All About the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Gifford Pinchot National Forest Website

Spanning from Mount Rainier to the north, the Columbia River to the south, Mount Adams to the east, and Mount St. Helens to the west; the nearly 1.4 million-acre Gifford Pinchot National Forest serves rural communities around its edges, as well as the metro populations of Portland and Vancouver,  Tacoma and Seattle. Working with partners such as the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative and the Pinchot Partners, Backcountry Horsemen, Washington Trails Association, and Mount St. Helens Institute, the Forest offers sustainable forest products, year-round recreation opportunities, and restored fish and wildlife habitat. 

Forest staff engage with hundreds of thousands of visitors at Forest recreation sites, including climbers scaling the 12,276 foot tall Mt. Adams, hikers enjoying the incredible scenery in the Groat Rocks Wilderness, and people from around the world taking in the landscape transformation around Mount St. Helens. The principles of conservation established by Gifford Pinchot and his family remain at the foundation of the Forest’s philosophy. The Forest is a special place, possesses a lasting legacy, and demonstrates the dynamic natural world that leaves visitors with a hopeful message for its future.

The history of people using the land of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest traces back at least 6,000 years to when Native Americans hunted and gathered in the meadows below the Cascades’ peaks. European trappers followed Lewis and Clark, then Ft. Vancouver became the first permanent settlement near the Forest in 1824. 

In 1897, the area became part of the Mt. Rainier Forest Reserve. In 1908, it became the Columbia National Forest. In 1949, the 1.3 million-acre Forest was re-named to honor the first Chief of the Forest Service in a ceremony at LaWisWis, a CCC campground near Packwood, Washington.

Mount St. Helens: A Living, Enthralling Landscape

On the morning of May 18, 1980 an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale triggered the explosive eruption of Mount St. Helens. In a few moments, an avalanche of rock, debris, and ice slammed into Spirit Lake, crossed a ridge 1,300 feet high, and roared down the Toutle River. Nearly 150 square miles of forest was blown over or buried. A vast, gray landscape lay where once the forested slopes of Mount St. Helens grew. In 1982 the President and Congress created the 110,000-acre National Volcanic Monument for research, recreation, and education. Surviving plants and animals have risen out of the ash, colonizing plants have caught hold of the earth, and visitors, scientists, and surrounding communities can now experience the wonders of the volcano.

1.37 million acres
180,000 acres of wilderness
49,838 volunteer hours in 2009 valued at $998, 406
20+ species of fish
552,262 riparian acres
over 100 partnerships
  • Your Fees At Work

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    See what was accomplished this last year on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest thanks to recreation fees.