Oregon Begins Reopening for Limited Outdoor Recreation
After two months of lockdown in an effort to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon has begun loosening some restrictions. For hikers suffering more from cabin fever than coronavirus, the most notable change is reopening many outdoor recreation destinations. This was announced in Gov. Kate Brown’s most recent Executive Order on May 14. This sets the stage for Oregon’s phased reopening of businesses and outdoor spaces. It will be a slow and methodical process in order to minimize the spread of the virus and prevent further outbreak, but does allow additional opportunities to get outdoors for some hiking and fresh air.
UPDATE: New Columbia River Gorge openings, effective May 27. See below.
A Rapidly Changing Situation
The following information is current as of May 21. This information will be updated as needed, when possible. As this is a rapidly evolving situation, and new limits and closures may be necessary, this post provides links to official sources where you can view the most up-to-date information. You can also follow our Facebook page for the latest news and alerts.
Oregon State Parks
On May 7, Oregon began reopening some of its State Parks for limited day-use recreation. Additional parks began reopening in the following weeks. Visitor facilities at most parks—nature centers, playgrounds, picnic shelters and campgrounds—remain closed. Restrooms may also remain closed in many parks. Trails, where visitors can maintain physical distancing recommendations, are open for hiking. Camping at some parks will resume on June 9. For the latest info, visit the State Parks website and check their real-time status map of parks near you.
Forest Service & BLM Lands
Oregon’s Forest Service agencies will begin reopening some developed recreation sites on federal public lands (including wilderness areas) on May 22. Mount Hood National Forest is scheduled to reopen on May 29; the Columbia River Gorge is reopening in stages; see below. Most of Oregon’s BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands began reopening for limited use on May 18.
Similar to state parks, most Forest Service and BLM visitor facilities and campgrounds will remain closed. Restrooms, outhouses and trash receptacles may not be available. Dispersed hiking and camping in undeveloped areas may be permitted unless part of a larger closure order. Visit each agency’s websites for the latest information.
Columbia River Gorge
State and Federal agencies in Oregon and Washington have started reopening some recreation sites for day use. This includes the PCT trailheads at Bridge of the Gods, on the Oregon side, and Bonneville Dam, on the Washington side. Also open is the PCT-parallel Herman Creek Trail (OR side). Here is the full list of openings as of May 27:
- The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail is open to pedestrians and bicyclists from Hood River to Mosier (the “Twin Tunnels” section) and along the newer section from Wyeth to Viento.
- Washington State Parks has opened Doug’s Beach and Columbia Hills State Park (including Horsethief Butte, Horsethief Lake, Dalles Mountain Ranch and Crawford Oaks). Limited parts of Beacon Rock State Park are open, including the Doetsch Day Use Area, Hamilton Mountain Trailhead, and equestrian trailhead.
- Oregon State Parks has opened Government Island, Dabney, Sandy River State Park (not the same as Sandy River Delta), Portland Women’s Forum, Rooster Rock, Dalton Point, Wyeth, Starvation Creek, Viento, Wygant, Vinzenz Lausmann, Seneca Fouts, Post Canyon Senecca Fouts – Seven Streams, and Mayor State Park.
- The US Forest Service has opened Balfour-Klickitat, Bonneville Trailhead, Bridge of the Gods Trailhead and the Pacific Crest Trail, Catherine Creek Recreation Area, Herman Creek Trailhead, Larch Mountain Recreation Area, Lyle Trailhead and the Klickitat Trail, Sams Walker, and St. Cloud Day Use Area. BZ Corners and Husum are open on the White Salmon Wild & Scenic River.
- Skamania County has rescinded its Order of the Health Officer under RCW 70.05.070 that closed recreational hiking in Skamania County.
- The Waterfall Corridor (Historic Hwy 30) and the Eagle Creek Trail remain closed.
For more information, and a full list of open areas, visit Ready Set Gorge!
Crater Lake National Park
As of this posting, Crater Lake remains closed to the public, and has not yet announced a reopening date. Due to its higher elevation, much of the rim is still under snow. The park has continued limited operations during the closure, but trails may not be accessible until the snow melts out.
Pacific Crest Trail
Currently, much of the PCT in Oregon is still under snow, and is not yet accessible. As PCT states begin relaxing the stay-at-home orders and public lands start reopening—and the snow starts melting—the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is recommending that hikers enjoy the PCT for dayhiking and local, limited overnight travel. Backpackers should be completely self-sufficient, and not rely on near-trail communities for services or resupply needs. PCTA will not be issuing any more long-distance permits for the remainder of 2020.
Hikers on the trail now, who have chosen to continue with thru-hiking plans despite the pandemic situation, should be prepared for limited resource availability in Oregon. Small communities may not welcome you, lodging and dining establishments may not be available, and resupply locations may have have reduced services. In addition, many Trail Angels have discontinued services for this year.
Visit these sites for the latest operating information.
As parks and trails begin to reopen, we’re all going to have to get used to a “new normal” in terms of how to recreate responsibly. These guidelines give advice on how to get outdoors right now.
- Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it’s closed, choose another location. If it’s too crowded, have a backup plan.
- Plan Ahead: Prepare for facilities to be closed, e.g., restrooms and trash receptacles. Pack all the food, water and essentials you’ll need. Don’t forget hand sanitizer and a face covering.
- Stay Close to Home: Keep trips to your local area so you won’t need to stop for supplies or gas. Most reopened destinations are only open for day use.
- Practice Physical Distancing: Adventure only with your immediate household. Cover your nose and mouth when near others at trailheads, or when passing on trail. If you are sick, stay home.
- Play It Safe: Choose low-risk trails, and avoid off-trail travel, to reduce your chance of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care services are both strained.
- Leave No Trace: Respect trails and public lands and pack all garbage out with you. Help keep trailhead trash receptacles from overflowing by taking your trash home to dispose of.
Take Care Out There
Following these extra precautions will help ensure your safety, and the safety of those around you.
- Maintain a safe distance (6–10 feet) from others in parking areas, at trailheads, and on trail
- Do not touch anything you don’t have to, such as map boards or trail signs
- Wash or sanitize your hands immediately after using permit kiosks or public restrooms
- Wear a mask in busy areas, such as trailheads, or on more crowded trails
- Give a wide berth when passing others on trails
When you choose to recreate responsibly, you are doing your part to keep yourself and others safe and healthy. By following these simple guidelines and doing our part, we can take care of each other, and maintain access to the places we like to play. We all have a shared responsibility to care for these places and ensure they remain for future generations to enjoy. For more tips and information, and to help spread the word, visit RecreateResponsibly.org.
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