Special Places

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers many special places for all kinds of forest visitors. Whether you seek solitude, social activity, creative inspiration, wildlife or scenic beauty, you can find it in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St Helens AreaThe Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument offers an exciting array of activities for people of all abilities. You can experience this dynnamic and changing landscape from one of many viewpoints or explore 200 miles of trails ranging from barrier-free paved walkways to more difficult day hikes and overnight backpacking trips.

Located at the end of State Highway 504 (52 miles east of Castle Rock), in the heart of the blast zone, Johnston Ridge Observatory hosts interpretive displays that tell the biological, geological, and human story of Mount St. Helens. Visitors to Johnston Ridge Observatory can enjoy multiple award-winning films, listen to ranger talks, observe the landscape, purchase souvenirs, set off on a hike, or get a light lunch from the food cart. Open mid-May through September, daily.

To protect plant and animal life and provide for visitor safety, pets are prohibited at all recreation sites and trails within the Monument’s restricted area. Pets are permitted only in designated pet areas and must be on a leash. Lack of shade and summer heat can endanger pets left in cars. For the safety and comfort of your pet, please arrange to leave your pet at home.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest Wildernesses

Goat Rocks Wilderness in the Cowlitz Valley VicinityThe Wilderness Act established an enduring resource of wilderness -- lands that are affected primarily by the forces of nature, where man is a visitor who does not remain.

Congress allows certain uses to continue within individual wildernesses, under special conditions. Some of these uses are found in the 180,600 acres of wilderness on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Along with horseback riding, hiking or climbing, people may hunt, fish or trap. A small number of outfitting and guiding services operate under special use permits.

Highlighted Areas

Sno-Park: Marble Mountain

Marble Mountain Sno-Park is the starting point for the Worm Flows Climbing Route for Mount St Helens Summit. This is the primary climbing route used during the winter. Marble Mountain Sno-Park offers a trail system that includes 25 miles (snowmobile), and 78.4 kilometers ungroomed (ski). This area is shared with motorized and non-motorized recreationists.

Marble Mountain Ski Trail Map (.pdf)

Check Washington State Sno-Parks for current grooming conditions.


Pacific Crest Trail #2000

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail #2000 is 2750 miles long and you can hike 26 of those miles in the designated Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Cascade Locks is the largest city and lowest elevation along the entire route. 

The Pacific Crest Trail within Gifford Pinchot National Forest begins in the Columbia Gorge and runs north to enter Gifford Pinchot National Forest just south of Wind River Experimental Forest and continues north through Indian Heaven Wilderness, Mt Adams Wilderness, and Goat Rocks Wilderness and then into William O. Douglas Wilderness and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest Pacific Crest Trail segments:

More information:


Campground: Adams Fork

This wooded area along the Adams Fork of the Cispus River makes a great campground location. The campground contains historic basket trees used by the Upper Cowlitz Tribe and has interpretive signage. The campground is located near the Off Highway Vehicle trails of Blue Lake Ridge and the Valley Trail and is frequented by motorized users


Trailhead: Stagman Ridge

Provides access to: Stagman Ridge Trail #12 which enters Mt. Adams Wilderness.

Gravel parking area with space for 10 vehicles.

Road can be narrow.


Science and Learning Center at Coldwater

The Science and Learning Center is a great resource for schools, science and education  groups interested in field trips and research at Mount St. Helens. The center is also available as a rental facility for special events like family reunions and conferences.

This beautiful facility is located at milepost 43 on State Highway 504, approximately 10 miles west of Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Visitor Information Station: In the winter, the center is open to the public on weekends. At that time, it is the closest access to Mount St. Helens from the west.  Stop in to get information about exploring the monument, learn about education programs offered, or shop at the bookstore.  A pet rest area is located within the Coldwater Lake area.

There are two trails near the building perfect for exploration. Adjacent to the Science and Learning Center is the accessible Winds of Change Trail, a 1/4 mile paved path leading through a part of the Blast Zone.

The Elk Bench Trail starts near the building and connects with the Lakes Trail, providing stunning views of Coldwater Lake and frequent elk sightings along the way.  Once connected with the Lakes Trail head north along the shore of Coldwater Lake and begin your exploration into Mt. Margaret Backcountry.

Rentals:  The Science and Learning Center has conference rooms available for rental, as well as some rustic or primitive overnight accommodations. We also host special events, including conferences, family reunions and weddings. Contact the Science and Learning Center for more information about rentals.

Educational Programs: The Science and Learning Center hosts schools and provides in-depth and extended education programs to groups visiting the volcano. We offer overnight stays in the Science and Learning Center for education programs as well as hands-on education in the Volcanic Monument. Programs vary from 2 hours to multiple days.

For more information on programs or volunteering, visit the Mount St. Helens Institute's website or contact 360-449-7883.

For information about accessible recreation opportunities in Pacific Northwest National Forests, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/r6/accessiblerecreation


Lava Canyon Interpretive Site

Discover more about Mount St. Helens eruptive past in this much more stark, higher-elevation setting. Access Lava Canyon Trail #184 at this site. Travel along the trail and explore a mudflow-scoured canyon with views of a waterfall plunging over an ancient lava flow. Continue on the Lava Canyon Trail for more challenging hiking experiences with rewarding views.

Accessible Adventures Video


Sno-Park: Flattop

The Snow Park provides assess to 154 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and is used primarily by snowmobilers. The trails lead to remote forest and scenic high elevations lakes. There is a good view of Mt. Adams from the Snow Park.  It has a warming shelter with wood stove and picnic tables. The parking area accommodates 70 vehicles.

In a mature and varied forest setting with mountain meadows and geographic features, this site is near the Mt. Adams Wilderness. Visitors will find access to trails leading to remote forest lakes, high-mountain elevations. 


Trail #152 Falls Creek

This Trail Open to Hikers, Bikers and Equestrian Use.

The gradual grade of this 9 mile trail slowly climbs away from Falls Creek and crosses 2 creeks before reaching the waterfall in approximately 2.5 miles. Falls Creek surges over rocks and timber cascading from a height of 100 feet, creating a gentle mist below. Approximately 3 miles from the trailhead a large clear pool about 50 feet wide and 10 feet deep, provides a lovely picnic spot. Elk, beaver and otter await the forest visitor.

The trail continues on for 6.5 miles, crossing several forest roads, and terminates at Falls Creek Horse Camp on Forest Road 65. 

This is a popular mountain biking trail.


Mt. Adams Summit

Mt. Adams, with its summit of 12,276 feet elevation, is the second highest peak in Washington State and the third highest peak in the Cascades Range. There are several climbing routes on the mountain, ranging from the "non-technical" South Climb, to highly technical routes that require advance skill, experience, and special equipment. Because of the high elevation, all climbs have a measure of difficulty and danger.

Weather on Mt. Adams can change rapidly. Sudden snowstorms can occur above 6,000 feet elevation at any month of the year. What appears to be a non-technical route can change drastically during these storms. Your safety will be the result of your preparation and good judgment. Climbers should always prepare for bad weather and an extended stay on the mountain.

All climbers need to be prepared to deal with a wide variety of weather, snow, and rock conditions. Detailed information on climbing routes is available from a number of climbing guidebooks. Consult these as you plan your trips. In addition to the ten essentials for outdoor recreation (map and compass, whistle, flashlight, extra food and water, warm clothing, a first-aid kit, sun glasses and sunscreen, waterproof matches, a candle or fire starter, and a pocket knife), equipment should include sturdy hiking boots, ice ax, crampons, and ropes when travelling on glaciers. Be prepared and know your limits.

Mt. Adams climbing routes and summit are within Mt. Adams Wilderness and is protected and managed to preserve its natural condition. It is to provide opportunities for solitude as well as primitive and unconfined types of recreation. Your actions will help all of us care for this unique area.


Ape Cave Interpretive Site

Ape Cave sits among a mixed-species forest stand. A short, paved trail leads from the newly remodeled and accessible parking lot with visitor center and facilities to the caves lower entrance and interpretive area. The trail continues on to the upper entrance, though it becomes more steep and rough.

 

Accessible Adventures Video

 

Ape Cave Information


Trail of Two Forests Interpretive Site

This trail loops through two forests that stand side by side, but are separated in age by 2000 years. One forest is old-growth Douglas-fir and western red-cedar and the other is a young forest that was originally engulfed by lava flows from an eruption of Mount St. Helens over two millennia ago. This forest encompasses three-dimensional imprints of trees in the old lava beds called lava casts. The boardwalk trail loops through the two forests, and is kid friendly.

Accessible Adventures Video


Johnston Ridge Observatory

Located at the end of State Highway 504 (52 miles east of Castle Rock), in the heart of the blast zone, the observatory hosts interpretive displays that tell the biological, geological, and human story of Mount St. Helens. Visitors to Johnston Ridge Observatory can enjoy multiple award-winning films, listen to ranger talks, observe the landscape, purchase souvenirs, set off on a hike, or get a light lunch from the food cart. 

Check out the annual summer Music on the Mountain series held throughout summer at the Johnston Ridge Observatory outdoor amphitheater (in partnership with the Cowlitz County Economic Development Council and the Mount St. Helens Institute).

Take Care of Your Pet and Help Protect the Monument!

A Big Brown Dog on the MonumentTo protect plant and animal life and provide for visitor safety, pets are prohibited at all recreation sites and trails within the Monument’s restricted area. View a general map. Pets are permitted only in designated pet areas and must be on a leash. Lack of shade and summer heat can endanger pets left in cars. For the safety and comfort of your pet, please arrange to leave your pet at home.

Contact any Mount St Helens office for information on where it is safe and legal to bring your pets.

Accessible Adventures Video


Trail #247A Oldgrowth Loop

This accessible trail is open to hiker use only.

This loop trail takes off from Woods Creek Trail #247.  It is more difficult than the main loop. This destination offers secluded and shaded hiking. Expect a quiet setting with easy and quiet hiking.

The trail is a mix of native surfacing and compacted gravel. Grades increase to short sections of up to 20 percent. This loop takes hikers into an oldgrowth Douglas fir forest. From here, the trail drops back down into a mixed hardwood conifer forest, where it loops back to the beaver pond and ties back in with Trail #247.

This site is the premier wildlife viewing destination on the north end of the forest. There are interpretive signs detailing the animals and other things possibly seen along the trail. You may see beaver, elk, and lots of small mammals. Birds are plentiful.


Boating Site: Goose Lake

Concrete boat ramp with a 10 vehicle parking lot.

Fishing for stocked trout including rainbows and browns can be fair to excellent. Small brook trout and native cutthroat are also present. Try olive wooley-buggers, damsel imitations or spinners and spoons. Goose Lake falls under general zone regulations.


Monitor Ridge Climbing Route

The Monitor Ridge Climbing Route is the primary route used by climbers during the summer to reach Mount St Helens Summit. It is a non-technical scramble, gaining 4,500 feet in 5 miles. Most climbers complete the round trip in 7 to 12 hours.

The climbing route used in the summer months begins at Climber's Bivouac south of the volcano. At 3,700 feet elevation, Climber's Bivouac has the highest vehicle access on Mount St. Helens. Start on Ptarmigan Trail #216A which climbs 1,100 feet in 2 1/4 miles to timberline at 4,800 feet elevation.

Above timberline, the route generally follows Monitor Ridge, climbing steeply through lava flows and loose pumice and ash. From timberline the route is marked with large wooden posts to about 7,000 feet elevation. The upper 1,300 feet of the route is unmarked and covered with loose, rock, pumice and ash. On your descent, take care to stay on route. A minor detour may put you far off route at timberline.


Trail #174 Sunset Falls

This short accessible trail leads you from the Sunset Falls parking lot at Sunset Falls Campground and Day Use area to Sunset Falls Viewpoint. The falls are accessible year-round and make a popular place to cool off on hot summer days. No fishing is allowed.


Campground: Oklahoma

Oklahoma Campground is located on the Little White Salmon River. The campground is fairly flat, partly wooded with some open meadow. The large sites make it it a favorite of smaller groups who don't quite need a full group campground. Fishing is available on Little White Salmon River adjacent to the campground. Hiking is available from the campground on the Monte Carlo Trail #52.

Drinking water is available, and a host is present, during the season.