Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a little-known treasure in a remote and rugged area of southern Washington. It covers 1.32 million acres and includes old-growth conifer forests that are home to the endangered spotted owls, glaciers, and spectacular volcanic peaks including the famous Mount St. Helens that erupted in 1980. The stunning views and mild temperatures make this forest a favorite for wilderness lovers, hikers, and photographers. Be sure to bring your fishing pole because the fishing is some of the best in the state.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers plenty to see and do. A flexible and convenient way to visit on your schedule is to travel by RV. You can move freely and always have food, a restroom, and a shelter during inclement weather. If you do not own an RV, you will be able to find a rental perfect for your needs by visiting RVshare.com.
Peterson Prairie Campground is located near Trout Lake close to the huckleberry fields. This park is popular during the huckleberry season when pickers come from all over the state to pick huckleberries. The campsites are leveled gravel with plenty of shade created by the surrounding trees. This campground provides easy access to the ice caves and natural bridges and provides clean drinking water and vault toilets. Each site comes with a fire ring and a picnic table. The camp is at a higher elevation, so the climate stays cool during the hottest part of the summer.
Lower Falls Campground is in Cougar, right on the Lewis River where you can enjoy fishing for trout or whitefish. It is tucked in a grove of trees, so you can enjoy a serene feeling of seclusion. If you enjoy hiking, you're all set because this campground is home to the Lewis River trailhead. You will also have easy access to several waterfalls in the area. There are no hookups in this campground, but the sites do have campfire rings and picnic tables. The park also has composting toilets and water for drinking.
If you like to rough it, check out Tillicum Campground. This is another excellent spot to stay during the huckleberry season. It is remote and shaded. It is also the trailhead for Squaw Butte Trail. The campground has electric hookups, drinking water, and showers. They allow pets and have nice restrooms. The sites have picnic tables and fire pits, and the campground is ADA accessible.
The Kincaid Trail goes into the William O. Douglas Wilderness at mile 3.5. It offers stunning views of Mount Rainier for excellent photo opportunities. The trail leads down to Kincaid Lake, a tiny body of water that covers about 1 acre of land. This is a beautiful, rugged area to enjoy bird-watching.
Length: 8.8 miles
The Lewis River Falls Trail is one where you hike in and then back. The beautiful waterfalls, where you can enjoy the mossy trees and crystal-clear water, are worth the trip. This trail is kid-friendly, so it is highly recommended if you are traveling with your family. The route is easy to access and flat where it follows along the edge of the river. Dogs must be kept on a leash. The highlight of the hike is, of course, the Lewis River Falls that rise 43 feet and are 200 feet across.
Length: 8.6 miles
The Coyote Wall Loop Trail is an ambitious trail with some steep inclines. It does offer gorgeous views of the Columbia River Gorge as well as lots of wildflowers in the springtime. The nice thing about this trail is that it is available year-round for hiking or nature trips. Enjoy the dramatic basalt outcroppings that give the trail its name. Once you get to the top of the loop, the trail breaks out into nice grassy slopes. If you want to bring your dog, you must keep it on a leash.
Length: 6.8 miles
If you plan to hike the Packwood Lake Trail, be sure to pack a picnic lunch. This is a stunning walk through the deep forest that opens to a breathtaking view of Packwood Lake, a calm lake that is the perfect backdrop for a spring afternoon. Enjoy an abundance of flowers and wildlife.
Length: 11.9 miles
The Lava Canyon Trail is a trail that leads you into a gorgeous waterfall and back out. Signage along the way tells you all about the history of the area and gives you an interesting learning experience. It starts with an easy ADA-accessible area and gets more strenuous, going down into a rugged canyon along high cliffs as well as over a 125-foot extension bridge.
Length: 5.4 miles
Intensity: Moderate to Difficult
Full of outdoor activities, Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a huge area of Washington. You will see spectacular views of beautiful mountainous regions like Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. Be sure to visit the Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument and learn about the eruption back in 1980.
This national forest contains around 21 different lakes. Most of the lakes boast excellent fishing, including Goose Lake, which touts the best fishing in the entire state of Washington.
If you are traveling through the area during huckleberry season you are in for a treat. These berries grow in vast fields and do not have thorns. They are used to make jam or pies, but they are also good right out of the bucket. In the spring, enjoy a vast variety of wildflowers. If you enjoy bird-watching, this may be your chance to see a Northern Spotted Owl.
Because the forest is so vast, there is little light pollution, which means that it is an amazing place to see stars. There are also usually several dozen geocaches hidden in Gifford Pinchot National Forest at any given time.
Address: 42218 NE Yale Bridge Road, Amboy, WA 98601
Fee: Day Use Fee $5
Gifford Pinchot National Forest extends over 1.32 million acres, so there is an unlimited number of outdoor activities to enjoy. Explore volcanic peaks, glaciers, high mountain meadows, and old-growth forests. Enjoy hiking trails with stunning views of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. Enjoy fishing at Goose Lake, touted as one of the best fishing areas in the state. Traveling by RV makes it possible to wander at your leisure and enjoy all that this Pacific Northwest gem has to offer.