About the Forest

Located in the Cascade Mountains in Southwest Washington is a diverse and changing landscape. Over 1.3 million acres of green forests soaring mountains, dewy meadows, and rapid streams cover the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Large nurse tree with holes in it from wildlife.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is one of the oldest national forests within 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 and renamed Gifford Pinchot National Forest in 1949. 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. 

People have been utilizing the forest since time immemorial. Some locations of past human activity or occupation are still identifiable today. Forest archeology crews document cultural heritage resources through field surveys, historical documentation, or oral tradition. The forest heritage program protects heritage resources as well as shares the values of these resources with the American people. To date, 1,596 heritage resource sites have been documented on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

While Douglas-fir is prevalent and has provided timber for decades, other common trees include Western hemlock, Western red cedars, as well as ponderosa and lodgepole pines. The Gifford Pinchot’s many streams and wetlands provide habitat for threatened fish species, including Chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.

The Forest Service administers national forest lands for a wide range of uses such as: outdoor recreation, timber production, watershed health, cattle range as well as fish and wildlife habitat. The agency is charged with maintaining and improving the health, diversity, and productivity of the forest through utilizing scientific best practices and data to actively manage a wide variety of vegetation, work to restore interconnected ecosystems, and reduce hazards.

Whether you seek solitude, social activity, creative inspiration, wildlife, forest products or scenic beauty, you can find it in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. 

View the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Visitor Guide (.pdf)

View Gifford Pinchot National Forest Facts.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount Margaret BackcountryThe 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 Johnston Ridge Observatory Plaza and must be on leash within the Monument's restricted area #3. Lack of shade and summer heat can endanger pets left in cars.  

Gifford Pinchot National Forest History

Fishing, Columbia National Forest, 1937Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, played a key role in developing the early principles of environmental awareness. Pinchot's philosophy is made clear in his farsighted statement that the forests should be managed for "..the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run." In honor of his leadership, the Columbia National Forest was renamed for Gifford Pinchot in 1949. 

Learn more about Gifford Pinchot National Forest's history.

Visitor Guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions

Read forest guidelines for camping, campfires and pets as well as some key safety tips.