Open carry in National Forest in Washington?

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Mar 10, 2008
Is it legal to open carry when I'm hiking in a national forest in Washington state? I Know I can't in a national park, such as around Mt. Ranier but I'd like to when I hike in the Mt. Baker area.
yep, you're good to go in Nat'l Forests. both open carry and concealed are legal. you don't even need a permit for concealed carry as long as:

9.41.060 (8) Any person engaging in a lawful outdoor recreational activity such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, or horseback riding, only if, considering all of the attendant circumstances, including but not limited to whether the person has a valid hunting or fishing license, it is reasonable to conclude that the person is participating in lawful outdoor activities or is traveling to or from a legitimate outdoor recreation area;

Thanks, I have a carry permit but I just can't find a spot that's accessible and concealed when I'm wearing a pack. I can do it with my .38 but there's a bear warning in effect and there have been a lot of cougar sitings this year so the .38 stays at home and the .44 gets to get out of the house for a bit.
I've had good luck carrying a gun with an El Paso "Tanker" shoulder holster. This carries in a location down on your ribs and doesn't seem to interfere with carrying a pack like hip holsters or traditional shoulder holsters do.

Now, you might be a little concerned about "concealed" with this design, as the holster and gun are concealed, but the diagonal strap isn't...

IMO, if they can't see the holster or gun, it's concealed. Leather strap could be a camera... :)

Bianchi had an old shoulder holster design, I think the X15, that might work. I no longer have mine, or I could try it out and verify this. It carried the gun vertically, and if adjusted low enough, it should permit pack straps to "miss" it at the shoulder. The X15 has no "tell-tale strap" visibility problem across the chest like the El Paso design does.

To be fair to the El Paso "Tanker", I don't think anyone expects it to be a concealed rig.
Not legal is state parks though. Be careful as a lot of public/state/private forest land borders state parks.
Cuz the grizzlies know how to read maps. :rolleyes:
Gotcha on the state parks. Thanks for the tip on the shoulder rigs, I think I may go with a thigh/leg rig or a chest carry. Easy to get at and wont' get hung up on my pack, I'm going to try a few shoulder rigs on though and see what fits best.
Dookie said:
Not legal is state parks though. Be careful as a lot of public/state/private forest land borders state parks.
Cuz the grizzlies know how to read maps.

Since when? Citation please. I'm not aware of any law that forbids firearms in State parks.
As far as I know, it's legal to carry one, as regulated by Washington law, but not legal to discharge one -

So, if you have to defend yourself against a 4-legged or 2-legged predator, you could have to explain why you discharged a firearm in a State Park.

I'm no attorney, but my guess is the intent of this is to prohibit target shooting or hunting. It would have been a lot easier if they'd just said so.

Related: The National Park Service apparently adopted a revised rule that permits concealed carry in National Parks, in accordance with the rules for state parks in that state. So, concealed carry should be legal now in National Parks in Washington State.

Also, the rules on open carry in Washington State are far from clear, IMO. As the State Park regs reference the concealed carry statutes, I'm guessing that open carry in State Parks may not be approved, though concealed is.

On the thigh rigs, in my experience these beat your leg to death and involve considerable chafe and constriction. The special forces / SWAT guys have a fully-loaded vest and body armor to contend with. Those that don't have them in a holster on their vest may use a drop-leg rig, but they aren't hiking 10 or 15 miles that way.

I really, really wish there was a concise source for this information. If you check with a Sheriff's Deputy, you'll get one answer. Check with a State Park Ranger and you'll get another.

I think I know the rules, but at this point I'm not sure.
there is no law against carrying openly or concealed in state, county or city parks. some counties and cities do have local ordinances against it but its unenforceable because the State preempts all gun laws.

any type of carry IS NOT YET legal in National Parks. it looks positive that it will happen, and hopefully soon, but as of right now it is not legal. look for the topic here in the legal section for updates on it. so be aware of where the boundaries are and don't carry in Nat'l Parks.

pretty much everywhere else, save for the usual courthouse, school, jail etc, is fair game to carry openly without a permit or concealed with one. the exception is noted above in my last post. partaking in an outdoor activity (and it being reasonably believable that you are doing so) allows you to carry concealed without a permit.

so to recap:

National Parks = No carry

National Forests, state parks, county parks and city parks = knock yourself out.

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It's been a while since I researched it but Washington has a known conflict about carrying in wilderness areas. CCW laws say you are allowed while others say you cannot.

I spent the summer working for the BLM in NM, and spent some time hiking the mountains up north. The best thing(only thing), I carried was a regular hip holster attached to the hip belt of the pack. I couldn't even tell that was there. When I passed another hiker, I just put my arm to my side. I know I didn't need to, but I prefer not to draw any more attention to myself than needed. I think it would be a better choice than a drop leg holster. You sure won't feel it as much.
Rigging something to the hip belt of my pack is an interesting thought, I already have a couple of loops sewn on to the sheath for my knife to carry it horizontally on my left. I don't know if my hip belt is sturdy enough to support a gun and holster though. Maybe I'll just buy a new pack with a sturdier belt:D
In regards to the previous post, I do something very similar. My usual wilderness carry is a 2.25" SP-101. This, and 24 extra rounds fit neatly into a digital camera carrying case that I bought at REI. The case threads onto the hip belt of my various packs and rucksacks. My carry weapon is thus concealed, protected from the elements, readily accessible and comfortable to carry. I have learned that in my hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, that various forms of shoulder, IWB, OWB and hip carry are not especially comfortable by the time I am fully geared up. So this solution works well for me, but others may prefer different methods.
i forgot one thing. if you are hunting using black powder during that season or a bow and arrow during that season, it is illegal to carry a modern firearm. from the regs:

2. Muzzleloader Regulations
(a) It is illegal to carry or possess any
firearm during muzzleloading seasons
which does not meet the following
specification for muzzleloader: Is
loaded from the muzzle and uses black
powder or a black powder substitute as
recommended by the manufacturer for use
in muzzleloading firearms. Has a single or
double barrel of at least 20 inches, rifled
or smoothbore. Ignition is to be wheellock,
match-lock, flintlock, or percussion using
original style percussion caps that fit on the
nipple and are exposed to the elements.
Shot shell and 209 primers are not legal.
Sights must be open, peep, or of other
open sight design. Telescopic sights or
sights containing glass are prohibited.

and for archery:

(b) It is illegal to carry or have in possession
any firearm while in the field archery hunting,
during the archery season specified for that

sorry i forgot to put those in there earlier. those are the only times you cannot carry firearms in the wilderness. hunting isn't allowed in state parks so its a moot point there.

The WA constitution states:

"SECTION 24 RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men."

I don't see how the prohibitions on merely having a sidearm for protection while bow hunting can be enforceable. Does anyone know if this matter has ever been litigated?

Also, as I've stated before, I don't see how the national park ban is enforceable, post Heller.

None of this should be considered legal advice.
it should be noted that the restrictions on modern guns while black powder or bow hunting are regulatory in nature and not actual "laws". they are enforced by issuing citations or suspending or revoking your hunting license.

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