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Central Cascade wilderness overnight permit reservations start soon; FS says they’ve reduced heavy use

(Update: Adding video, comments from Forest Service, permit users)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Starting next week, you can make reservations for camping in the coming months in wilderness areas on the Deschutes and Willamette national forests.

Last year, the second of the new system, more than 10,500 permits were issued. Those who use the system know it requires time to apply, but appreciate the results.

Bend resident Dan Gilmour tends to apply for permits to camp overnight weekdays.

"I mean, it's definitely a little bit of an inconvenience, but I understand that it's needed," Gilmour said.

He and others can start applying for the Central Cascades Wilderness overnight permits on Tuesday, April 4 at 7 a.m. Forty percent of reservations will become available in advance on The other 60% of the overnight permits are staggered through a seven-day window.

Deschutes National Forest Public Affairs Specialist Jaimie Olle said, "Prior to the wilderness permit implementation system, we saw a lot of heavy recreation usage, degrading the quality of the wilderness characteristics."

Gilmour said, "The area was definitely overrun with people in and showing some wear and tear."

Central Cascades Wilderness Permits are required for all overnight use within the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and Three Sisters wilderness areas from June 15 through October 15.

Here's the rest of Tuesday's announcement:

At 7:00 a.m. (PDT) Tuesday, April 4, 40% of Central Cascades Wilderness Overnight Permit reservations will be available for advanced reservation on The remaining 60% of overnight permits will become available through a rolling 7-day window on once the permit season begins.

Overnight trips can be up to 13 nights (14 days maximum) with groups no larger than 12 individuals. The processing fee for an overnight permit remains at $6.00. Permit availability is based on the starting trailhead and start date.

All reservations for Central Cascades Wilderness Permits need to be made through either online, via the app on Google Android & Apple iOS devices, or by calling their call center at 1-877-444-6777 or TDD 877-833-6777. Search for “Central Cascades Wilderness.” Overnight permits are not available at local Forest Service offices or outside of the reservation system.

Day use permits are required on 19 of 79 trails within those same three wilderness areas during the permit season. However, day use permits do not have advanced reservations ahead of the season.

Day use permits will be opened for reservation in a 10-day and 2-day rolling window beginning on June 5. Permits for the 10-day rolling window will be 60% of the permit quota, while the 2-day rolling window will be 40% of the permit quota. This change was made to reduce the number of “no-shows” and increase the overall opportunity for people to get day-use permits.

More information can be found at If people have specific questions, they can contact the wilderness permit administrator at

Deschutes National Forest Recreation Staff Officer Lisa Machnik shared with NewsChannel 21 this background on how the system has been working so far:

In the second year of the permit system, users saw significant improvements to the process.  Competition for desirable dates and locations was strong, with over 1,000 permits purchased in the first few minutes of the system opening at 0700 PT in April. 

However, the change to an entry-based overnight system significantly increased the availability of overnight permits.  The traditionally most popular dates and trailheads sold out quickly, but many mid-week starts, later season dates, and less popular trailheads remained available throughout the season.  Many favorable comments on this change were received, although some users were disappointed at not securing their top choice permits for high-demand locations.

A similar number of overnight permits were issued in both years, but the no-show rate was significantly lower (based on parking lot use, trail encounters, and trailhead hosts) and the correlation between what people booked (how many people for how many nights) was stronger than in year 1, when people seemed to be in more of a scarcity mindset and may have been overestimating their trip duration and group size.

Permit Numbers - YEAR 1

Total overnight permits issued: 10,653

Total day use permits issued: 22,962

Total people with a permit: 96,913

Average stay for overnight permits – 2 nights, with groups of 2-4 people most common. 

Permit Numbers - YEAR 2

Total overnight permits issued: 10,551

Total day use permits issued: 28,884

Total people with a permit: 103,013

Average stay for overnight permits – 1 night with an average group size of 2.6 people

Article Topic Follows: Outdoors

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