We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“overlooked PNW treasure” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Gifford Pinchot National Forest
WA
Improve this listing
Activities: Hiking
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: One of the oldest National Forests in the United States, this region encompasses 1,312,000 acres and includes Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
Portland, Oregon
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
12 attraction reviews
Reviews in 27 cities Reviews in 27 cities
52 helpful votes 52 helpful votes
“overlooked PNW treasure”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 18, 2012

We are tent campers, we are hikers, we are motorcycle travelers, and we love Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Every national forest camp ground we have stayed in within GPNF has been well-kept and really well-laid out (such that campers aren't on top of each other). Many of the sites have camp hosts. The camp site at Lower Falls is our favorite, by far. GPNF has got paved roads, gravel roads, and dirt roads for a variety of skill levels on a motorcycle (and from the number of bicyclists we've seen, they love it too), it's a great place to base yourself for tours and jaw-dropping views of Mt. St. Helen's and Mt. Adams, the forest ranger stations and visitor's centers in the area are the friendliest ANYWHERE, and there are really cool things to see - sometimes literally - like the ice cave, the natural bridges, the Ape Caves and the falls at Lava Canyon. We absolutely love it - it's our favorite nearby weekend getaway. On our July 2012 trip, we saw a lot of deer and even a coyote! On our next trip, we're determined to partake of some of the popular swimming spots we've seen along various rivers - but we'll have to get their super early, especially on weekends, to find a parking place, even with motorcycles. Also, be aware that some paved roads do have some big sink holes and pot holes - please drive carefully, no matter what your driving/riding!

Visited July 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

12 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    9
    2
    1
    0
    0
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Richland, WA
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
“Interesting...for two days”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 13, 2011

July 10-12, 2011: Our family likes to go camping every year. It's hard to top last year's vacations at Glacier National Park and Mt. Rainier/Mt. St. Helen's, but we certainly were hoping for more from our visit to Mount Adams. While there is plenty to do if you are an avid hiker/climber or love the white water rafting idea, there isn't much to do with the little ones. We are the kind of camping family that likes to DO things while we are camping. Our children are 11, 9, and 4.

We had planned to stay at Guler Mount Adams County Park because it has showers and potable water, but when we pulled up and saw the sparsely treed area and the nearby homes, we opted for the denser forest appeal of Peterson Prairie Campground just west of Trout Lake with vault toilets and potable water. BTW, anyone can take a shower at Guler for $2 per 5 minute shower. While I didn't use the showers, the camp host at Peterson Prairie told my husband that the showers were warm, not hot and another camper said that the water heaters don't always work. Check the sinks by running the hot water prior to using the shower.

We arrived in the early evening on Sunday so we just set up our tent and stayed at camp. On Monday we headed for the Ranger Station for some information and a recreational pass that is required to view the ice caves. All of the rangers were kind and helpful. One of the rangers was particularly helpful in giving us information on where to go. We opted to take a loop by taking forest service road 23 to forest road 90 and back down the 88. There is a waterfall at the end of the 23 that is a very short hike. There is a pull out just at the bend of the road where the 90 begins (if I remember correctly). There are two very beautiful waterfalls in there with fallen logs and beautiful mossy beds. On the 90 about 2-2.5 miles in, there is a wooden post on the left-hand side with some plastic "flags" and there is white paint spilled in the road just past that marker. If you see the white paint, you've gone too far. Back up and take the road near the marker. At the end of the road, there is a secluded camp area next to a beautiful river and waterfall. I think the camp area is called Twin Falls Campground. There are vault toilets, but no potable water. The best part is that it is FREE! If I would have known this, I would have purchased water at the store and stayed here. It was beautiful! Before you hit the 90, there is another beautiful waterfall with a short 1/4 mile hike in. After that there is the peeled bark tree area with information on why/how the native Americans used the bark from the trees. Be prepared with tons of bug spray. This area is crawling with mosquitoes (probably because it isn't far from a place aptly named "Mosquito Lake"). Because we were beginning to tire, we headed back down the 88 without stopping to get back to our camp. During our loop drive, there were very few places to see Mount Adams. One of the draws of going to a mountain like Adams, Rainier, and Helen's is to see the beauty of the mountain. It was quite disappointing that we could only get a good view of the mountain from the Trout Lake area (which is mainly why I only gave the area 3 stars). Anyways, back to camp. There are very few campers at Peterson Prairie which can be a bonus for many who don't like to have crowded camps, but not for my kids who were wanting to find playmates. Each night there were only a maximum of 4 campsites filled included the camp host, who by the way was very kind and helpful. That night, it rained, so our camping trip was cut short. The forecast had rain for the remainder of the week so instead of heading to Mount Hood, we headed home after stopping at natural bridges and the ice cave. Natural Bridges is just that: bridges naturally made of stone which I assume was cut away from water??? There was a short hike into natural bridges. We only saw two bridges, but we didn't hike very far. The kids noticed little rodent-type animals in the small canyon below the bridges and had fun watching them for a few minutes. Next we headed on to the ice cave. We had purchased the day pass for $5 the day prior, but we didn't use it until the next day. You can purchase these ahead of time and when you use them, date them, and hang them on your rear-view mirror. The ice cave was interesting and fun for the kids to explore. The entrance is pretty steep, but has wooden stairs to the bottom. It gets VERY cold, especially if you are used to the warm weather above ground. Be prepared with strong flashlights, and warm clothing. It wouldn't hurt to have gloves and a hat. Maps and information on the cave heights and ice pools (some of which are melting in July) is available at the Ranger Station.

Overall, I'd give this area three stars for a family with young children who don't white water raft or through hike/climb. What we liked: Ice Cave, Natural Bridges, waterfalls. What we didn't like: rare views of Mount Adams, no flush toilets (kids' comments)

Visited July 2011
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed Gifford Pinchot National Forest also viewed

Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Olympic National Park, WA
 
Washington, United States
Mount Rainier National Park, WA
 

Been to Gifford Pinchot National Forest? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

If you own or manage Gifford Pinchot National Forest, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.