Washington police urge caution against using Google, Apple Map detours onto remote forest roads

With all main highways across the Washington Cascades closed until at least Saturday, troopers are warning drivers not to follow GPS routes that direct to remote forest roads over the mountains.

SEATTLE -- With all main highways across the Washington Cascades likely closed until at least Saturday due to heavy snow and dangerous travel conditions, Washington State Patrol troopers are warning drivers not to attempt to find their own way over the mountains on forest roads.

Usually, a trip from Seattle to Eastern Washington is a direct drive across Snoqualmie Pass along Interstate 90. But with that and every other mountain pass closed and no viable detour options, asking popular GPS navigation mapping programs such as Google Maps or Apple Maps to plan a route to towns just on the other side of the Cascades such as Easton or Cle Elum could send you on a dangerous detour. 

A default route plotted Thursday afternoon from Seattle to Easton, Wash., would send drivers to use seldom-traveled forest roads that are not designed for regular vehicular traffic nor treated for heavy snows.

"That is extremely dangerous to use the forest service roads. We caution people to NOT use forest service roads around the passes," says Sgt. Darren Wright with the Washington State Patrol. "It’s extremely difficult to navigate; you can’t turn around easily. You could get stuck. And there is not going to be a passing motorist coming by to help."

Wright said that calling for help could be just as problematic as cell service is "sketchy at best."

Over 4 feet of snow have fallen at Snoqualmie Pass with higher amounts at higher elevations. Department of Transportation crews have come off the passes, citing high avalanche danger and numerous tree falls due to heavy snow. Similar risks exist on forest roads.

Wright said they have already been getting reports of off-road vehicles getting stuck in these areas.

"We really discourage this idea for safety reasons," Wright said.

FOX Weather has reached out to both Apple and Google for comment.

A Google representative stated:

In light of the unpredictable conditions from the current snowstorm, our team is working as quickly as possible to update routes in the area using details from local authorities, feedback from drivers, and sudden changes to driving trends. We currently show winter storm warnings to alert drivers in the area, and encourage everyone to stay alert and attentive.

 So far, Apple has not responded to the inquiry.

WSDOT crews hope to open the passes on Saturday.