Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Robert E. Manning


As the United States becomes increasingly urbanized, the importance of federally designated wilderness areas as places of reflection and refuge from city life becomes even more apparent. These wilderness areas provide visitors with opportunities for solitude, recreation, and connecting with nature. Wilderness has long been important to American society, influencing the likes of John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and Henry David Thoreau. With the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, the assurance that these areas would remain protected in perpetuity for the enjoyment of the American people was enshrined into law. While these wilderness areas remain protected by Federal law, increasing visitation rates and changing social norms may begin to threaten the so-called "wilderness experience," making it difficult for visitors to enjoy and experience the conditions set forth in the Wilderness Act. Wilderness managers must therefore seek to understand the attitudes, preferences, and motivations of wilderness visitors using these areas to ensure that management conditions provide for a high-quality wilderness experience.

This study uses quantitative survey methods to explore differences in management preferences, wilderness conditions, and crowding perceptions between overnight and day visitors to wilderness areas. Visitors were surveyed at 30 trailheads throughout the Olympic National Park Wilderness during the summer of 2012. While wilderness visitors held many similar opinions on management preferences and wilderness conditions, there were differences in the degree to which they agreed or disagreed. Overnight visitors tended to be more sensitive to crowding than day visitors, both on hiking trails and at attraction sites, and were more supportive of management policies that limited access in favor of increasing opportunities for solitude experiences. This study supports the use of a management by objectives framework that incorporates indicators and standards of quality to ensure that certain conditions are met. Findings from this study can aid in the development of standards for crowding and the establishment of other management policies in Olympic National Park Wilderness to ensure that all visitors are provided with the opportunity for a high-quality wilderness experience.



Number of Pages

88 p.