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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 61 to 80 of 82
      Open details for Curly Creek Falls via Lewis River Trail

      Curly Creek Falls via Lewis River Trail

      Very Easy
      1.3 km
      43 m
      0.5h

      Curly Creek Falls can be reached on an easy 1.3 km section of the Lewis River Trail suitable for the whole family. This is a fun stop if you’re walking a longer section of the trail or if you want waterfall views without having to do much work. We recommend doing this hike between March and July or after September as the falls tend to dry up completely around August. Expect light traffic on this hike.

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      Open details for Little Huckleberry Trail

      Little Huckleberry Trail

      Moderate
      7.6 km
      582 m
      3-4h

      Little Huckleberry Trail takes you 7.6 km to the summit of Little Huckleberry Mountain. This trail is moderately difficult, with a consistent incline most of the way. It’s straightforward and easy to navigate, and you’ll enjoy a great view over the Indian Heaven Wilderness. Expect heavy traffic on this route.

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      Open details for Council Bluff Trail

      Council Bluff Trail

      Moderate
      4.7 km
      261 m
      1.5-2h

      Council Bluff Trail is a 4.7 km out and back hike that starts from the Council Bluff Campground and takes you up to a viewpoint over Council Lake. This hike is fairly short, but there are some confusing, unmarked junctions that make a downloaded GPS route very helpful. Expect light traffic on this hike.

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      Open details for Big Creek Falls Trail

      Big Creek Falls Trail

      Very Easy
      2.3 km
      89 m
      0.5-1h

      Big Creek Falls Trail takes you through a beautiful forest to three waterfalls, one of which is clearly visible. This trail is 2.3 km long and rated as easy. While it’s suitable for all ages and skill levels, there can sometimes be downed trees across the trail. Other than that, this is an enjoyable and easy hike.

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      Open details for Sleeping Beauty Trail

      Sleeping Beauty Trail

      Moderate
      3.9 km
      412 m
      2-2.5h

      Head up Sleeping Beauty Trail for a peek of the beauty of this corner of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This trail is only 3.9 km long, but it’s quite steep and a bit narrow in sections. It’s not the best choice for small children but it’s suitable for most skill levels. On a clear day, the view is awesome!

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      Open details for Grassy Knoll Trail

      Grassy Knoll Trail

      Hard
      6.9 km
      371 m
      2-3h

      The Grassy Knoll hike is a fun 6.9 km with tiring elevation gain. This hard hike delivers panoramic views of Mount Rainer, Mount Hood, and the surrounding landscapes. There are two small campsites up here, so see if you can snag one to spend a night on the knoll. This trail experiences heavy traffic.

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      Open details for Coyote Wall Labyrinth Loop

      Coyote Wall Labyrinth Loop

      Moderate
      10.8 km
      454 m
      3-4.5h

      The Coyote Wall Loop is a fun, customizable hike in the Columbia River Gorge area. The trail followed by this route guide is 10.8 km long and rated as moderately difficult, but you can use the labyrinth (pun intended) of interconnecting trails on the wall to make your loop shorter, longer, easier, or more challenging. If you want a similar hike with slightly more forgiving terrain, try the Coyote Wall Loop.

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      Open details for Old Ranch Road and Little Maui Loop

      Old Ranch Road and Little Maui Loop

      Moderate
      6.3 km
      197 m
      1.5-2.5h

      If you’re exploring the Coyote Wall but want to skip some of the more difficult terrain, the 6.3 km Old Ranch Road and Little Maui Loop is a great pick. This hike gives you the scenery you’d expect from this part of the Columbia River Gorge without the most intense hiking on the far west side of the wall. If you want the more intense terrain, try the Coyote Wall Loop or the Coyote Wall Labyrinth Loop.

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      Open details for Harmony Trail

      Harmony Trail

      Easy
      4.0 km
      187 m
      1-1.5h

      Harmony Trail is a wonderful easy hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that takes you to the shore of Spirit Lake. While this side of Mount Saint Helens isn’t as well marked as the other, it’s rewarding to explore. The lake is blissful and it’s normally not too busy. This hike is 4.0 km long and sees moderate traffic.

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      Open details for Juniper Peak Summit Trail

      Juniper Peak Summit Trail

      Moderate
      9.0 km
      553 m
      3-4.5h

      Juniper Peak Summit Trail is a 9.0 km moderate trail in Gifford Pinchot National Forest that is rated as moderate. This is a multi-use trail, allowing for hiking, horseback riding, ATV, mountain biking, and dirt biking. Sharing the trail is important, but there tends to be only moderate traffic. The trail has great views of Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Adams.

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      Open details for Starway Trail

      Starway Trail

      Hard
      12.7 km
      1,020 m
      5-7h

      The Starway Trail can either be used as a thoroughfare to other nearby trails, like Silver Star or Bluff Mountain, or it can be used as an adventure in its own right. This trail is hard, and the workout you’ll get is real. While the views aren’t the best you’ll find in the region, you can enjoy a peek of major summits and a good vantage point over your surroundings. Expect light traffic on this trail.

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      Open details for Bertha May Lake via Teeley Trail

      Bertha May Lake via Teeley Trail

      Moderate
      3.1 km
      179 m
      1-1.5h

      The hike to Bertha May Lake on Teeley Trail is a fun little adventure that can be done in just a couple of hours. This hike is 3.1 km long and takes you past Pothole Lake to blue-green Bertha May Lake on moderate terrain. If you want, you can go a bit further to Granite Lake, too. Expect moderate traffic on this route.

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      Open details for Killen Creek Trail

      Killen Creek Trail

      Moderate
      9.3 km
      457 m
      3-4h

      Killen Creek Trail is a 9.3 km out and back trail in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This trail is 9.2 km long and moderately difficult. The incline is never too steep, but it never stops. Enjoy gorgeous wildflowers in the early summer and nice mountain views on this moderately trafficked route. This trail is also good for backpacking trips.

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      Open details for Red Mountain Lookout via Indian Racetrack

      Red Mountain Lookout via Indian Racetrack

      Moderate
      10.5 km
      487 m
      3-4.5h

      Red Mountain Lookout via Indian Racetrack is a 10.5 km hike in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This hike is moderately difficult and suitable for most skill levels. It’s worth the bit of climbing it requires, with views over four major mountain peaks and a pleasant trail to the top. Expect moderate traffic on this hike.

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      Open details for Bluff Mountain Trail

      Bluff Mountain Trail

      Hard
      16.4 km
      540 m
      4.5-6h

      Bluff Mountain Trail is a hard 16.4 km hike that gives you access to several points of interest. You can hike to Bluff Mountain, Little Baldy, Silver Star Mountain, and Sturgeon Rock on this trail. Our guide ends after Little Baldy. This hike sees light traffic. You’ll need a capable, high-clearance vehicle to reach the trailhead.

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      Open details for Tracy Hill Loop

      Tracy Hill Loop

      Moderate
      7.7 km
      386 m
      2.5-3.5h

      The Tracy Hill Loop is a 7.7 km hike in the Columbia River Gorge that sees moderate traffic. The trail is pleasant and the views feature the river and the mountains beyond. This hike is best when the wildflowers are blooming, but take care to avoid the poison oak and spray for ticks before you hike.

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      Open details for High Camp Trail

      High Camp Trail

      Hard
      12.6 km
      703 m
      4-6h

      High Camp Trail is a 12.6 km hike that takes you to a camp on the base of Mount Adams. This hike requires no mountaineering skills, but going any further than High Camp requires both the skills and the permits. Do this as a backpacking trip or as a fun day hike, or use this as part of a larger expedition on Mount Adams. This trail sees heavy traffic.

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      Open details for Pacific Crest Trail from Panther Creek

      Pacific Crest Trail from Panther Creek

      Moderate
      10.8 km
      489 m
      3.5-4.5h

      This route guide takes you from Panther Creek Campground to the Pacific Crest Trail, offering an easy connector for those venturing further on the PCT. It can make for a decent day hike too, with a moss-covered forest serving as your setting. This trail is moderately difficult and not very well marked, so a downloaded GPS track is recommended.

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      Open details for Silver Creek Trail

      Silver Creek Trail

      Moderate
      12.6 km
      461 m
      3.5-5h

      Silver Creek Trail is a moderate hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that is suitable for most skill levels. This 12.6 km trail passes charming creeks and gives you a nice mountain view. We especially like this hike when it’s rained recently, as it makes the creeks more impressive. This trail tends to be very quiet with light traffic.

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      Open details for Boundary West Trail

      Boundary West Trail

      Hard
      15.3 km
      582 m
      4.5-6h

      Boundary West Trail is a hike near Mount Saint Helens that doesn’t see much traffic, making it a nice pick for a day where you want more trail to yourself. This hike is rated as hard and is 15.3 km long. You may wish to download the GPS track for this route ahead of time as parts of the trail can be a bit harder to follow. Try to come on a clear day for the best view.

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