Gifford Pinchot National Forest Day Hiking Overview

Mount Adams, Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Mount Adams, Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Sunny Walter/Washington State Tourism)

Gifford Pinchot National Forest Day Hiking Travel Tips

  • Gifford-Pinchot provides more than 1,100 miles of trails of varying difficulty. Most trails are located in upper-elevation forest and alpine areas. Trails range from the easy nature trails to a rugged portions of the Pacific Crest Trail. The 3.3-mile Indian Creek Trail is a steep but short trail that offers great views and open meadows. It leads to the Pacific Crest Trail and several other superb trails.
  • The Cowlitz Ranger District covers the southern portion of the forest and is popular due to its close proximity to Portland. The 1.4-mile Sleeping Beauty Trail is a relaxing walk in the woods, eventually heading upwards to an amazing lookout.
  • The Bluff Mountain Trail offers great views of the Portland/Vancouver metro area. The trail wanders through the scene of a 1902 forest fire; fir trees and wildflowers now thrive at the site.
  • In the northern district, including the Wind River and Mount Adams ranger districts, consider tackling a portion of the Boundary Trail, a national recreation trail that stretches 32 miles. Along the way check out lakes, ridge tops, and even a portion of Mount St. Helens National Monument.
  • From Woods Creek Trail, families can stroll along the Old Growth Loop: a one-mile, gentle trail designed to showcase wildlife in five different habitats.

Gifford-Pinchot is a hiker's paradise. Trails range from easy nature paths to a significant chunk of the rugged border-to-border Pacific Crest Trail.

You can travel over 1,100 miles of trail at varying difficulty. Most trails are located in upper-elevation forest and alpine areas. Over 300 miles of trail are located within the wildernesses. Approximately 150 miles of new trails are constructed to barrier-free standard, which also includes several levels of difficulty.

Here is a selection of favorites. And rest assured, if these don't pull your string, there are plenty more.

Southern District: The Cowlitz Ranger District covers the southern portion of the forest. Because this district is near Portland, it is the most heavily visited. The 1.4-mile Sleeping Beauty is deservedly popular; you start out in thick woods and end up scrambling over bare rock to an amazing lookout.

The Bluff Mountain Trail is another on everybody's short list of good trails in the Gifford Pinchot. The start of the trail offers great views of the Portland/Vancouver metro area, if you like that sort of thing. The trail then wanders through the scene of a 1902 forest fire, resulting today in deep pockets of noble fir and wildflowers.

For a more wilderness and old-growth experience, it's hard to beat the Observation Trail, which leads off the six-mile Trapper Creek Trail. The 3.3-mile Indian Creek Trail is a steep but short trail that gives the hiker great views, open meadows, and a lead into the Pacific Crest Trail, the Lemei and Lemei Lake trails, and several other superb trails.

Go to details on trails in the southern districts.

Northern Districts The northern district includes the Wind River and Mount Adams Ranger Districts. Again, this area doesn't lack for good hiking trails. For an extended hike, consider the Boundary Trail, a National Recreation Trail that wanders for 32 miles, with views and features such as lakes, ridgetops, and even a portion of Mt. St. Helens National Monument. You'll want to be sure and take the Council Bluff Trail, a steep but short climb to the semi-open summit of Council Bluff.

Bluff Lake, which goes for 6.6 miles through the Goat Rocks Wilderness, makes for a great day hike. The Packwood Lake Trail is another good hike in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This 9.6-mile hike is especially appealing to lovers of old-growth forests.

Speaking of old growth, the Old Growth Loop makes for a good family experience suited to all the capacities in your group. This is a short one-mile, barrier-free trail that takes off from Woods Creek Trail, another barrier-free trail designed to be a great wildlife viewing trail, exploring five different habitats in a brief 1.5 miles.

If you're the kind of hiker who likes to put together puzzles, the base of Burley Mountain offers a variety of loop options. The second-growth terrain is varied, and offers good berry picking and wildflower viewing.

Go to details on trails in the northern districts.

Want to know more? Visit the official Gifford-Pinchot National Forest Web site, which has extensive trail information.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 11 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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