Timed-Access Permits Will be Required for Drivers Heading to the Gorge’s Waterfall Corridor This Summer

The 18-mile stretch includes some of the Gorge’s most popular attractions, including Multnomah Falls and the Angel’s Rest Trailhead.

Accessing the Columbia River Gorge’s popular waterfall corridor is likely to become a little more complicated this summer.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, drivers will need to purchase timed-access permits if they plan to park anywhere between Vista House and Ainsworth State Park in Cascade Locks.

That 18-mile stretch has some of the Gorge’s most popular attractions, including Multnomah Falls, Rooster Rock State Park, Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, the Angel’s Rest Trailhead and Horsetail Falls.

Permits will be required for every personal vehicle in the area from 9 am to 6 pm May 24 through Sept. 5, and ODOT says those will largely be sold online, but that a limited amount of in-person, same-day purchases would be available.

There are few other details about the program at this point, including pricing and enforcement—as well as what happens to early birds who simply show up and park at, say 6 am but stay past 9 am. The agency promises to add more information to its website in advance of the launch this May.

So far, members of local online recreation groups have mixed reactions to the plan.

Some are frustrated by the addition of more permits, which in recent years has included timed ticketing at Multnomah Falls and online passes to park and hike at Dog Mountain just across the Columbia. Others aren’t too worried the program will have an effect on their personal outings, since they tend to hit the Gorge during off hours, viewing this largely as a way to quell mid-afternoon crowds.

Both ODOT and organizations in the Gorge encourage visitors to take transit to avoid dealing with the permits as well as clogged parking lots. The Columbia Area Transit bus departs from the Gateway Transit Center in Portland and stops at Troutdale, Multnomah Falls, Cascade Locks and Hood River. The westbound route even has pickup/dropoff right outside Thunder Island Brewing, so you can make a whole day of it outdoors and reward yourself with a post-hike beer without having to worry about driving.

Bicyclists can also ride on the Historic Columbia River Highway and skip the new permit process.

Meanwhile, hikers who are gearing up for wildflower season on Dog Mountain outside Stevenson, Wash. should set an alarm to log onto their computers for permits. The U.S. Forest Service will release online passes starting March 1.

Permits will be needed during weekends from April 23 through June 12 as well as Memorial Day. The reservation system is scheduled to limit passes to 200 per day through that period.