Timed-use permits for the Columbia River Gorge waterfall corridor went on sale today, which is a reminder that you’ll need to plan ahead before hiking some of the most popular trails in our state this summer.
Between May 24 and Sept. 5, the passes will be required for personal vehicles trying to access federal lands between the Bridal Veil off-ramp (Interstate 84 exit 28) and Ainsworth State park (exit 35). That 18-mile stretch is home to some of the Gorge’s greatest hits, including Multnomah Falls, the Angel’s Rest Trailhead, Wahkeena Falls and Horsetail Falls.
Permits must be on hand between 9 am and 6 pm, seven days a week, which means sunrise and sunset hikes may become even more desirable than before for those wanting to avoid the new system entirely.
Multiple agencies, including Multnomah County, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Oregon Department of Transportation and the U.S. Forest Service, launched the project with the goal of creating a more reliable, enjoyable experience for people visiting an area that’s typically clogged during peak season. The permits are designed to spread visitation throughout the day, which means less traffic should leave more space for cyclists, improve travel times overall, and help emergency responders trying to make their way to people in distress.
“Our community raised concerns about congestion in the Gorge,” Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann stated in a press release. “The strain on our ecosystem and infrastructure requires an approach that balances sustainability with recreation and tourism. This pilot represents how multiple governmental agencies can come together to develop a solution for our residents and visitors.”
To obtain a permit, visit this website. You will be charged a $2 transaction fee, and anyone can reserve a pass up to two weeks prior to their planned visit. Each one lists a time slot, so arrive at either end of waterfall alley to check in at the Bridal Veil off-ramp or Ainsworth. Once you arrive, you can stay as long as you like. There will be a number of limited in-person same-day permits for no fee available at locations like the Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center in Troutdale and the Cascade Locks Historical Museum.
Looking to skip the hassle? There are a few options that include ditching your car. Take Columbia Area Transit, which has stops at the Gateway Transit Center in Portland, Cascade Locks and Hood River. Hop on a tour, like the Gray Line Waterfall Trolley. Or ride your bike to your favorite attraction.
Finally, you could just say “screw it” and consider the Gorge off-limits until Labor Day weekend has wrapped up and the crowds typically die down.