Dog Mountain is so bloomin’ popular with hardy hikers, the U.S. Forest Service has again instituted a spring-weekend permit system to prevent the place from getting loved to death. Permits are required Saturdays and Sundays, April 20 through June 16, and they cost $1 each. That’s down 50 cents from last year. Parking costs $5 per vehicle every day, not just weekends.Why so popular? Just over an hour from downtown Vancouver, Dog Mountain offers some of the Columbia River Gorge’s most scenic joys, featuring dizzying vistas and dazzling wildflower meadows of yellow, white, deep purple and flaming red. Visitors used to overwhelm the parking area on spring weekends, forcing some to park and walk on narrow state Highway 14, endangering themselves and motorists.That’s why the Forest Service launched its permit reservation system in 2018. It’s back again this year, providing greater sanity at the trailhead and greater access for hikers who’ve always liked Dog Mountain but never competing with crowds. “Last year’s program was highly successful,” said Lynn Burditt, area manager for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. “Many people said they hiked Dog Mountain for the first time last year, because they didn’t have to wake up early to beat crowds into the parking lot.”Visit Recreation.gov to reserve up to four permits. With 250 permits available per day, planning ahead is crucial. Northwest Forest Passes and other interagency passes are accepted as payment, but a Dog Mountain pass is still mandatory. Washington State Park passes don’t get you into this federal site.A hiking permit does not guarantee parking at the trailhead, which costs an additional $5. Consider parking at the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson and taking the $2 round-trip shuttle to the trailhead; riders will get a free hiking permit, too. The shuttle runs every half-hour from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, through the season.