About the Forest

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is one of the oldest National Forests in the United States. Included as part of the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve in 1897, this area was set aside as the Columbia National Forest in 1908. It was renamed the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in 1949. 

Whether you seek solitude, social activity, creative inspiration, wildlife, forest products or scenic beauty, you can find it in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We invite you to enjoy the many different aspects of your National Forest.

Located in southwest Washington State, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest encompasses 1,312,000 acres and includes the 110,000-acre Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, established by Congress in 1982.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

At 8:32 Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted. The eruption lasted 9 hours, but Mount St. Helens and the surrounding landscape were dramatically changed within moments. 

In 1982, Congress created the 110,000-acre National Volcanic Monumentwithin the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, for research, recreation, and education.

Inside the Monument, the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance.  This means that there may be some restrictions or prohibitions on certain activities such as collecting or gathering, pets, camping, or bicycles, to name some.  For a map of the restricted areas within the Mount St. Helens Monument, click here

Camping, Picnicking, and Other Activities

The forest contains numerous campgrounds and picnic areas. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest Visitor Map includes a list of facilities and activities available at each location. To avoid crowds, visit mid-week if possible. Most of our recreation sites are being improved for barrier-free access. Camp spots are available by reservation or first-come, first-served basis. Please call one of the Ranger Stations for more information.

Choosing a Campsite

Locate your camping spot outside of fragile meadows and restricted areas, preferably on bare or mineral soil. Camp out of view from major roads and trails, where possible. Camping at least 100 feet from the shoreline of lakes and streams will help protect plants and animals that use these areas. Avoid trenching around sleeping areas by selecting a site with good natural drainage. Cutting boughs from trees for a bed is not an acceptable practice.


Campfires are a favorite camping tradition. Help protect he site and forest with a few precautions:

  • Using a camp stove helps conserve ground cover resources.
  • If you must have a fire, use an existing fire ring.
  • If a fire ring is not available, build it small, in a safe place, cleared down to dirt, away from overhanging branches. Remove the upper layers of organic soil (decayed leaves, plants, etc.) and save this soil for covering up the fire scar.
  • Gather only dead and down wood for your fire. Never cut (or nail into) live trees. (Remember: A firewood permit is required to remove wood from the forest.)
  • You should have a bucket, a shovel, and an axe to control or extinguish escaped fire.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Put out campfires by drowning them, stirring them with dirt, and drowning again.  Ashes should be cool to the touch, including charcoal.
  • Do not smoke while walking through the forest. Smokers should stop, clear a space to dirt, and smoke in the cleared area. Matches and cigarettes should be crushed and carried out.
  • Remember Smokey's Message and be sure your fire is DEAD OUT before you leave. Report any wildfire you see to any Forest Service employee, sheriff's deputy, or telephone operator.

Human Waste

If there are no toilets available, choose a suitable, screened spot at least 200 feet from any stream or lake. Dig a small hole about 6 inches deep by 8 inches in diameter. After use, fill the hole with soil and replace the duff. This allows the waste to decompose naturally. Bury toilet paper in the same hole. Empty built-in or portable toilets at sanitary dump stations.

Camp Waste

Always "PACK IT OUT!" Please leave your campsite cleaner than when you found it. Clean up and remove any manure, hay, and straw before leaving.

Drinking Water

Streams and lakes are home to many microscopic organisms; some of them can make you sick. So don't take a chance; treat your water or bring water from home. And, of course, never clean dishes or fish in a stream or lake. Safe drinking water supplies are only maintained at recreation sites with developed water systems.

No-Trace Ethic

Forest users are encouraged to adopt the no-trace ethic. "No-trace" means each one of us will make every effort to leave no evidence of our visit. The "ethic" comes from a respect and appreciation for the natural systems and a regard for those who will follow us.


All fireworks are prohibited on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.


Whether in a campground or on a trail, please keep your pets under control or on a leash.  To protect plant and animal life and provide for visitor safety, pets are prohibited at all recreation sites and trails within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument’s restricted area

Stock Use

Several campgrounds are designed for stock use. These "horse camps" are located on or near horse trails. Please use high picket line with tree padding when corrals or tie stalls are not available; disperse manure into native vegetation or provided receptacle; hobble animals that paw; and please practice "no trace" camping. Leave your campsite the way you'd like to find it. Remember, horses are not permitted in campgrounds unless designated as horse camps.

Keep pack or saddle stock at least 200 feet from any lake or stream, except for watering, loading, unloading, or traveling on established trail routes. Forage may be limited, so you should carry feed. Avoid tying stock to trees at campsites for prolonged periods.

Water Activities

If you're interested in canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and other forms of boating, you'll find them here. However, gas powered motor are prohibited on most forest lakes. Swimming may be limited to those hardy persons who can endure the cold waters of mountain lakes or streams. But everyone should avoid the hazardous falls and cascades on some rivers. If you're planning to float streams, you should contact the nearest Forest Service office for specific information.


You may see a wide variety of birds and animals if you watch carefully. Generally, the best time to observe wildlife is in the early morning or late evening.

Woods Creek Watchable Wildlife area offers a barrier-free, interpretive 1.5 mile trail through old-growth forest past several active beaver ponds.

Fishing and Hunting

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sets seasons and possession limits. A Washington State license is required to hunt or fish in the National Forest. Please consult current regulations prior to fishing or hunting in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

There are more than 20 species of fish in the 1,360 miles of streams and over 100 lakes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Three species of anadromous fish (chinook and coho salmon, and steelhead trout) and several species of resident salmonids (rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, brown trout, and cutthroat trout), including two species of char (bull trout and eastern brook trout), can be found within forest waters. Over 90 percent of the streams on the Forest have a self-sustaining resident fishery. Fish populations are supplemented with hatchery fish in some forest lakes and streams. High mountain lakes may not be accessible until the late-spring snow melts.

Wildlife species that are hunted include deer, elk, black bear, cougar, mountain goats, and small game species of grouse, bobcat, coyote, fox, raccoon, and rabbits.

Products From Your National Forest

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest provides a variety of natural resource products, while maintaining healthy, diverse and productive forest ecosystems. In addition to the harvest of trees that provide lumber and other wood products, many other products are harvested, such as cones, evergreen boughs, transplants, Christmas trees, mushrooms, beargrass, salal, edible berries, firewood, and common minerals.

The harvest of forest products usually requires a permit for both personal and commercial uses. Permits allow the Forest Service to monitor the demand and use of various products to ensure that areas are not overused. Please check with your local Forest Service office for the permits you will need before removing anything from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Tread Lightly

  • Travel only where motorized vehicles are permitted.
  • Respect the rights of hikers, horseback riders, skiers, campers and others so they can enjoy their activities undisturbed.
  • Educate yourself.  Get visitor maps and regulations from public agencies, comply with signs and barriers, and ask owners' permission to cross private property.
  • Avoid streams, lakeshores, meadows, muddy roads and trails, steep hillsides, wildlife and livestock.
  • Drive responsibly to protect the environment and preserve opportunities to enjoy your vehicle on wildlands.

Safe Driving Tips

Drive at a reasonable speed. Most forest roads are not designed for high speeds. Your line of sight is often obstructed by trees, brush, hills, or sharp curves, and your vehicle cannot stop as quickly on gravel or dirt surfaces as on paved streets. Wildlife are frequently encountered on Forest roads.

  • Many forest roads are one-lane wide. On curves, keep to the right and use turnouts to allow oncoming vehicles to pass. Please do not block turnouts or use them for an "extended" stop.
  • Use a vehicle that is suitable for rough travel and carry extra supplies. Food, gas, and lodging are seldom available along National Forest roads. Take adequate clothing along with you, and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Forest roads are not maintained for winter travel; be aware that ice and snow can cause problems even on paved roads.
  • Log trucks and logging activities may be encountered at any time, even on weekends. Be alert!
  • State traffic regulations apply when traveling on Forest roads. If an injury accident occurs in the Forest, call 911.

Why is this Road Closed?

There are a number of reasons some modes of travel are restricted within National Forests. These are not always well understood, particularly if encountered unexpectedly. Here are some reasons for them:

Wildlife Habitat Protection -- Many closures are put into effect to protect critical areas where big-game animals live. These areas are sensitive and often include winter ranges, calving grounds, or security areas. These same areas are often open to vehicle use during other times of the year when big game are less likely to be disturbed.

Water Quality and Erosion Control -- Some roads and trails are closed during wet weather to prevent rutting and other roadbed damage. This reduces erosion and the amount of sediment that can be transported to streams. Sediment is a serious threat to spawning and rearing grounds for steelhead, salmon, and other fish.

Public Safety -- In some specific instances, certain types of travel are prohibited to ensure user safety. Even so, caution should be used on every Forest route.

Recreation -- One goal on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is to provide a broad range of recreation settings and opportunities. Some areas of the Forest are designated for nonmotorized recreation to achieve a balance with motorized recreation opportunities.