Sunny Spring Days Make for Beautiful Forest Experiences, but Snow Limits Access

Release Date: Apr 13, 2012  

Contact(s): Ken Sandusky


 Recent sunny weather makes outdoor excursions attractive. Late snows add to the forest’s beauty, but also limit access to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. However, there is still a lot to see and do on your national forest.

Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens Recreation Technician, Randy Peterson reported on April 10, 2012 a lot of snow had melted in the few days prior, but, “there is still a lot out there.”

Some forest users may not know plowing up Wind River Highway (FR 30) only kept its southern end open to Koshko Sno-Park this winter. This means the popular driving route over Curley Creek Road (FR 51) will not be passable for some time. “We are going to have to wait for it to melt out until people can make the loop over Curley Creek,” Peterson said. “I’d give it another month, and it may be longer.”

Peterson reported four feet of snow still on the ground at Marble Mountain, meaning good conditions still await winter recreationists. Climbers are starting their Mount St. Helens ascents from Marble Mountain as Climber’s Bivouac is still inaccessible by automobile.

A foot-and-a-half of snow is still on the ground at Cougar Sno-Park and four feet at Ape Cave. Forest Road 81 remains gated on both ends at Kalama and Cougar. Peterson said people will find snow on the road about 1.5 miles from Kalama Horse Camp.
Forest Road 25 is still gated at the FR93 junction, and will remain so until snow melts.

Travelers will find snow on FR 42 about 10 miles into the forest from Sunset Falls, a wonderful scenic destination itself. Forest Road 54 is clear to West Point, 10-12 miles in.

Cowlitz Valley
Cowlitz Valley Ranger District Recreation Technician, Leo Zacher said there are no longer fees associated with sno-park use as plowing and grooming have ended for the season.

He said FR 56 to 5603 and Orr Creek Sno-Park is melted out. There is a 22 inch base at the sno-park. Forest Road 5603 is blocked by a snow berm, so there is no automobile access to the High Lakes. Berms are also blocking access to FR 56 and all of the horse camps above.

Zacher reported FR 21 open to Johnson Creek Sno-Park, but access past the park still blocked. “People wanting to visit places like the Berry Patch and Chambers Lake will have to wait for things to melt out,” he said.

There is also still snow on FR 47 heading up to White Pass. The Palisades area is also still inaccessible.

Zacher said Iron Creek, Tower and North Fork campgrounds are all still gated and hazard trees have yet to be identified and removed.

He added Blue Lake Campground is not gated, but hazard trees have yet to be identified and felled. “People walking in to use these campgrounds should do so at their own risk,” he said.

La Wis Wis Campground is still gated and will open in May.

Forest Road 52 (Skate Creek Road) remains closed due to snow, with no projected opening date. Forest Road 25 will remain closed at Benham Creek for bridge construction until July 2.

Woods Creek Watchable Wildlife area is at a lower elevation and provides a great place for those looking for an easier hike in a beautiful setting. This is just south of Randle along FR 25.

Mt. Adams
Forest Road 30(Wind River Highway) is passable up to Koshko Sno-Park. Beyond this point where plows kept the road clear this winter, still about five feet of snow is on the road. There is about five feet of snow at Oldman Pass and Koshko Sno-Parks, allowing for the enjoyment of winter recreation activities on sunny spring days.

Mt. Adams Ranger District Public Information Specialist, Kara Harden reported, “The gate is now open on the road to Falls Creek Falls, but still about a foot of snow is on the road and a berm that the snow plow piled up is at the base of the road. Probably about another 2-3 weeks before folks can drive to trailhead.”

Visitors will still need to park at the Sno-Park and walk (probably snowshoe) into Government Mineral Springs Cabin. It has about 18 inches of snow. Again, it will probably be another 2-3 weeks before anyone can drive there.

Field employees reported some of FR 6808 also free of snow. Be safe and carry the proper supplies. If in doubt, turn around and head out the way you came in.

Forest Road 66 is open to above Willard, but closed by snow before the FR 24 junction.

Out of Trout Lake
FR 88 is passable as far as Flattop Sno-Park, about four feet of snow is left there.

Forest Road 24 is still completely snow covered. It is still only open to Atkisson Sno-Park (five feet of snow there). Visitors will have to snowshoe or ski to Peterson Prairie Cabin, two miles from parking. It is a one mile snowshoe or ski to Ice Caves, and the stairs down into the cave are solid ice right now.

Forest Road 23 is still completely snow covered and impassable.

Forest Road 82 is passable to SnowKing Sno-Park, and there is about two feet of snow around that sno-park. There is about one foot of snow remaining at Pineside, but the coverage is patchy. People should head up to SnowKing to ski.

Forest Road 80/8040 up to the South Climb is still completely snow covered. For now, forest users will still need to park at either Pineside or Snowking and then search out the trailhead about a 7-8 mile snowshoe or ski from parking.

“Generally I would say the snow line is about 2500 feet, maybe a bit lower in some places,” said Harden to wrap things up. “We just warn people to be safe. Take along extra food, water and clothing. Shovels, compasses, blankets and other such equipment could also come in handy were your car to get off the road or stuck in a snow-drift.”

Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Check http://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/giffordpinchot/recreation#cond for the most up-to-date forest road and recreation site information.