New permit system will limit hiking in Oregon’s Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters wilderness in 2020

Hiking and camping in three of Oregon’s most popular wilderness areas will be restricted starting in 2020, an attempt by outdoor officials to limit damage from growing crowds of visitors.

The U.S. Forest Service announced a decision to install a permit system limiting the number of people in the Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters and Mount Washington Wilderness areas.

A sharp increase in crowds during the past decade — and environmental damage that’s followed — prompted the agency to enact sweeping changes to the way people access 450,000 acres of Oregon’s most iconic backcountry.

“The goal is to maintain the quality of our wilderness areas and the experience they offer,” said John Allen, supervisor of Deschutes National Forest. “It’s about keeping the amount of people to a level where they’re not degrading these special places.”

Anyone camping overnight in the three wilderness areas will need a permit from a limited pool, under the new system. Day-users also will need a special permit for 30 of the most popular trails, including routes to Green Lakes Basin, Marion Lake, South Sister and Jefferson Park.

The decision marks a fundamental change to the unencumbered way most Oregonians currently hike, backpack and ride horses on public lands. It’s a system that treats hiking in a way similar to fishing or hunting, which have long been more regulated.

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