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Tweaks made, numbers up, views shared as Central Cascades Wilderness Permit system opens for season’s reservations

(Update: adding video and comment from Deschutes National Forest)

 BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests opened this year's reservations for the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit system on Tuesday. The wilderness permits are required for all overnight use within the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness areas from June 15 through Oct. 15.

At 7 a.m. (PDT) Tuesday 40% of Central Cascades Wilderness Permits were made available for advanced reservation on The remaining 60% of wilderness overnight permits will be available through a rolling seven-day window on once permit season begins. Overnight permits are not available at local Forest Service offices or outside of the reservation system.

Lisa Machnick, Deschutes National Forest recreation, heritage, lands & partnerships officer, said, "We've had three years under our belt, figuring out how to make some tweaks to the permit system so that it fulfills its purpose, which is to manage use in these wilderness areas so that we can protect wilderness character for future generations."

Six-dollar wilderness permits are required for all overnight use in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness areas from June 15th through Oct. 15th. The permits can include groups up to 12 people for up to 13 nights.

Bend resident Craig Bradle shared his views of the permit system: "I'm more of a spontaneous person, like to go out and hike kind of, you know, whenever I feel like it. And so it's a little bit of a burden in that way. I get it. It's a small area, a small wilderness, and we've got to control it. There’s a lot more people here now."

Day use permits are required for 19 of 79 trails within the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness areas during permit season. However, day use permits do not have advanced reservations ahead of the season.

Another local resident, Gretchen Berling, said, "I climbed the mountains I wanted. And now, you know, I'm not using it, because it's too hard to get in."

According to data from the last three years, the number of people purchasing permits has increased. For overnight use, the rate went up almost by 3,000 permits between 2022 and 2023. Day use permits remained relatively the same, but the total number of permits increased by almost 7,000.

Speaking about changes in the permit system, Machnick explained, "One of the big changes we made was, the first couple of years, we had it set up almost like a hotel room. Once you had your permit, you were taking up a space in the wilderness for however many days your trip lasted. Now that's moved to just an entry day-based system, so that created a lot more opportunity. It meant that every day, more permits were available, and we got a lot of positive feedback from that.”

Bend resident Kendall Walton commented on the permit system, saying, "Nature is accessible everywhere and anywhere, but the permit system is supposed to be benefiting not necessarily us, but our world."

The Deschutes National Forest pushed back the start date for permits to avoid challenges brought by the snow. They believe the system has had a positive impact reducing trash and unattended campfires.

Walton added, "I think if people are wanting to keep using our parks and keep using our trails, we need to keep that permit system in place."

Another Bend resident, Oliver Watson, said, "You know, the good intentions, sometimes. Once they get it going, then they find out, we didn't think about this drawback."

One drawback many expressed was people who buy permits and don’t cancel them on the website. 

Forty percent of all permits were released Tuesday, and the remainder will be available 10 days before a specified date. If you’re caught without a permit on a trail, you’ll likely be asked to leave. Repeat offenders could face a citation. 

All reservations for Central Cascades Wilderness Permits must be made through either online, via the app on Google Android & Apple iOS devices, or by calling 1-877-444-6777 or TDD 877-833-6777. Search for “Central Cascades Wilderness.”

Overnight trips can be up to 13 nights (14-day maximum)  with groups no larger than 12 individuals. The processing fee for a permit is $6.00, and availability is based on the start date and trailhead.

Day use permits will be opened for reservation in a 10-day and 2-day rolling window beginning on June 15. Permits for the 10-day rolling window will be 40% of the permit quota while the 2-day rolling window will be 60% of the permit quota.

For more information, log onto For specific questions, email

Article Topic Follows: Outdoors

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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