A permitting system designed to end overcrowded conditions on some of the most popular hiking trails in the Cascades has been postponed one year due to administrative delays caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
The Deschutes and Willamette national forests will begin implementing the limited entry permit system in May 2021, according to a statement.
The permitting system was adopted by the national forests to protect Central Oregon’s hiking trails, following problems associated with overuse, including trail widening, litter, and a lack of parking near the trailheads.
The system applies to day use on 19 of 79 trails and overnight limits on all trails in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and the Three Sisters wilderness areas. Fees for the permits had been planned, but were scrapped in February. A small administrative charge is still expected to be paid to recreation.gov to process the free permits.
Permits were expected to be required by May 22, 2020, but like so many other scheduled events this year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the national forests to take a step back.
“Our focus has been on responding to COVID-19, and preparations for the permit system were delayed,” said Dave Warnack, Willamette National Forest supervisor. “We felt there was too much uncertainty for the public on when we might open the reservation system. Therefore, we made this difficult decision.”
While permits won’t be required this year, the national forests have decided to begin an elevational campfire ban. The ban is in place to help wild animals that benefit from dead and downed wood, which can be used for cover and protection.
The ban includes all campfires 5,700 feet above sea level and higher in Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and the Three Sisters wilderness areas, and some areas lower than 5,700 feet. Campfires are also banned in the Diamond Peak Wilderness in areas over 6,000 feet.
Self-issue permits, which are free and located at all wilderness trailheads, will still be available in the Deschutes National Forest. The permits are used to assist in the management of wilderness areas in the Cascades.