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    Gifford Pinchot National Forest

    Hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

    Region in Washington State, United States

    There are more miles to cover in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest than you could do in one trip, but don’t let the variety overwhelm you. Choosing the perfect adventures in this gorgeous region is easy with our extensive collection of route guides. Take easy lakeside walks, watching the reflections of the mountains quiver in the surface. Summit sky-high glaciated peaks, looking into the craters of still-active volcanoes. Hike through underground tunnels created by lava flow. Toss on your pack and lose yourself in the woods for a week, or take advantage of easy trails to introduce your kids to the outdoors. There’s something for everyone here.

    A perk of hiking in Washington is the impressive number of backcountry camping spots scattered throughout the state. Toss on your pack to make a weekend of it! Many trails are also great for mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, or other outdoor activities. The sky’s the limit in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

    15 Amazing Hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

    Ready to start exploring? We’re making it easy to get going with 15 of our favorite hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Our list includes short, laidback trails to intense treks and everything in between. Take a quick day hike or plan a longer backpacking adventure, getting away for the weekend or for as long as you like. What stays consistent? The natural beauty of the forest all around you, from the quiet mountaintops to the shimmering Columbia River.

    Our top hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest are chosen to give you an idea of what makes this region so great to explore. While starting with these 15 hikes is a great way to experience the forest, remember that we’ve got many, many more route guides in the forest and Washington in general if you want to keep going.

    • High Rock Trail - High Rock is high, indeed. This viewpoint rises high above the surrounding South Cascades, giving you the best view you can find in the area! The views are truly panoramic and the trail to reach them isn’t that difficult. At 5.1 km in length and with moderate elevation gain, it’s a suitable trek for most skill levels and for active families.
    • Hidden Falls via Tarbell Trail - Hidden Falls via Tarbell Trail is a moderate hike that features beautiful waterfalls, and longer adventures on the Tarbell Trail can take you very far and through changing scenery. In this section, you’ll explore a very lush forest, check out multiple waterfalls, and stroll through clear-cut areas that open up your view.
    • Ape Caves Trail - The Ape Caves Trail takes you into a lava tube discovered in 1951, created by an eruption of nearby Mount St. Helens. At 4.0 km long, this trail is the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States and the third-longest lava tube in North America. Nearly 200,000 people hike through the tube each year, making this a very popular trail.
    • Mount Adams South Climb - The Mount Adams South Climb is the least technical approach to Mount Adams’ summit, leading you to the top over the course of 17.5 km and over 2,042 m of elevation gain. While this is the least challenging way up Mount Adams, it’s still best taken on by experienced adventurers with the proper gear and a healthy dose of gumption.
    • Panther Creek Falls - Panther Creek Falls is a beautiful waterfall that cascades over a mossy slope. The hike to the viewpoint for the falls is extremely easy and quick, making it possible to enjoy for most adventurers. There’s a nice viewing deck for the falls that you can take advantage of.
    • Lewis River Falls Trail - Lewis River Falls Trail is a delightful hike in every way. The trail is in great condition, the scenery is immaculate, and despite the heavy traffic, visiting on a weekday or early morning/late afternoon can score you some solitude. There are also multiple access points for this route to shorten or lengthen it.
    • Dog Mountain Trail - Dog Mountain Trail is one of the most sought-after hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. This 10.5 km loop trek is considered hard, with a straight-up stair stepper climb required. However, the changing scenery and plant life make for a very enjoyable trip well worth the crowds. The hike begins with temperate and high-desert flora, but it changes to a cool rainforest and then ends in flower-filled meadows with mountain views.
    • Beacon Rock Trail - Beacon Rock Trail takes you through Beacon Rock State Park to a fantastic viewpoint over the Columbia River Gorge. This 2.4 km out and back route is less of a hike in the classic sense and more of a pleasant walk with a gentle, consistent incline. The route is paved or on a boardwalk, making it a nice choice for those who prefer even footing.
    • Mount Saint Helens Summit via Monitor Ridge Trail - The view from Mount Saint Helens is very impressive, and it should be on the bucket list of every campable adventurer. The Monitor Ridge approach is challenging, but it requires no technical climbing skills. Take on a big adventure and earn the chance to gaze down into the glaciated crater of the volcano.
    • Johnston Ridge Observatory Trail - Not quite ready to climb Mount Saint Helens? Admire it from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This very quick and simple walk takes you through the observatory over a 0.8 km with almost no elevation gain. Part of the trail is wheelchair accessible and the entire path is very family-friendly.
    • Three Corner Rock - Three Corner Rock is a unique rock formation atop a hill that overlooks Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount Saint Helens. It’s a moderate hike, but the views are what you’d expect of a much more intensive trek. On a clear day, this is a totally camera-worthy viewpoint!
    • Moulton Falls - The hike to Moulton Falls on Lewis River Trail is an easy hike suitable for all skill levels and ages. You’ll hike along a mossy cliff with the river flowing beside you, having the chance to relax at viewpoints and benches on the way. It’s peaceful but also offers the chance to adventure a little if you take side trails to Big Tree Falls or up the Bells Mountain Trail.
    • Takhlakh Lake and Meadows Trail - The 5.3 km loop hike around Takhlakh Lake and the Takh Takh Meadows is a unique hike in the best ways. The highlight of the trek is a climb up an old lava flow for views of Mount Rainier, a uniquely southwestern Washington experience. The hike doesn’t tend to be very busy despite its fantastic views.
    • Ape Canyon Trail - Ape Canyon Trail is well worth the effort it might require! This hike takes you through a wonderful section of old-growth forest (one of the few remaining stands near Mount Saint Helens) atop a butte with great views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams.
    • Spirit Falls Trail - Spirit Falls is a stunning spot. The falls are tucked into the forest off the beaten path, hidden in the moss of the trees until you’re right in front of them. The falls are stellar in the warmer months, but they’re especially impressive when they’re surrounded by crystalline white in the winter.

    Scroll down to see the full list of hiking trails in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

    When is the Best Time to Hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

    Gifford Pinchot National Forest generally experiences warm, mild summers and cool winters with lots of precipitation. While you should be prepared for rain any time of the year, visiting in the summer months of July and August tend to give the warmest, driest weather. Shoulder season (spring and fall) can bring heavier rain and snow, and winter tends to be snowy and cold.

    While the summer months offer the best weather, they do also bring the heaviest crowds. If you’re okay with occasionally cooler or wetter conditions, visiting in June or mid-September can give you more privacy on the trails while still offering suitable hiking weather. If you’re hiking to enjoy golden larches, visits in late September and early October are usually best.

    Other Outdoor Activities in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

    While the trails are excellent, hiking is not the only way to explore the Gifford Pinchot National Forest! This region boasts plenty of space for other outdoor activities.

    Adventurers on two wheels can take advantage of the many mountain bike and dirt bike paths. Those with four-legged friends can explore horse and dog-friendly trails. Fishers will find lakes stocked with trout, and campers will be able to choose from many sites. Many hiking paths can be extended for backpacking trips thanks to the ease of backcountry camping in the forest. In the winter, skiers, snowshoers, mushers, sledders, and snowmobilers can make use of the region’s snowfall.

    How to Plan a Trip to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

    A trip to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a worthwhile venture, but you’ll want to put enough time and energy into planning to make sure your trip runs the way you want it to. You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass for many trails in the park, and some require a Discover Pass. If you plan on camping, make sure you plan out your campsites beforehand and check which ones are walk-up and which require advance booking.

    Some popular trails have limited parking available, so try to plan your busiest hikes as early in the day as you can. Additionally, the forest roads that service many trailheads are subject to potholes and poor conditions. Planning to have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle for your time in the park is essential if you want to hike trails serviced by certain forest roads.

    Gifford Pinchot National Forest Adventure Tours

    Some of us love trip planning and some of us just… don’t. Take the stress out of your trip with an excerpt-planned adventure tour, letting you let go and focus on the fun stuff. Check out some incredible adventure tours in the Pacific Northwest.

    Frequently Asked Questions About the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

    Can you hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest?

    Of course! There are lots and lots of trails worth exploring in the forest, and hopefully this guide can help you start your hiking adventures.

    Are there bears in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest?

    Yes, there are bears in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Be bear aware and practice bear safety while you visit.

    What kinds of animals are in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest?

    Some of the animals that live in the forest are deer, elk, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, birds of prey, salmon, and many more.

    Where is Gifford Pinchot National Forest?

    Gifford Pinchot National Forest is located in Southwestern Washington State, USA.

    Explore other great hiking regions in Washington State:

    Or check out other amazing hiking regions in the United States.

    View Hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on Map

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    Best Hikes in Gifford Pinchot National Forest

    Showing 21 to 40 of 82
      Open details for Wind Mountain Trail

      Wind Mountain Trail

      Moderate
      3.9 km
      350 m
      1.5-2.5h

      Wind Mountain Trail is a 38.6 km moderate hike that gives you a great vantage point over the Columbia River Gorge. This summit is about as easy to bag as it gets, and it’s a fun hike for all ages and skill levels. Be prepared for a bit of a steep climb, but it doesn’t last very long. You’ll enjoy a view of Table Mountain, Mount Defiance, and more.

      Bring poles if you’re worried about your footing, as this trail can get slick if it’s rained recently. Otherwise, this trail is generally in good condition and easy to follow. Take a moment to read the interpretive sign near the top that tells you about the mountain’s history.

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      Open details for Cape Horn Loop Trail

      Cape Horn Loop Trail

      Moderate
      12.1 km
      484 m
      3.5-5h

      The Cape Horn Loop Trail is a stellar hike, and it’s bound to become busier and busier as locals and visitors alike discover how awesome it is. With 120.7 km of distance and 484 m of elevation gain, it’s at a difficulty level that appeals to most: still accessible for older active kids and families but enough of a trip for stronger hikers too. The views of the Columbia River Gorge are excellent, and you’ll be able to appreciate the beautiful Cape Horn Falls.

      There is a bit of steep climbing required near the falls, so we don’t recommend this trail for anyone who wouldn’t be comfortable completing the equivalent of several long, steep flights of stairs.

      Note that there is an annual closure on this trail between February and July each year to protect peregrine falcon nesting sites. You’ll need to do this hike as an out and back when the closure is in effect.

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      Open details for Lower Falls Creek Trail

      Lower Falls Creek Trail

      Moderate
      5.1 km
      212 m
      1.5-2h

      The Falls Creek Falls are a beautiful set of waterfalls in a bright green corner of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, falling over a dramatic cascade and then trickling down through the moss-laden rocks that line the creek. Despite its beauty, this spot isn’t as busy as other waterfalls in the forest, so this is a fabulous pick for a warm weekend when other falls trails could be crowded.

      The hike to the falls on Lower Falls Creek Trail is moderately difficult, requiring 5.1 km of hiking roundtrip. The elevation gain is fairly mild overall, making this a good pick for active families. Bring a packed lunch and settle in at the falls to enjoy the scenery for a while.

      This trail is great after heavy rains or when the fall colors are at their best.

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      Open details for Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Trail

      Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Trail

      Hard
      10.1 km
      639 m
      3.5-5h

      The view from the top of Silver Star Mountain is definitely one of the better ones in the area, if not maybe the best. It’s also one of the best places to appreciate the widespread blooms of wildflowers in Southwest Washington, making a late spring or early summer visit ideal. Bring a camera and be prepared for a wonderful summit.

      This hike is 10.1 km long and is rated as hard. While there aren’t any technical challenges, you’ll gain a respectable amount of elevation on a rocky trail. Some sections can get a bit wet and washed out, so come prepared for a bit of an adventure.

      Note that this approach does not follow Silver Star Mountain Trail. This route is better for those who don’t have high-clearance vehicles as the road to the Silver Star Mountain Trail is one of the worst in the state.

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      Open details for Chinook Falls via Siouxon Trail

      Chinook Falls via Siouxon Trail

      Moderate
      18.0 km
      501 m
      4.5-6.5h

      Siouxon Trail is a very popular backpacking route through a truly splendid forest. This area is close to the hearts of many local adventurers, and as it recovers from a forest fire, the landscape changes each year. While the Siouxon Trail is often used for longer trips, the 18.0 km hike to Chinook Falls is a splendid way to enjoy a section of the trail. While Chinook Falls are the feature of this hike, you’ll also be able to see Horseshoe falls and Siouxon Falls on the way.

      This hike is moderately difficult. We don’t recommend it for young children as the bridges on the trail are subject to damage and washout, and this can make reaching the falls difficult without a bit of adventurous creek crossing. Keep your eyes peeled for hidden waterfalls in the trees as you enjoy this memorable trail.

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      Open details for Wildcat Falls via Siouxon Trail

      Wildcat Falls via Siouxon Trail

      Moderate
      15.9 km
      473 m
      4-6h

      Siouxon Trail is a popular backpacking trail through an awesome forest. This area is close to the hearts of many local adventurers, and as it recovers from a forest fire, the landscape changes each year. While the Siouxon Trail is often used for longer trips, the shorter section to Wildcat Falls is a nice way to enjoy a shorter part of the trail.

      This hike is moderately difficult. Keep your eyes peeled for hidden waterfalls in the trees as you enjoy this memorable trail.

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      Open details for Lower Falls Campground Loop

      Lower Falls Campground Loop

      Very Easy
      1.1 km
      19 m
      0.5h

      The Lower Falls Campground Loop is a great way to stretch your legs and explore if you’re staying at the campground. This trail is quick at 1.1 km long with almost no elevation gain. You’ll walk through the campground, down by the Lewis River, and by Lower Lewis River Falls. It’s a good pick for families and dogs.

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      Open details for Cathedral Falls Hike

      Cathedral Falls Hike

      Easy
      6.6 km
      197 m
      1.5-2.5h

      Cathedral Falls is a fun destination for a weekend family hike. The trail to reach the falls is easy-moderate at 6.6 km long with mild elevation gain. The falls are best viewed in the spring or early summer, and you might not get much more than a trickle late into the summer or early in the fall.

      The hike is kid-friendly, though small children may need a hand on a few narrow sections and creek crossings. Expect moderate traffic on this route.

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      Open details for Falls Creek Loop

      Falls Creek Loop

      Moderate
      8.5 km
      341 m
      2.5-3.5h

      The Falls Creek Falls are a gorgeous set of waterfalls in a lush green corner of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, falling over a dramatic three-level cascade. Despite its beauty, this spot isn’t as busy as other waterfalls in the forest, so this is a fabulous pick for a warm weekend when other falls trails could be crowded.

      The hike to the falls on this loop is 8.4 km long. It’s longer than the direct Lower Falls Creek Trail, which you can take if you want a shorter out and back approach to the falls.

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      Open details for Lava Canyon Trail

      Lava Canyon Trail

      Hard
      8.7 km
      356 m
      2.5-3.5h

      The Lava Canyon is just across from the Ape Canyon Trailhead, offering similar unique scenery to its more popular neighbor. This canyon is thrilling, with a tall suspension bridge, waterfalls, ladders, and exposed cliffsides. While the beginning of this trail is a bit more kid-friendly, it gets more daunting as you go, so feel free to turn back if it becomes too much for your group.

      This hike is 8.7 km miles long and rated as moderate, but be prepared for steep sections, narrow sections, and a ladder climb of about 9 m.

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      Open details for Walupt Creek Falls Hike

      Walupt Creek Falls Hike

      Hard
      3.1 km
      126 m
      1-1.5h

      Really looking for an adventure? The Walupt Creek Falls is just that. There is no visible trailhead for this hike, no signage, no cell service, and no discernable designated parking. This trail is unofficial and unmaintained, making it subject to extreme overgrowth. We said it was an adventure, right?

      The trail is only 3.2 km long, but please prepare accordingly.

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      Open details for Merrill Lake Campground Loop

      Merrill Lake Campground Loop

      Very Easy
      1.6 km
      12 m
      0.5h

      Staying at Merrill Lake Campground? Set out on the casual Merrill Lake Campground Loop, a 1.6 km stroll that leads you through the campground, along the lakeshore, and back. This walk is essentially flat and is suitable for all ages and skill levels. Bring some paddleboards or a picnic if you want to spend more time enjoying the lake.

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      Open details for Thomas Lake Trail

      Thomas Lake Trail

      Easy
      6.1 km
      216 m
      1.5-2.5h

      Thomas Lake is a fantastic spot for a weekend getaway, offering nice backcountry camping spots all around the lakeshore and an easy trail in. This hike is 6.1 km long and rated as easy, making it a good choice for all skill levels. This guide covers the entire distance of the trail, but if you just want to get to Thomas Lake and back, it’s less than half as long.

      Note that the mosquitoes on this hike can be truly incessant in the early-mid summertime. Try visiting in August when they tend to be less bothersome and bring a very potent spray. A hike in the fall eliminates this issue and offers great foliage color.

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      Open details for Sunrise Peak Trail

      Sunrise Peak Trail

      Moderate
      5.6 km
      532 m
      2.5-3.5h

      Sunrise Peak Trail is a spectacular hike with panoramic views that start before you’ve even reached the top. We do recommend trying to do this hike for sunrise if you’re willing to wake up early, as the view is spectacular when awash in color. This 5.6 km hike is rated as moderate.

      This trail is shared by dirtbikers, most of whom are courteous and careful. You’ll want to be cautious on the narrow route, which can be quite dusty.

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      Open details for Coyote Wall Loop Trail

      Coyote Wall Loop Trail

      Moderate
      10.9 km
      495 m
      3.5-4.5h

      The Coyote Wall Loop Trail is a fun, customizable hike in the Columbia River Gorge. The trail followed by this route guide is 10.9 km long and rated as moderately difficult, but you can use the labyrinth of interconnecting trails on the wall to make your loop shorter, longer, easier, or more challenging. You can swing by Little Maui Falls and enjoy great views of the river just below you. While parts of this loop are family-friendly, know that if you plan to hike the western side of the wall you’ll deal with steeper, rockier terrain.

      Some sections of this trail are a bit steep, so we recommend bringing poles. Additionally, if you’re unfamiliar with the Coyote Wall trails, we definitely recommend downloading your GPS track ahead of time. It can be somewhat easy to get off the trail.

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      Open details for Indian Heaven Trail #33

      Indian Heaven Trail #33

      Hard
      10.9 km
      437 m
      3-4.5h

      Indian Heaven is a gorgeous region for a hike, with carpets of wildflowers, plenty of lakes, and mountains. The Indian Heaven Trail #33 takes you from Cultus Creek Campground to four lakes near the base of Bird Mountain. It’s a nice hike if you’re staying at the campground, but we also recommend it for a day trip. There are lots of trails that can be used to extend your adventure if you want.

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      Open details for Indian Heaven Lakes Loop

      Indian Heaven Lakes Loop

      Hard
      21.2 km
      504 m
      5-7h

      Indian Heaven is a beautiful region for a hike, with expansive fields of wildflowers, too many lakes to count, and mountains all around. The Indian Heaven Lakes Loop takes you up to East Crater and around to Blue Lake, Bear Lake, Deer Lake, Clear Lake, Lemel Lake, and more.

      Part of this loop is on a decommissioned trail that may be overgrown and difficult to navigate. Download your GPS ahead of time or avoid this section if you’d rather stay on the beaten path.

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      Open details for Moulton Falls and Mount Bell Loop

      Moulton Falls and Mount Bell Loop

      Moderate
      11.1 km
      290 m
      3-4h

      The hike to Moulton Falls on Lewis River Trail is an easy hike suitable for all skill levels and ages. This guide makes it a loop with a return via Mount Bell. is a good choice year-round, and it’s shared by walkers, runners, and bikers. The footing is varied, with some gravel road, old logging road, and classic trail.

      If you want the out and back trail, check out our Moulton Falls route guide.

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      Open details for Placid Lake Trail

      Placid Lake Trail

      Moderate
      2.7 km
      37 m
      0.5-1h

      Placid Lake Trail is a short, easy trail that leads you to the shores of a calm lake. This is a nice spot for a hot day, especially since it’s never that busy. Bring an inflatable kayak or a paddleboard, pitch your tent, and enjoy the solitude of Indian Heaven Wilderness. This hike is 27.4 km long and rated as easy. You’ll want a potent bug spray if you’re here before mid-August.

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      Open details for Walupt Lake Trail

      Walupt Lake Trail

      Moderate
      12.6 km
      417 m
      3.5-4.5h

      Walupt Lake Trail is a 125.5 km out and back trail in Gifford Pinchot National Forest that is rated as moderate. This hike takes you along Walupt Lake from the Walupt Lake Campground, so it can be used for day trips or as part of a backpacking trip. The lake is calm and perfect on a hot summer day. The mosquitoes can be very bad on this trail, so bring a potent spray.

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