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Permits required starting March 31 to hike on weekends at Dog Mountain

On a typical day the parking lot at Dog Mountain is full by 10 a.m. (KATU Photo)

Starting this weekend, the U.S. Forest Service will require hikers using Washington's Dog Mountain trail system on weekends to obtain a permit before hitting the trail.

The popular hiking area in the Columbia River Gorge often sees so many visitors in spring and early summer that its parking lot fills and drivers resort to parking along State Route 14. Officials say the busy roadway is a danger to those walking along it.

The lot only has room for 70 vehicles. It's often full by 10 a.m., and on weekends, earlier.

The new permits will grant the public access to Dog Mountain Trail. They’re designed to minimize overflow parking on SR 14.

The Forest Service considered parking changes after a 2015 car crash killed two West Linn teenagers. A car in front of them missed the Dog Mountain turnoff and stopped on the highway, triggering a three-car wreck.

In 2017, Skamania County received grant funding to provide shuttle service to the Dog Mountain Trailhead on busy weekends during the high-use season. But parking problems persisted. So the Forest Service decided to implement a permit system.

Anyone planning to access the Dog Mountain Trail System on weekends from March 31 to July 1 will be required to obtain a permit and carry it with them. Permits are issued per hiker, not by vehicle.

No permits are required during the week.

Visitors can obtain permits by reserving a permit online at recreation.gov or they can take the shuttle service from the Skamania County Fairgrounds.

Permits are $1.50, excluding parking fees.

There are 165 permits available per day online, although the Forest Service may provide more depending on demand.

The shuttle operates on a first-come, first-served basis, (no reservations required), every ½ hour from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The shuttle is $1 per way or $2 round trip, and includes a permit for hiking Dog Mountain.

The Forest Service is prepared to issue tickets to hikers without permits, but that is not the goal. Forest Service staff will be on-site this weekend March 31 to check permits and help visitors unaware of the changes.

Hikers understood the need. Stacey Reding says she's seen a dramatic increase in popularity at Dog Mountain, and with many of Oregon's trails still closed by last year's Eagle Creek Fire, it's anticipated to be far more crowded.

"Everybody wants to hike this hike," Reding told KATU. "There are limited spots in the parking lot."

Although he's never used it, hiker Joe Olen appreciates the shuttle service. It provides an alternative when the parking lot fills up.

"I'm actually for it," Olen told KATU, "especially because they have the shuttle to take you out from Stevenson."

Local Stevenson businesses are offering shuttle riders $2.00 off (with a minimum $10 purchase), by showing their shuttle wristband. These businesses will be offering the discount:

  • Walking Man Brewing
  • Clark & Lewie’s
  • Big River Grill
  • El Rio Texicantina
  • Red Bluff Tap House
  • Tacos Pepe’
  • Skunk Brothers Spirits
  • North Bank Books
  • Wild Columbia Salmon
  • Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum
  • Cabin Drive-Thru
  • Bigfoot Coffee Roasters – FREE 12-ounce drip coffee
  • A & J Select Market Deli - $5.99 lunch special (sandwich, chips and bottled water
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