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Wilderness Permit System Opens April 6 

The permit system hopes to limit the number of people visiting the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and Three Sisters wilderness areas

The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests will begin allowing people to reserve day-use and overnight permits in the Central Cascades Wilderness starting April 6. The permit system is a new addition for the Central Cascades Wilderness, aimed at limiting the number of people visiting well-used locations in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and Three Sisters wilderness areas.

According to a 2018 environmental assessment from the Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies Project, overall use in the Three Sisters Wilderness had increased by 231% since 1991 and 181% since 2011. Tam McArthur Rim Trailhead saw a 538% increase in users from 2014 to 2016. While the Forest Service opted to put the proposed permit system on hold during the height of the pandemic in 2020, it announced that it would move forward with it in 2021. The Forest Service did move forward with one portion of its wilderness-area limitations last year, implementing a ban on campfires above 5,700 feet in elevation, and even in some areas that are below 5,700 feet. It also banned campfires in Diamond Peak Wilderness above 6,000 feet. 

Todd Lake with Broken Top in background. - BONNIE MORELAND / FLICKR
  • Bonnie Moreland / Flickr
  • Todd Lake with Broken Top in background.

Starting May 28, pre-arranged day-use permits will be required on trails including Green Lakes, Broken Top, Devils Lake/South Sister, Todd Lake, Tam McArthur Rim and a dozen other popular trails from Memorial Day through the last Friday in September of 2021, and overnight permits will be required for all overnight use in the three wilderness areas. Dozens of other trailheads in the wilderness areas will not require a pre-arranged permit, but do require a free self-issue permit available at the trailheads.

On April 6, 40% of the season's allotment of overnight permits will be live on the federal government's reservation portal, Recreation.gov, with the remaining 60% of permits available on a seven-day rolling window beginning on May 28—meaning every day, new permits will be available for the day seven days ahead of that particular day.

Between 20 and 50% of day-use permits will be available on April 6, with the remaining 50 to 80% of each trail's permits available in a seven-day rolling window starting May 28.

The permits are relatively low-cost, costing only a $1 processing fee for day-use permits, and a $6 processing fee for overnight use. People can determine which trails require day-use permits by visiting https://bit.ly/2Pl8jtT, and can register at recreation.gov, or by calling 877-444-6777 or TDD Line at 87 7-833-6777.

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)
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