Heading for the Gorge’s Waterfall Corridor This Summer? You’ll Need a Permit.
Driving on the Historic Columbia River Highway between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. will require a timed-use permit starting May 24 and running through September 5. The newly permitted area runs along US 30 between I-84 exits 28 and 35, part of the Historic Columbia River Highway, and includes Wahkeena, Horsetail, and Multnomah Falls, the Oneonta Falls trailhead, and Ainsworth State Park. Sites west of exit 28, including Vista House, Angel’s Rest, and Bridal Veil Falls, are outside of the affected area and do not require a permit to access. Permits do not guarantee parking.
Drivers can expect checkpoints on Historic Columbia River Highway near the Bridal Veil I-84 off-ramp on the west end and Ainsworth State Park on the east. Permit holders can enter from either side during their timed-entry window, and can stay as long as they like. Visitors going by public transit, tour shuttle, or bike do not need a timed-use permit.
In addition, the US Forest Service will reinstate its timed-use permits for the Multnomah Falls parking lot at exit 31 on I-84, over the same time period. Permits for both the historic highway and Multnomah Falls can be reserved up to two weeks ahead at recreation.gov (click on Permits), beginning May 10.
Permits are technically free, but there is a $2 transaction fee for each online reservation. A limited number of same-day permits will be available in-person at Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center in Troutdale and the Cascade Locks Historical Museum.
On the Washington side of the Gorge, the Forest Service is also continuing a permit program begun in 2018 for weekend (and Memorial Day) visitors to Dog Mountain between April 23 and June 12. Half of the 200 daily reservable permits were released online March 1 and have already been claimed for the season. The other half will be released on recreation.gov three days in advance (Wednesday for Saturday permits) at 7 a.m. Pacific time. Anyone riding the every-half-hour shuttle from Stevenson on spring weekends is automatically granted a hike permit.
The waterfall corridor timed-use permit program is a joint project of Multnomah County, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the US Forest Service. The agencies say they are aiming to improve safety, reduce congestion, encourage public transit use as well as taking a shuttle (such as Sasquatch Shuttle or Gray Line Waterfall Trolley) or going by bike, and reduce frustration—though those who aren’t in the know and show up without a permit will surely be frustrated when they’re turned away from the checkpoint.
Residences, businesses, and their visitors in Oregon waterfall corridor will have their own special permits not subject to timed-entry. The agencies are calling the system a pilot project, with plans to review it after this summer.