patrol is warning hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail they could face arrest, jail and a $5,000 fine if they cross the U.S.-Canadian border improperly.
The Wenatchee World reported that the agency sent a letter last month urging the Pacific Crest Trail Association to warn hikers to only enter the U.S. at designated border crossings.
The 2,650-mile trail stretches north from Mexico, crosses the U.S. border in the Pasayten Wilderness and continues for about nine miles to Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia.
The nearest port of entry is 50 miles to the west, at Sumas, in Whatcom County, or more than 50 miles to the east, at Nighthawk or Oroville, Okanogan County.
Beth Boyst is a U.S. Forest Service manager who oversees Pacific Crest Trail issues. She said she’ll be meeting with the Border Patrol in the next few weeks to determine the best ways to comply with security needs while accommodating hikers.
“The Forest Service is trying to work out something with the Border Patrol to try to figure out how to allow for passage in a legal way,” she said.
Spokane-based Border Patrol spokeswoman Danielle Suarez said the warning only applies to hikers coming into the U.S. There was no incident that prompted the warning letter, she said.
“We just want to create that awareness, so it doesn’t get to a point where there are criminal penalties,” she said.
Mike Dawson, trail operations director for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, said he hopes exceptions can be made for hikers. At any rate, he said, most hikers who do the entire trail head south to north because there’s still snow in the North Cascades long after hiking season starts in Southern California.
Dawson said the association has already set up a method for dealing with hikers traveling into Canada.
Hikers can download a form from the association’s website. It shows the types of identification needed, and when people finish the trail, they end up at Manning Provincial Park headquarters, where they can turn in their form.
“As long as everything is in order, they don’t have a problem with that,” he said.
Many people return from Canada to the U.S. by bus or car — through a designated border crossing, he said.