Whatever relaxation you are seeking, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, with its variety of recreations, promises a memorable trip.
Many years ago, this forest was a part of Columbia National Forest. However, it was even known better as a massive natural resource for residents here thanks to abundant fish, wood, fertile soil, and other products.
With the wave of environment preservation, the US government had included it in a national forest and under conversation. Soon, the name Gifford Pinchot was after the first Chief of forest administration because of his active contribution.
Nowadays, Gifford Pinchot becomes one of the oldest national forests in Washington, a state with many acres of jungles. The site belongs to the area of Mount Rainier Forest Reserve. Hence, the regulations might be stricter than in other forests. In return, the atmosphere is as pristine as it ever is.
At the moment, famous Gifford Pinchot National forest hiking locations are Mount St. Helen and Mt. Adams. Besides, it is also reputational for camping, waterfalls, and trails.
Possessing an intensive network of falls and streams, Gifford Pinchot also imposes as a house for many fish. Several endangered species such as chinook salmon, steelhead trout, coho salmon, and bull trout live here.
Under practical preservation, the forest reserves its pristine jungle’s life for many fauna and flora. The spotted owl is one of Gifford Pinchot national forest animals that is endangered.
Parallel to the conservation program, there are still Gifford Pinchot national forest things to do.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest Recreation Activities
Saying the area of more than 1 million acres, significantly 110,000 acres around the mystic Mt. St. Helen, the NF offers a large number of recreations, cruising from the mountains down to the streams.
The whole area includes 1,500 miles of trails consisting of easy-peasy ways for beginners to intensive training roads for professionals. The trail network connects scenic spots such as lookouts, lakes, and falls. In the springtime, you can bike among wildflower trails. The trail areas surround Mount St. Helen, so people can immerse themselves in pristine nature while enjoying different hiking levels.
You can find beautiful Gifford Pinchot national forest camping locations around mounts and lakes. By erecting your tent there, you can plan for the next day’s activities with surroundings like riding horses, OHV ridings, or swimming.
It would help if you also considered Gifford Pinchot national forest cabins. There are not so many options, but all are ideal for getaway trips.
Regarding the significant number of streams and water resources in this forest, fishing becomes a popular recreation. You can get the permit for fishing, then spend days on chilling with abundant fishery family here. Also, because of streams and lakes, water activities attract a lot of visitors.
Gifford Pinchot national forest lies in the southwest of Washington, between Mt. Rainier National Park and Mt. Hood National Park.
To the east, Gifford Pinchot is close to Yakama Indian Reservation, which is the north point of Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest.
Washington state includes a complicating network of jungle and rivers, most of which is rebounded to be a national forest.
However, Gifford Pinchot consists of a medium site with less area of virgin jungle. You will find it more exposed on the map.
Moreover, Gifford Pinchot national forest also imposes a nearby highway and interstate highway to the west.
After testifying possible Gifford Pinchot national forest direction you want to approach, let’s hit the road. You can find a reference for your route here.
Along the jungle’s borderline, there are three service points where you can reach by the highway.
The headquarter is nearby Yale Lake, where you can access through highway 500, passing Yacolt. Form this spot, you can continue going inside the national forest with your vehicle using paved roads.
Besides, there are ranger offices in Cowlitz Valley (to the north) and Trout Lake (to the southeast). All range offices are accessible and highways and connectable with some other destinations with paved roads.
ATVs and UTVs with off-road motorcycles are not legal on the highway, according to Washington’s regulations. So, be wise in picking up your transportations.
Therefore, we suggest driving there on SUVs or pick-up trucks, passenger cars, or licensed motorcycles with the right conditions for off-road. You might also need to know the wilderness area does not allow motorized vehicles, carts, and wheels.
A trustworthy brand for SUVs could be Forbes or Suzuki. Semi-trucks are also not bad if you go with groups and carry many hiking equipment or good camping equipments.
The majority of campgrounds are on the paved road where you can approach by personal transportation. Only locations next to mounts request taking grave roads.
Getting the pass and permits
Types of Pass
Gifford Pinchot issue ordinary day passes for every resident priced 5$. However, you can consider annual passes with only 30$ only when you are active more than six times per year.
Besides, with senior visitors aged above 62, the annual pass is only 20$. And, you will get another cheaper option, which is a lifetime pass with 80$.
For sure, the pass covers the entrance to all available wilderness and recreation sites of the national forest.
However, if you go on a day trip, you can look up free trails inside the forest where you do not need passes.
There are also free passes for residents like soldiers, disability, primary students.
How to get passes?
The most popular way to get passes is to pick up from service point on the way in. The staff has tickets, maps, and guidelines for you if necessary.
However, you can request for e-Pass from the website and print it from home.
For special passes for volunteers, you have to pick them in the community organization where the volunteer work gets certified.
For free trails, you can get the ticket online or from the trailheads.
The amazing fact about passes and permits in Gifford Pinchot is that all the money goes to the forest. Annually, there are many maintenances to compensate for damage, such as trail reconstruction, clean-up, trail bridge repair, cleaning human waste on mountains, and other technical check-ups for security.
There are many products from National Forest that you can collect provided with a permit. Popular items are a transplant, mushrooms, berries, firewood, Christmas trees, and other little things like cones, conks, or barks. Considering these products are seasonal, abundant, and harmless to the ecosystem, you can search Ranger offices for the permit.
Besides hiking and climbing, fishing is a popular recreation in Gifford Pinchot NF. However, many endangered fish accommodate in streams in the jungle; therefore, harvesting is under state law. Hunting is the same. The forest Administrative does not issue the permits for these products but the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Gifford Pinchot NF is one of the great sources for timber, but only for contracts.
Get on the loop tour in Gifford Pinchot National Forest Wilderness
Explore Mt. St. Helen
Among destinations for hikers in Gifford Pinchot NF, Mount St. Helen is one of a kind. The loop tour around the mount is also eligible for both climbers and bikers.
For those who like slow exploration and more sightseeing, the loop tour approaching Mt. St. Helen from the north will be okay. Starting with the lake trail around Coldwater Lake, you can enjoy the road right on the river’s bank stretching until its north end. Then you can go into two directions. The longer way is through the Coldwater trail, which leads Saint Helen lake. From that little spring, you can enjoy the view of peaks and shorter mounts risen from far away jungle. Or, you can go on with Boundary trail, where you will meet the Loowit viewpoint and further, Johnson Ridge Observatory. The Observation deck is a good point to view Mt. St. Helen and panorama view of the jungle. It’s accessible for the disabled for your information. Continuing on the next trail, you are closer to the pristine mount, bypassing the Spirit lake, the fantastic view of nature welcomes you from far away.
If you enjoy more climbing, approach the mount from the south. The recommendation is to get the permit in Climber’s Bivouac station, where you can also have other amenities. However, before starting an intensive journey to the top, you might want to check out greeneries around the mount. To the west, there are trails for horse riding, including horse farms for renting. The site includes a snow park to the east, which will be such a great experience to go for winter.
For a detailed map of Mount St. Helen, visit here.
On the spot of Mt. St. Helen
On the way to the mount, you can enjoy the view to glacier and lava domes at the observation deck. Also, the visitor center at the Silver lake can be a highlight for information. The center illustrates the eruption in 1980, which was with the reputation of the mount. There are also models and bookstore that will attract people with a hunger for knowledge.
Are you looking for more nature spots? Let’s check out the Ape Cave, known as the lava tube through the mountain. There, you have a chance to see through the history of 300,00 nature of this volcano. The temperature is always colder than the outside so get prepared with more clothes and a flashlight.
On the top, you have a chance to go down on a trail to see the lava flow. After the eruption, now it is just lava beds with ancient traces.
Do not forget to check on the scenic view of Spirit Lake and Cascade Peak from the Mount. Because of lava, the flora around the mount now has developed to beautiful wildflower beds. You might also want to check the small waterfall and stream on the top.
The whole vista only deserves your hard work of trekking, and it’s worth your time.
The divine nature around Mt. St. Helen will be a tempting invitation for campers. Knowing so, the Administration distributed many sites to the east and west for camping.
Eco Park to the west side seems good for privacy, while available spots are only 10. If you come with RV, this one will be perfect for enjoying the nightlife. There is an RV campground in the Cougar area where people find hook-ups.
You need to check the available campsites before settling down because the conditions are different. Some need reservations.
Most campgrounds are free of charge, but the Lower Fall site costs 15 to $ 35$ per night, depending on the group’s size.
Besides St. Helen, mount Adam also provides an excellent area for camping. Moreover, around mount Adam lays many scenic spots such as surrounding viewing to Indian Heaven wilderness and Trapper Creek. The present ecosystem variety, too. Forest transits from young to old, same with meadows and wetlands.
Besides the greeneries and mountains, Gifford Pinchot National Forest is also well-known for the complexity of streams and falls.
Even though the water is still cold in the summertime, people draw a big group to falls and lakes for swimming.
Thanks for the “no trace behind” policy, water sources always remain clean and clear around the year.
The most beautiful moment of the trip
A breathtaking scene from Mount St. Helen and Adam
Throwing yourself into one of the oldest jungles in Washington, you should have bet on the stunning view.
For sure, panorama scenes from these mountains will take your breath away. As the jungle consists of few highlands but many meadows, vision from mounts are endless, but the complexity of river, lake, glacier, and greeneries.
Moreover, the mount also offers great floral beds on top, thanks to rich soil from the volcano.
For those who like history and geography, studying eruption in 1980 and lava tubes appear more memorable.
By the streams
Some people miss active hours while hiking and climbing, but some prefer a long time sitting by the lake and fishing.
Gifford Pinchot national forest waterfalls and streams network gives you both energetic periods of recreation and calm hours immersing into nature.
How long has it been since the last time you can chill with birds singing around?
Cozy cabin nights
After the tour comes the time for people, so in tents or Gifford Pinchot, in cabins.
Together with getting away, the city to camp in the middle of nowhere could be generous enough but for family or unprofessional groups, getting a cabin seems safer.
Cabins in this NF provide little two-story house hidden in lushes. They are usually located behind the mountain, near the lake, and in the way of many trails.
Spending time in cabins will be like a cozy house. You will be shut down from the busy world but tempted to sound natural, either summertime or winter months, this experience is inexpressible.
On the morning of the next day, you wake up with the freshness surrounding, a little chilling weather with beloved people, and a lovely breakfast.
Isn’t it the simple life you wanted so badly?
The ending of the meaningful journey
Forestation regulations in Washington are all quite strict, but everything gets more serious here in Gifford Pinchot.
The national forest runs a “leave no trace” campaign on all regions. Therefore, visitors must take what they bring to the woods and be respectful to nature here.
Besides, the Administration also limits pets’ entrance to the recreation area, sets up no hook-ups in standard campgrounds to remain the original condition of the ecosystem here.
After this trip, we all can learn by doing that there are ways to protect the greeneries and be more aware of what we can harm them.
Besides, you are supposed to know more about endangered species, especially fish. There is no so-called Gifford Pinchot national forest hunting without a state permit.
Essentials for Hiking & Camping
Since Gifford Pinchot national forest dispersed camping areas do not contain many amenities, we should come prepared.
So, what are the necessary items to bring with? Here is the checklist we suggest:
- Maps: you should keep a printed plan for the area you want to explore. The website provides guidelines for camping sites, hiking, trails, and related brochures so that visitors can make the best plan. You can also download a smart map for the phone and use interactive navigation for the area in the signal zone. The version can be downloaded from the website of the Gifford Pinchot national forest.
- Knife/ scissors: going through the jungle and camping will need something sharp as emergency support
- Insect repellent
- Flashlight: to use in caves and at night
- Lighter and matches
- Extra clothes and socks, scarf, underwear
- Foods, but you need to take the waste with you, so be wise.
- Power bank for electric devices and generator for RVs if you are designated for the area with no hook-ups
- Water container
- Raincoat or waterproof coat
- Personal accessories for climbing for hikers
- Common medications
- Passes and permits if necessary
Also, before hitting the road, make sure that you check with the Service Office about the jungle’s current situation. Some trails could be under maintenance in wintertime, or because of subjective factors, not all areas are opened for visitors.
Activities in the wilderness
In a national forest, ordinary activities are around hiking, biking, and camping. Some people might be more creative to organize bonding activities for a group or a little getaway for the weekend.
Will it be all?
In Gifford Pinchot National Forest, you can do more.
In the Mt. St. Helen area, you will find a permitted spot for target shooting. The feature of this jungle is flat terrains, so that practicing shooting here seems quite ideal.
You can also fly your drones but only under the control of FAA guidelines. For further information, you can check here.
You can also find more than one station for studying the history of the forest, especially mount volcano st. Helen. The information is broad from the past story until geographical knowledge. You can even see the lava tube and facing the footprint of ancient fauna.
Frequently asked questions
Question 1: How to get the cabins in Gifford Pinchot national forest?
You should get a reservation for using cabins even though the booking may cost extra. There are three cabins in a different size, capable of 5 to 9 people.
The conditions in each cabin are also different.
The price for a cabin ranges from 50$ to 65$, depending on the size.
Question 2: Can I take my pet with me?
Pets are allowed in most areas but not in trails and mounts. Especially in Gifford Pinchot national forest, dogs should be kept in the car for most locations.
Some campgrounds also do not allow pets out.
Taking the pet in the allowed area will not cost an extra fee.
Question 3: How is the weather inside the forest?
The weather in the jungle always seems cooler than in the city. Gifford Pinchot possesses glacier and many lakes and streams so that the atmosphere will be more chilling.
Question 4: How many days can people camp in the jungle? And are there any regulations?
Usually, people can camp for free in 14 days, like many other national forests.
However, you have to camp 100 feet away from the banks and shorelines to protect the rivers’ natural system.
There are areas designated for RVs with hook-ups, but most regions provide no amenities. You better get yourself everything before resting on any site.
Question 5: Are there any giant animals in the jungle?
People used to see bears and cougar by the lake but not so frequently.
After the tragic in 1980, the nature in Gifford Pinchot national forest has elevated a lot. Nowadays, it is not just a spot for recreation but also for spreading geographic information of the area. Enjoying the fresh air here should be a motivation for us to preserve nature better and better.