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.  Explore 200 miles of trails ranging from barrier-free, paved walkways to more difficult day hikes and overnight backpacking trips.

Located in the heart of the blast zone, Johnston Ridge Observatory tells the biological, geological, and human story of Mount St. Helens.  Visitors can enjoy award-winning films, listen to ranger talks, observe the landscape, purchase souvenirs, set off on a hike, or get lunch from the food cart. Open mid-May through October, 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.  

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 people are visitors who do not remain.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest boasts 180,000 acres of Wilderness. 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

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:

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

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.

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.

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.

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.