DescriptionStraddling the Cascade Range from Mount Rainier to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Gifford Pinchot National Forest covers 1,312,000 acres of mountains, meadows, caves, canyons and streams. On opposite edges of the forest, restless 8,364-foot Mount St. Helens and glacier-clad, 12,276-foot Mount Adams tower above the lesser peaks; the fields of wild huckleberries scattered through the forest and surrounding Mount Adams lure thousands of pickers in late summer.
Forest roads are usually open from late May through November; however, many are narrow and winding and should be traveled with care. Check current road and weather conditions carefully. For information about Mount St. Helens contact the Forest Supervisor's office at (360) 891-5000 or Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument at (360) 449-7800.
Of the forest's seven wilderness areas, Goat Rocks and Mount Adams are the largest. Self-issued permits, available at trailheads and ranger stations, are required to enter the Indian Heaven, Mount Adams, Goat Rocks, Trapper Creek, Tatoosh and Glacier View wilderness areas. The forest is home to many species of animals; common birds are ducks, grouse, ravens and Steller and Canada jays. Salmon and trout inhabit the many streams.
Of particular interest are the Big Lava Beds, 14 miles west of Trout Lake on FR 60. The unusual formations originated from a 500-foot-deep crater in the northern part of the lava bed. Ice Cave, 6 miles southwest of Trout Lake on SR 141, is one of numerous lava tubes in an area known as the Big Trench Cave System. Ice usually remains in the 400-foot cave until late summer.
Another interesting volcanic feature is the Palisades, which is visible from US 12, 2.5 miles east of the SR 123 junction. The Clear Fork of the Cowlitz River has cut a deep gorge into an ancient lava flow, exposing an impressive 486-foot-high cliff of columnar basalt. Trails can be followed on foot or horseback.
Gotchen Creek Cabin, a former ranger station constructed in 1909, is the oldest structure in the forest. The cabin can be viewed Friday through Wednesday from late July to late September. Contact the Mt. Adams Ranger Station in Trout Lake for information; phone (509) 395-3402.
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail runs through the forest on its way from Mexico to Canada. Canoes and boats with small motors are permitted on some lakes; watch for speed restrictions. Snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular winter pastimes. Fishing and hunting are permitted in season. Downhill skiing is available late November to early April at White Pass, east of Packwood on US 12.
A Northwest Forest Pass, available at ranger stations, is required for parking at most trailheads in the forest. A day pass costs $5 per vehicle; an annual pass costs $30. Recreation information is available at ranger stations in Amboy, Randle and Trout Lake. Contact the Forest Supervisor's Office, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661; phone (360) 891-5000 or TTY (360) 891-5003.