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

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted and dramatically changed the surrounding landscape 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.  View the map of the restricted areas within the Mount St. Helens Monument

Forest FAQ

Check out the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Visitor Guide for activities, trailheads, campgrounds, safety, and other forest information. 

Trash and Camp Waste

Always PACK IT OUT! Please leave your campsite or fire ring cleaner than when you found it. 


  • Many campgrounds have sites you can reserve in advance at Recreation.gov.  All campgrounds have at least some sites that are first-come, first-served.
  • Most campgrounds accomodate trailers, but none have electricity.
  • Campgrounds open after snow has melted, down limbs are cleared, and water systems have been tested for safety.  They generally close between early September and mid-October.
  • Dispersed Camping:
    • 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.


  • 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 and a shovel to extinguish your fire.
  • Put out campfires by drowning them, stirring them with dirt, and drowning again.  Ashes & charcoal should be cool to the touch.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Do not smoke while walking through the forest. Smokers should stop, clear a space to dirt, and smoke in the cleared area. 
  • Report any wildfire you see to any Forest Service employee, sheriff's deputy, or telephone operator.
  • Check for fire restrictions before heading out.

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.

Drinking Water

Streams and lakes are home to many microscopic organisms- some of them can make you sick. Treat your water or bring water from home. Never clean dishes or fish in a stream or lake. Safe drinking water supplies are only maintained at recreation sites with developed water systems.


Whether in a campground or on a trail, please keep your pets under control and on a leash.  To protect plant and wildlife, pets are prohibited at most 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 practice "leave no trace" camping.
  • Horses are only permitted in designated 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 certified weed-free feed.
  • Avoid tying stock to trees at campsites for prolonged periods.

Water Activities

Canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and other boating opportunities abound. Gas-powered motors are prohibited on most forest lakes. The water can be very cold, even in summer, so be cautious while swimming. 

Every year there are tragedies in the NW around waterfalls and rapids. Be safe around waterfalls! If you're planning to float streams, you should contact the nearest Forest Service office for specific information.

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 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, cutthroat trout, 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.

Forest Products (mushrooms, berries, foliage, transplants, etc.)

In addition to the harvest of trees that provide lumber and other wood products, many other products are harvested, such as cones, evergreen boughs, Christmas trees, mushrooms, beargrass, salal, 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 for the permits you will need before removing anything from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Tread Lightly

  • Travel only where motorized vehicles are permitted and drive responsibly.
  • Respect the rights of hikers, horseback riders, skiers, campers and others so they can enjoy their activities undisturbed.
  • 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.

Safe Driving Tips

  • Drive at a reasonable speed. Most forest roads are not designed for high speeds.
  • 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.
  • 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. Watch for wildlife.
  • Use a vehicle that is suitable for rough travel and carry extra supplies. 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. Respect your vehicle's limitations.  Don't count on cell service.
  • Log trucks and logging activities may be encountered at any time, even on weekends. Be alert!
  • Carry printed version of the forest Motor Vehicle Use Map.  It's free and available for your smartphone as well.

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.