ODOT, USFS Warn of Dangers to Parking Near Winter Recreation Spots

Posted on in category Travel & Adventure

Happy New Year Backyardbend. We hope you are enjoying the holiday week and the great start to winter in Oregon.

With COVID-19 ‘cabin fever,’ sno-parks around state are filling up fast and overflow is spilling out onto highway shoulder areas. People are asking if this is legal, can they get a ticket, and will they be towed. We continue to see cars outside designated sno-parks and ski areas and our friends at KTVZ produced this article for accurate information.


Some snow-seekers heading to winter recreation areas on state highways are finding designated parking areas filled and are creating safety issues by parking on roadsides. ODOT warned Wednesday of the dangerous practice, which can lead to fines or a towing bill.

But officials said the roadway parking creates significant safety hazards when people get out of their vehicles and walk across the highway to reach their destinations.

It’s also dangerous for vehicles traveling through the area and for emergency vehicles and snow plows.

Under state law, non-emergency parking on state highways, including shoulders, is illegal in areas marked with no parking signs. Violators risk a ticket — and a tow.

Parking is allowed in designated areas, such as sno-parks. Oregon has about 100 sno-park sites dedicated to winter recreation parking. The sites can be found throughout the state in all mountain passes and at most recognized ski, snowmobile and snow play areas.

A list of Oregon’s Sno-Parks is available at TripCheck.com under Travel Center.

People are flocking to the mountains this winter, particularly on the Deschutes and Mt. Hood National Forests, filling up Sno-Parks, ski areas, and other recreation sites on national forest lands.  While winter is a great time to explore public lands, there are additional precautions and steps to take before heading out.  Recreation staff and emergency responders ask everyone to follow these tips and stay safe this winter.

Always check weather and road conditions before leaving home.  Prepare your vehicle for conditions at high elevations, carry tire chains and keep a winter weather kit in your vehicle.  Traffic may be heavy around popular winter recreation sites, so have a back-up plan if the site you wanted to visit is full.  Consider weekday visits or local transit options rather than driving to areas, and always carpool if possible.

If a parking lot is full, do not park along the highway, in no-parking zones, or block other vehicles.  Ambulances and other emergency vehicles need unhindered access to operate safely and save lives.  Highway snow plows need extra-wide road space as they have “wing” plows that stick out more than eight feet from the right front edge of the truck to remove snow.  Vehicles blocking traffic or parked illegally are subject to ticketing and towing.

This winter ski areas are operating with reduced capacity, modified hours, or special COVID-19 protocols.  Some ski area parking lots are filling up before 8:00 a.m.  Check the ski area’s website in advance to know about any restrictions and take advantage of advance reservations, if available.  Do not endanger others or yourself by parking or idling on highways waiting for parking spaces to open.

For more information about winter recreation visit:

Deschutes National Forest