For those looking to get away from it all and experience the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a great option. With its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and a wide variety of recreational activities, the forest has something for everyone.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a vast, beautiful wilderness area in southwest Washington. It encompasses over 1.3 million acres of mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers, making it one of the country’s oldest and largest national forests.

The forest is named after Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the United States Forest Service. Pinchot was a crucial figure in developing conservation forestry, and his vision has helped shape the Gifford Pinchot National Forest into the vibrant and ecologically diverse place it is today.

 

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is home to various plant and animal life. The forest’s many different ecosystems support everything from towering Douglas firs and western red cedars to herds of elk and deer, playful river otters, and even the occasional black bear.

The forest is a popular destination for outdoor recreation. Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, boating, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Several scenic drives wind through the forest, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Some of the most popular scenic drives include the Mount St. Helens Spirit Lake Highway and Forest Road 25.

A waterfall from the Siouxon Creek Trail.

 

Trail Runs

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a trail runner’s paradise. With nearly 1,500 miles of trails, there’s something for everyone, from gentle forested paths to challenging climbs with stunning views. It’s so vast that its boundary borders three volcanoes in Washington. Mt. Rainer National Park to the north, Mt. St. Helens to the west, Mt. Adams to the east, and the Columbia River to the south.

We’ve covered several Gifford Pinchot National Forest areas, including Goat Rocks, Dark Divide, Mt. St. Helens, and Yacolt Burn.

Here are a few of the other popular spots for trail running in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest:

The trails in Indian Heaven Wilderness are generally well-maintained and offer stunning views of lakes, meadows, and mountains. Indian Heaven is perfect for wildflowers in July and fall colors in September.

Trail running in Trapper Creek Wilderness offers a unique experience compared to other Gifford Pinchot National Forest areas. It is just north of Carson, WA, but a little more private than other trails in Gifford Pinchot. Observation Peak offers stunning views of the Cascades.

Siouxon Creek Trail is a fantastic option for trail running in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It offers stunning scenery, majestic waterfalls, and varied terrain. Trail runners can enjoy the full 12-mile out-and-back or continue on adjoining trails.

Falls Creek Falls Trail is an easy, 3.4-mile out-and-back run that leads to the 335-foot Falls Creek Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in Gifford Pinchot. Connect to other forest roads and trails to explore lava caves in the area.

 

A cloudy view from Observation Peak in the Trapper Creek Wilderness.

 

Trail Races

The Dark Divide 100-mile, 50k, and 20-mile fun run from Wonderland Running takes place entirely in Gifford Pinchot. The races offer fantastic mountain views, scenic waterfalls, and lush forest trails.

Hellz Bellz Ultra 50-mile and marathon from Bivouac Racing takes place in the Silver Star and Yacolt Burn area of Gifford Pinchot.

Try the Volcanic 50k/25k from Go Beyond Racing for an aerial view of the Gifford Pinchot. The 50k uses the Loowit Trail to circumnavigate Mt. St. Helens.

Destination Trail’s Bigfoot 200 is the best race to cover many of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest trails. It runs from Mt. St. Helens to Randle, WA. Bigfoot also has 40 and 20-mile options.

Backcountry Rise 50k, 20-mile, and Half Marathon from Daybreak Racing is on the trails in the blast zone of Mt. St. Helens.

The Wild Woman 50k, Marathon, and Half Marathon start at the base of Mt. Adams in Trout Lake, Washington.

 

Fall Creek Falls trail the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

 

Trail Running Groups

Visit the Columbia Gorge Running Club for group runs around the Gorge and SW Washington.

Vantucky Trail Runners is based in Vancouver, WA. Check out the Instagram page for Wednesday group runs in Clark County. It is a great way to plan longer runs in the area.

The Hard Core Runners Club in Yakima, WA, puts on events in the Yakima area on the east side of Gifford Pinchot.

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Coffee/Beer

Since Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a vast area, there aren’t many restaurants within the forest boundaries. However, there are several excellent options in the surrounding towns that are perfect for grabbing a bite to eat after your outdoor adventure:

The Mountain Goat is a coffee shop and bakery that is a local favorite known for its fresh-baked scones and delicious coffee drinks. It offers a variety of espresso drinks, brewed coffee, and teas. It also offers a selection of breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and light lunch options.

Gotta Hava Java is a coffee drive-thru in Stevenson, WA, serving hot, cold, and blended beverages throughout the year.

The Cabin Drive-Thru is a cute cabin drive-thru that serves coffee drinks and frozen custard after a day on the trails.

Backwoods Brewing Company is a rustic brewhouse in Carson that serves house craft drafts plus a menu of classics such as pizza and nachos.

Walking Man Brewing in Stevenson is a laid-back alehouse with an outdoor patio offering pub grub, craft beer, and a relaxed vibe.

Red Bluff Tap House is another Stevenson location serving local beer and Pacific Northwest fare in a laid-back environment with outdoor tables.

54 40 Beer Lodge is a tap room in Washougal that serves basic pub grub.

Packwood Brewing Co. is a brewery and restaurant offering a variety of house-made beers, tacos, and other pub fare in a casual setting. It also has a spacious outdoor seating area. The beers are brewed under contract with other breweries in the region.

Longmire Springs Brewery is a new Packwood brewery that focuses on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. It offers a variety of beers, including a West Coast IPA, pale ale, and pilsner, as well as a rotating selection of seasonal beers. The brewery also has a dog-friendly patio where you can bring your own food.

 

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