Local hikers challenge National Forest Adventure Pass fees in court (MAP)

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Molly Peterson/KPCC

Hiking in Little Rock Creek, in the Angeles National Forest, may no longer require an Adventure Pass.

Four hikers fed up with paying fees to visit national forests in California have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to do away with the U.S. Forest Service's Adventure Pass. A day pass to use a campground is $5. An annual pass is $30. 

Last year, an Arizona federal appeals court ruled the Forest Service cannot charge for hiking, walking, picnicking, parking or visiting undeveloped areas of national forest land. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune says the suit asks the court to apply that ruling to the Angeles, Los Padres, San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests in Southern California.

The passes are for sale online through websites like myscenicdrive.com or Kinsail.com, but require paying for shipping and waiting several days before the pass arrives. Ordering over the phone directly with the Forest Service still requires a wait time, but no shipping fees. Another option is to buy the passes in person from local sportswear dealers, like Sports Chalet or REI, or at ranger district stations. 

Visitors who do not display an Adventure Pass on their car dashboard can be fined by park rangers.

Map: Find your nearest forest. Source: U.S. Forest Service Geodata Clearinghouse

The complaint discusses the difference between an entrance fee or an amenities fee: 



U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter has ordered lawyers for the plaintiffs and the Department of Justice to enter into settlement talks. The parties have been ordered to announce the status of their settlement talks by May 30.

Critics say the fee amounts to "double taxation," but forest managers say the fees are essential as federal budgets are slashed.

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