Due to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court, the Forest Service will be dramatically scaling back the use of admission fees on National Forest lands throughout the country – potentially ending its use on many trails in the Angeles National Forest.

For SoCal hikers, the ubiquitous “Adventure Pass” has been a de facto cost of hiking since 1996, when the program was implemented as a way to raise money locally for Southern California’s unique urban wilderness and help with maintenance and upkeep, especially for heavily used areas.

According to the 9th Circuit, the Forest Service overstepped its bounds by implementing the Adventure Pass for all users of the Forest, regardless of what kinds of facilities they use. The thinking is someone who parks near Switzer Falls, uses the grills and picnic tables and leaves trash in the dumpsters is using more Forest Service resources than someone who just parks on the side of the Angeles Crest Highway and hikes on a trail for a day. It’s unfair to ask the hiker to pay for those developed improvements at Switzer’s when she’s not using them.

This ruling will not eliminate the Adventure Pass completely, but it will nix the fee in 3/4ths of the areas it is currently required in nationwide. I wasn’t able to find out which areas specifically will keep the fee, but I’d bet it will be in high-use areas like Switzer’s, Manker Flats, and the various sites along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. 12 use-fee areas will remain in Southern California when the new rules take effect, which most likely won’t be until sometime next year.

The LA Times reports that California forests receive $7 million a year from Adventure Pass fees, with the money retained by the individual forests that collect it.

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