Mt. Hood Forest proposes new fees for climbing, hiking, camping


Officials say the fees would pay for more climbing rangers and maintenance

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – In the future, scaling the icy summit of Mt. Hood might not only take guts, gear and determination — it could also require a permit. 

The U.S. Forest Service and Mt Hood National Forest announced Tuesday that they’re seeking feedback on a draft proposal to implement fees for certain day use areas, camping spots and for a permit to summit Mt. Hood. 

The changes would require anyone who plans to climb above 9,500 feet to have a permit. A two-day permit would cost $20 or an annual pass would cost $100. 

“When choosing the elevation, generally, we wanted to make sure that it stayed above the ski areas, above the Timberline trail,” explained Heather Ibsen, public affairs officer for the Mt. Hood National Forest. “Zeroing in, really, on people hoping to do that more technical climb.” 

Ibsen said the forest has been considering a climbing permit system for several years and said the recent increase in search and rescue operations on the mountain has highlighted the need for better education and better patrols.  

The permit system aims to address both by adding more climbing rangers. 

Right now, there’s one seasonal climbing ranger for the year. Ibsen said climbing permit fees would pay for two additional climbing rangers, allowing the Mt. Hood National Forest to patrol the mountain routes daily. 

Climbing rangers traverse the routes, looking for anyone who might be in trouble or anyone who’s underprepared. Rangers can suggest better safety techniques, assess conditions and take photos and measurements. 

Currently, climbers are required to obtain a free wilderness permit to enter Mt. Hood Wilderness. They’re expected to issue the permits to themselves at Timberline Lodge, but the permit isn’t enforced in any way. Ibsen said this has made it challenging to accurately know how many people are on the mountain. 

Right now, they estimate about 10,000 people climb Mt. Hood every year. 

“Requiring the permit will give us more data that will help improve some of those management decisions and also kind of help assess what the impact is to the national landscape as well as ways where we can improve services to visitors,” she said. 

She said the Forest Service has yet to determine how the new permits will be enforced. .

In addition to the climbing fee, Mt. Hood National Forest is also considering adding fees to 26 other day-use sites, campgrounds, picnic sites and cabins. 

Ibsen said adding fees to these sites could help cover the cost of more reliable toilet cleaning services, picnic table and fire ring repairs and deferred maintenance projects. 

Day use sites would cost $5 per day, campgrounds would cost $10 per site and cabins would cost between $85 and $100 per night. 

Ibsen said she hopes the costs won’t discourage people from getting outside. The climbing permit proposal does not include a limit or capacity on the number of climbing permits issued per day. 

According to the proposal, some of the fees would start in 2023. The climbing permit would be required starting in January 2024. 

Mt. Hood National Forest is now accepting feedback and comments on the proposed changes. The public comment period ends Sept. 30 and Ibsen said officials hope to hold a public virtual meeting on the topic shortly after Labor Day. Details will be announced later in August. 

She said the proposal will be adjusted based on feedback. If there’s strong negative feedback toward some sites on the list, they could be removed. The full list of sites is available on the U.S. Forest Service’s website. 

Since the fees will support Mt. Hood National Forest’s recreation budget, Ibsen hopes anyone who disagrees with the fee system has an alternative to produce similar revenue or a similar outcome. 


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