U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Gifford Pinchot National Forest


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Forest Information

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is located in southwestern Washington. It is comprised of 1,310,649 acres. Mt. Rainier National Park is at the northern end of the Forest. Mt. St. Helens, the volcano that erupted in 1980, is at the south western section of the Forest. There are 57 developed campgrounds of which 27 meet the selection criteria.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest (NF), one of the oldest forests in the country, was named for the founder of the Forest Service. This national forest might be best known as the home of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, established by Congress in 1982, but there is much more to discover in the Gifford Pinchot NF. There are more then 1,200 miles of trails to tempt hikers and equestrians. Also, crystal clear pristine lakes, stocked full with a variety of fish, await anglers. And, berry fields are just waiting for pickers to harvest the plump purple fruit. Looking for solitude, outstanding recreational opportunities, creative inspiration, wildlife, forest products or scenic beauty? You'll find it in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

So who exactly was Gifford Pinchot? He is generally regarded as the "father" of American conservation because of his unrelenting concern for the protection of American forests. He was the first "chief" or forester when the Forest Service was established in 1905. He served in that position with distinction, motivating and providing leadership in the management of natural resources and protection of national forests. He continued as the forester until 1910, seeing forest reserves (later renamed national forests) grow from 60 units covering 56 million acres to 150 national forests covering 172 million acres, and continued his conservation efforts after leaving the Forest Service.

Pinchot talked about a "sustainable yield" of timber when most thought he and like-minded people were impractical theorists, more or less touched in the head, because forests were "inexhaustible." One has only to look at the patches of "clear cut" on private land surrounding the Forest to see what concerned Pinchot. There are places in the Gifford Pinchot NF where the trees have been harvested but not using "destructive" logging practices of the past. Pinchot would be pleased.

The long drive down a dusty forest road to Walupt Lake illustrates the benefits of respectful forest management. Hugging the Goats Rock Wilderness boundary, the lake is surrounded by a pleasant mix of healthy conifers that have been harvested at least once. The adjacent Walupt Lake campground offers campers a great location to explore the wilderness and a crystal clear Walupt Lake, all due to Pinchot's guidelines.

Takhlakh Lake campground, with the towering Mt. Adams reflected in the calm water, is equally attractive but offers campers two different camping experiences. This developed campground wraps around the lake with one section designated for tent campers only while the other section features sites that can accommodate recreational vehicles as well as tent campers. With dinner-size rainbow trout and a couple of good hiking trails, Pinchot would probably find Takhlakh Lake campground a great place to enjoy the forest.

Mt. Rainier National Park borders the Gifford Pinchot National Forest's north side. Many visitors to the Forest make Mt. Rainier a "Must" and La Wis Wis and Big Creek campgrounds are perfect base camps for such an activity. Only about five miles from the Park's western entrance, Big Creek campground offers campers sites in a lush semitropical environment of Vine maple, alders, fern and moss as well as grand old Douglas fir and towering hemlock. On the south side of Mt. Rainier, La Wis Wis campground features older, larger trees, a less tropical environment, and a campground better-suited for tent campers. In both campgrounds, campers can hear a free-flowing creek, have trails to discover the forest up close, and are within an easy drive of not only the Park but the community of Packwood's holiday weekends Flea Market.

Perhaps Pinchot would prefer to camp on the southern side of the Gifford Pinchot NF. Here the forest shows signs of more recent harvesting and the positive effects of respectful management. Campgrounds might be rather rustic, such as Goose Lake, or designed for easy use by recreational vehicles such as Peterson Prairie campground, but this area features some delightful and unique locations to explore. The Ice Cave, Natural Bridges, wild-flower display at Bird Creek Meadows, Langfield Falls, and acres of huckleberries for picking, are just a few of this area's attractions.

Until May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens was considered one of most perfectly shaped volcanoes in the world. At 8:32 A.M. on that day, the north side of Mount St. Helens exploded and unleashed an awesome destructive force. The area devastated by the volcano's eruption, now designated Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, is being managed using many of the conservation principles advocated by Pinchot. The west side of the Monument has a great Interpretive Center and the Johnson Ridge Observatory. However, Iron Creek campground, on the east side, is conveniently located for campers to enjoy a day trip for discovering the Monument on their own.

Pinchot would also be pleased to see the number of horse camps available in the forest. For the most incredible view, few horse camps can beat the vista found at Mt. Adams Horse Camp. For a variety of trails, Cody Horse Camp and Walupt Horse Camp are outstanding. And, consider exploring the destruction and rebirth of the Mount St. Helens area from the Green River Horse Camp. (The Walupt and Green River Horse Camps, with less than ten campsites each, are not included in the authors' research.)

While equestrian campers find much to do in the Gifford Pinchot NF, there are a growing number of opportunities for the off- highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts. Blue Lake Creek and Adams Fork campgrounds are well located for OHV enthusiasts to enjoy the 100-mile plus network of trails in the area.

Gifford Pinchot was a conservationist who championed resource use, allocation, exploitation, and protection. His primary focus was maintaining the health of the natural world - its forests, fisheries, habitats, and biological diversity. Today, the Forest Service continues to observe Pinchot's principles while meeting the growing demands recreational activities put on a national forest. Pinchot would probably be proud to see how this forest with his name is doing. You are invited to visit the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to see how it is doing and enjoy all this forest has to offer.


SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 10600 N.E. 51st Circle Vancouver, Washington 98682 360-891-5000 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Cowlitz Valley 10024 US Hwy 12 P.O. Box 670 Randle, Washington 98377 360-497-1100 Mt. Adams 2455 Hwy. 141 Trout Lake, Washington 98650 509-395-3400 Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument 42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd Amboy, Washington 98601 360-449-7800

Fred and Suzi Dow