Waterfall Corridor Timed Vehicle Access Permits | Oregon Columbia River Gorge

Interested in visiting the Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Corridor in Oregon during the summer of 2022? Starting May 24th 2022, you will need a timed vehicle access permit to drive the Historic Columbia River Highway between the Bridal Veil offramp (Exit 28) and Ainsworth State Park (Exit 35). Here is a direct link to the Waterfall Corridor Permits on Recreation.gov

The Waterfall Corridor has become incredibly popular over the past several years and summertime traffic jams and illegal parking have become commonplace. This pilot program aims to decrease traffic congestion and improve visitor safety in the Waterfall Corridor. In this article, you will learn about the new permit system and its potential impact on landscape photography. Summer will be here soon, so let's get started!

Peak springtime colors surround Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon.

Multnomah Falls is one of the waterfalls impacted by the new Waterfall Corridor timed vehicle access permit system.

Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Corridor Permits - Key Information

  • The Waterfall Corridor is a 12 mile stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon which passes by several amazing waterfalls.
  • Areas impacted by the permit system: Wahkeena Falls, Fairy Falls, Multnomah Falls, Oneonta Gorge, Horsetail Falls, Ponytail Falls and Ainsworth State Park.
  • Areas NOT impacted by the permit system: Portland Women's Forum, Vista House, Crown Point, Latourell Falls, Shepherds Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Angels Rest, all locations east of Ainsworth State Park, the entire Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.
  • There are 2 Permit Check-in stations for the Waterfall Corridor - Exit 28 on I-84 (Bridal Veil Exit) and Exit 35 at Ainsworth State Park
  • A timed vehicle access permit will be required for all personal vehicles - cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, RVs, Uber/Lyft vehicles
  • Permits are required May 24th to September 5th, 2022 from 9AM to 6PM.
  • Permits are not required for bikes, transit buses or tour buses. Transit and tour options include: Columbia Area Transit (CAT), Gray Line Waterfall Trolley and Sasquatch Shuttle.
  • Permits will be available online for a small processing/administration fee ($2) and in person for a limited amount of same-day permits (no fee) at the Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center in Troutdale and Cascade Locks Historical Museum.
  • The permit does not guarantee a parking spot, but with fewer cars entering the area, parking should be easier.
  • You must arrive during the time window on the permit (within 1 hour of the listed time). If you arrive too late, the permit cannot be used.
  • A separate permit is required to visit Multnomah Falls using exit 31 on I-84 from May 24 to mid September 2022. More info about visiting Multnomah Falls is available here.
A map of the Oregon Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Corridor where timed vehicle access permits will be required from May 24th to September 5th, 2022. Graphic courtesy of ODOT.

Impact on Landscape Photography

I honestly don't think this new permit system will have a significant impact on landscape photography in the Waterfall Corridor. The best time photograph the waterfalls is generally early in the morning or late in the evening and a permit would not be needed during these times. The light can be quite harsh during the midday hours and many photographers avoid the area during the middle of the day. The new permit system only includes the Waterfall Corridor (for now!), so there are many other areas in the Columbia River Gorge which can be accessed without a permit. Wahclella Falls, Eagle Creek, Herman Creek, Starvation Creek are a few examples of areas which are outside of the Waterfall Corridor. If you do want to photograph the Waterfall Corridor during the middle of the day, you will just need to plan ahead and get your permit. One potential benefit of the permit system is that it should decrease the crowds near the waterfalls and make it easier to create photos without a bunch of people in them!

Hello Spring

Wildflowers (bleeding hearts) and spring greens surrounding Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

Questions and Answers about Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Corridor Permits

When are Waterfall Corridor timed vehicle access permits required?

  • May 24th to September 5th, 2022 from 9AM to 6PM

How many permits will be sold each day?

  • 450 Waterfall Corridor and 785 Multnomah Falls permits will be available online each day.

Are permits on sale yet?

How far in advance can passes be purchased?

  • 2 weeks in advance.

How much will permits cost?

  • $2 each if purchased online.
  • Free if a same day permit is picked up in person at Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center in Troutdale and Cascade Locks Historical Museum (limited quantities available).

Do residents and local business owners/workers need a permit?

  • No, but separate passes will be issued as needed.

How long is the permit valid?

  • You can enter the waterfall area during the time window designated on the pass. After entering, you can stay as long as you like.
    Early spring greens surround the amazing Fairy Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon.

    Fairy Falls is one of the waterfalls impacted by the Waterfall Corridor timed vehicle access permit system.

    Final Thoughts

    I have mixed feelings about the new timed vehicle access permit system for the Waterfall Corridor. I never like seeing more regulation of wild places, but in this instance, the permit system is necessary to decrease traffic congestion and improve safety. It should lead to a more enjoyable experience for visitors who are able to obtain permits. For the past several summers, I have avoided the visiting the Oregon side of the Gorge due to the traffic congestion. Spending 2+ hours in the car to drive from the Vista House to Ainsworth just isn't appealing to me! In my opinion, the potential benefits outweigh the challenges created by the permit system. I fully support the new pilot program, but I hope it's not the first step towards significantly increased regulation in the Gorge. As new information about the permits becomes available, I will update this article.

    Updated: May 9, 2022

    Peak springtime colors surround Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon.

    Multnomah Falls Spring

    Transform your home with this fine art print from Scott Smorra Photography's waterfall collection. Peak springtime colors surround Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon. The Broad Leaf Maple and Douglas Fir trees nicely frame the falls from this vantage point. Fortunately most of the trees near Multnomah Falls survived the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017 due to the heroic efforts of the fire fighting crews. Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon and drops 620 feet.

    Fine Art Limited Edition of 50 - ©2021 by Scott Smorra