Hikers will need a permit to climb Dog Mountain on weekends starting at the end of this March 2018.
The hiking area, famous for sweeping vistas of the Columbia River Gorge and rolling meadows of balsamroot and other wildflowers, is one of the most popular trail networks in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. But land managers say that fame has created danger for pedestrians and state Highway 14 motorists alike during the weekends — especially during wildflower season.
The trailhead parking lot along the highway fills quickly during that time of year, leaving hikers to park on the shoulder of the highway and walk along its narrow shoulders and among high-speed traffic navigating a winding road with limited visibility.
In an effort to improve the situation, the U.S. Forest Service will require each hiker to have a permit on the weekends between March 31 until July 1. Forest Service employees will be checking for permits at the trailhead; hikers should carry either an electronic or printed copy of their permits. Hikers without a permit could be ticketed and face a $100 fine.
“We’re trying this new approach to enable people to connect with this cherished trail while reducing safety challenges,” Lynn Burditt, area manager for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said in a news release. “We worked in partnership with local organizations to come up with this solution.”
There will be 165 permits available daily through the national online reservation system at www.recreation.gov. They can be reserved in advance at a cost of $1.50 each.
Each permit will be valid for one person and only on the day it is issued. Cars parking at the trailhead will also be required to pay $5 per day or display a valid Northwest Forest or Interagency Pass, which is already required. The online permits do not guarantee a parking space.
Land managers are trying to encourage hikers to use the shuttle that services the trail. The shuttle, operated by Skamania County, will run on weekends during the permit period.
The shuttle costs $1 per trip, or $2 round trip, and users will receive a free hiking permit when they arrive at the Dog Mountain Trailhead. Permits for the shuttle are limited only by the number of seats and shuttle runs.
The first shuttle will leave the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, Wash., at 7:30 a.m. and run every 30 minutes. The last shuttle leaves Dog Mountain Trailhead at 4:30 p.m. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We’re hoping this new approach will offer a win-win by encouraging visitors to use the county shuttle service while also making (Highway) 14 safer for visitors,” said Skamania County Commissioner Tom Lannen, speaking for the commission.
This year’s shuttle schedule will be a little different than last year’s. The early season will focus on the Dog Mountain shuttle, which runs March 31 until July 1. During that period, the shuttle won’t go into Vancouver.
After July 1, there will be a morning and later afternoon run into Vancouver, though that schedule is not yet finished.
People who ride the shuttle will get a $2 voucher good at a handful of restaurants and businesses in Stevenson.
“The whole idea with this is because the parking lot for the shuttle is just a little west of our fairground .… We want to incentivize (hikers) to visit the businesses in Stevenson,” said Casey Roeder of the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce.
Dog Mountain Trail System includes Dog Mountain Trail (No. 147 and No. 147C), Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail No. 147A, and the lower portion of Augspurger Trail No. 4407.
For more information, call 541-308-1700 or visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/crgnsa/hikedogmountain