Who is Gifford, anyway???
(Whether or not you want to know: from Wikipedia)
Gifford Pinchot (August 11, 1865 – October 4, 1946) was the first Chief of the United States Forest Service (1905–1910) and the Governor of Pennsylvania (1923–1927, 1931–1935). He was a Republican and Progressive.
Pinchot is known for reforming the management and development of forests in the United States and for advocating the conservation of the nation's reserves by planned use and renewal. He called it "the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man." Pinchot coined the term conservation ethic as applied to natural resources.
I am sure he and Teddy got on famously. So, they named this forest in southern Washington State for him. Cool. He seems like a good choice for a namesake.
To have Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams sharing the vicinity of Mount Hood National Forest with the Columbia River Gorge snuggled in between makes the Portland, OR metro area quite special for local outdoor enthusiasts and world travelers alike.
The opportunities for individuals to enjoy activities in these great public lands are nearly endless. The varying terrain, waterways, wildlife, flora, and geology with thousands of miles of trails to access it all are truly a gift. But with such a great gift and millions who choose to soak it in annually, focused and relentless stewardship are imperative. My hope is that we only take this imperative more and more serious and that my grandchildren will enjoy an even healthier forest in what is Gifford Pinchot.
GPNF, much like Mount Hood National Forest, its sister forest to the south, can be a mountain biker's paradise. With routes that take a rider up on the shoulder of volcano as well as through deep, old growth river canyons, accessible upon technical, cliff-hanging, white knuckle single track or broad and level double track, there is never a dull moment for riders of any skill and interest level. A person could spend a good part of a lifetime here and still struggle to see and experience every inch of it all.
Directions and Red TapeGPNF is accessible from many routes in SW Washington depending on where you are traveling from. If arriving from either the Seattle metro or Portland metro areas, any one of the east-west routes off of I-5 will take you into the forest area depending on your desired starting point. If coming from east of the Cascades, State Highway 12 to Randal, WA or Evergreen Highway 14 to either White Salmon or Carson will get you to your spot.
Being wilderness with many stream and drainage crossings of the various highways, washouts and mud/rock slides are always a potential threat to access or retreat, especially during the heavy rains of Autumn or the Spring snow runoff. With this in mind, always check road conditions ahead of time for your route either by calling one of the GPNF Ranger Stations or the GPNF District Office for the most current and accurate information. You can also chek on the GPNF website HERE but this information is sometimes lagging in real time and may not be the most accurate. This tab is a good place to start, though, and then get a verbal from a Forest Official.
As always, Northwest Forest Passes are required for parking at most trailheads. Also, if the area you are going to access is considered a Snow Park during Winter months, a Snopark Permit may be required. Additional permits and fees may apply if you are going into certain climbing areas or are going to be camping.
Please remember to clean up campsites, dowse fires, and if you pack it in, pack it out. Leave things better than you found them.
Camping and Lodging
Of course, motels are available as well. Lodging can be found in the town of Randal, WA for access from the north and in Cougar, WA if arriving from the south.
Helpful LinksThis is the LINK for the GPNF home page. A lot of information here to navigate through.
A great place to start for the more popular biking trails in GPNF is HERE.
Here is the LINK to finding campsites.
A great site for beautiful photos and information about the Lewis River/Swift Reservoir area is HERE.