Following 2021′s rollout of the controversial Central Cascades Wilderness Permits, public lands agencies are making some adjustments before they’re required again this year.
Starting last spring, hikers had to purchase day-use passes to access 19 of the 79 trailheads within the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters wilderness areas to help quell crowds. And while that might not sound like a lot, the affected destinations are some of the most popular in Central Oregon—think Green Lakes, Devils Lake to the South Sister summit and Broken Top.
Similarly, permits were required for all overnight stays within those same regions, and there is a cap on the number of both types of passes that are sold.
After taking several months to assess the inaugural year, the Deschutes and Willamette national forests announced this month that they are shifting the permit season back slightly in the calendar year. Now, the passes will be required June 15 to Oct. 15 instead of the Friday before Memorial Day to the last Friday in September.
The change better aligns with the actual recreational window in Oregon’s high desert. Last year, for instance, many people who had permits in early June couldn’t use them because not enough snow had melted, which meant roads were still closed and trails—if you could reach them—simply disappeared under drifts and hard-packed ice.
Another modification is the result of the abundance of permit holders who simply didn’t show up. Day-use passes will no longer be available for full-season advanced reservations. Now, they will be released in 10-day and two-day rolling windows.
The agencies say the overnight permit system has changed the most. The quota to camp is now based on the date of entry, meaning there is a daily entry quota for each trailhead, which allows new groups to start their trip each day. This should simplify the reservation system because users will not have to block out all of the days for their planned outings. There is a 14-day maximum stay limit.
You can begin booking overnight backpacking trips April 5, when 40% of those permits will be released. The remaining passes are scheduled to become available in seven-day rolling windows once permit season begins.
There is a $1 processing charge per individual and a $6 fee per group for camping.