Northwest Wildflowers

Fees, Passes, & Permits

Fees & Passes

On each of the detailed location pages on this site, there's a line labeled "fees." While the majority of wildflower destinations in Oregon and Washington are free to visit — aside from the cost of the gas to get there, of course — a few require you to pay a per-vehicle fee.

The actual dollar amounts of the fees are usually not listed on the place pages because they are subject to change, and because the vast majority of the places requiring a fee also accept state or federal passes in lieu of cash payment. (Most regular hikers in the Pacific Northwest carry one or more of these passes in their car at all times.)

Pro tip: you should always buy an annual pass at the beginning of the month, if possible; that way, it will be good for 13 months instead of just 12.

NW Forest Pass

The Northwest Forest Pass is required at some "developed" trailheads on US Forest Service lands in Washington and Oregon. As of 2022, an annual pass is $30, and a day pass is $5. Sometimes (but not always), you can buy a pass at the trailhead by putting cash in an envelope.

National Park Service

Most U.S. National Parks and many National Monuments charge a hefty admission fee, which is usually valid for seven days. Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake, and Olympic National Park all charge $30 to drive through their entrance gates. If you're going to visit more than one park in a 12-month period, it's probably a good idea to get the...

America the Beautiful Pass

The America the Beautiful annual pass costs $80, and it's valid for entry into almost any National Park or National Monument, plus a few other types of federal recreation areas run by the NPS or BLM. As a bonus, it can also be used anywhere a Northwest Forest Pass is required. It isn't transferable, but there are spaces for two signatures, so you can split one with a friend.

If you're 62 or older, you can buy an annual America the Beautiful "Senior Pass" for just $20... and once you've purchased 4 of them, you can trade them in for a Lifetime Pass.

Washington Discover Pass

Washington's much-maligned Discover Pass is much maligned for a few reasons: First, you need one to park on ANY state land in Washington, even State Forests. Second, the single-day fee is a steep $10, which comes out to at least $11.50 once fees are added. But the annual pass is a more reasonable $30 (plus fees), and it has slots for two license plate numbers.

Oregon State Parks

Most Oregon State Parks have no day use fees; the few that do, like Silver Falls and Rooster Rock, charge $5 per vehicle per day. A transferable annual pass is $30, or you can buy two years for $50 total.

Oregon Wildlife Areas

You need a $10 daily pass or $30 annual pass from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife to visit state-run wildlife areas, like White River Wildlife Area (near Maupin) or Denman Wildlife Area (near Medford). Note that some of these areas are maintained mostly for hunters and their big trucks, so road maintenance is not a priority. (On the bright side, an annual ODFW pass also gets you access to the beaches on Sauvie Island.)

California State Parks

Most of California's State Parks charge between $5 and $10 per vehicle for day use entry. There's also a wide variety of expensive annual passes available, but they're probably only cost-effective if you're planning to visit a lot of State Beaches in Southern California.

Passes Summary
DailyAnnual
USFS (Northwest Forest Pass)$5$30
National Parks$10-$35$80
Washington State Lands (Discover Pass)$11-$13$32-$35
Oregon State Parks$5$25-$30
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife$10$30
California State Parks$5-$10$125

Permits/Reservations

"Permits" are a little bit different than fees; they're sometimes required in extremely popular places that need to be capacity-controlled so they don't get loved to death. If the place you want to visit requires a limited-quantity permit, make sure you obtain it BEFORE you get to the trailhead.

The most popular overnight permits (e.g., for Mt. Rainier or the Enchantments) are sometimes issued via a pre-season lottery. But day use permits are usually released on specific dates and are first-come, first served. And they're cheap.

Self-Issued Wilderness Permits

Almost all designated Wilderness areas require you to fill out a "wilderness permit," but this is just a piece of paper that you get from a kiosk near the trailhead. So while it has "permit" in the name, you don't really have to worry about it when planning your trip.

Central Cascades Wilderness Permits

Since 2021, the US Forest Service has required permits for hiking trips that begin at nineteen of the most popular trailheads in the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Washington areas, from June 15 through October 15. Permits ($1 per person) must be purchased in advance from recreation.gov; they are released in two batches, 10 days and 2 days before the date they will be used.

Dog Mountain Permits

Dog Mountain is one of the most popular wildflower hikes in the country. First, they tried to limit parking. When that didn't reduce the crowds enough, they introduced a permitting system. You now need to get a $1 permit from recreation.gov to hike Dog Mountain on weekends from the end of April through mid-June.

Historic Columbia River Highway

Beginning in 2022, you will need to purchase a ticket in advance to drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway in the summer between 9am and 6pm. This affects most of "Waterfall Alley," including Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Angel's Rest, but not Elowah Falls or Wahclella Falls.

Liability Waivers

A handful of places that are under private ownership (like Wild Horse Wind Farm) allow public access but require a permit to hike on their land, and to get that permit, you might need to sign a waiver and/or agree to certain conditions. These sometimes need to viewed online or printed out, so it's probably best to take care of it before you leave home.

Tolls

The most common tolls that Pacific Northwest wildflower fans will encounter are the bridges across the Columbia River at Cascade Locks and Hood River; the cash toll on these bridges is $2-$3 each way. If you get a BreezeBy transponder for your car and pre-pay electronically, it's just $1.25 at Bridge of the Gods and $1 for the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge. The bridges at The Dalles and at Maryhill/Biggs Junction (U.S. 197 & U.S. 97) are toll-free.