July 18, 2014
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
I have written about many different National Parks over the years, but seldom have I written about National Forests, despite the fact that I spend more time in National Forests than I do National Parks. So, I figured it was time to spread the love and attention to National Forests as well. The first National Forest I want to discuss is the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southern Washington State. This National forest is home to many great experiences.
I have spent much time in the Gifford Pinchot, primarily camping in different ways. I have camped in campgrounds run by the National Forest Service. I have backpacked and camped along the way, and I have car camped at primitive sites in this forest. Each and every camping experience has been wonderful.
When camping at campgrounds run by the National Forest, I have had a lovely time. The campgrounds were not too cram-packed with lots of sites. They had good water sources, clean toilets, and kind camp hosts. Many were located next to different cool things. One campground is located near a really neat natural mineral spring. The water comes out fizzy water and is delicious. At first when we camped there a few years ago, though, we did not realize that the water was supposed to be like that, so we freaked out a bit. Then we read up on the water source and realized it was a natural mineral water spring. Very cool.
Backpacking primitive camping in the Gifford Pinchot has been some of my favorite backpacking hiking and camping I have experienced in the country. One of the many trails that parallels the Lewis river is, by far, the best, most enjoyable trail I have experienced. It is medium in its difficulty, but also a nice, hearty hike. The best part of backpacking camping in the Gifford Pinchot is the scenery. This forest most definitely shows just how beautiful the Pacific Northwest rain forests are. With moss, lichen, redwoods, ferns, flowers, and shrubs, it is hard to beat in beauty. The trees stretch to the clouds and shimmer with a variety of greens. And the fauna match the flora. From birds to rodents, bats to bunnies, bears, cats, and wild dogs, this area has it all. Beautiful.
Primitive car camping has many of the same qualities as backpacking camping, only without the restriction of everything fitting in a backpack. Backpacking primitive camping is definitely my favorite camping in the Gifford Pinchot, but primitive car camping is a close second. If one does not have time or the inclination to backpack, then car camping at primitive sites in the Gifford Pinchot can give many of the same experiences with the convenience of the car. With primitive car camping, people can take day hikes into the forest but still come back to all that they would need.
Beyond camping and hiking, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest butts right up to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. In fact, this is part of the forest. For those interested, they can climb Mt. St. Helens, which is an incredible experience. On clear days (which is luckily what I had when I climbed it six years ago), climbers can see Mt. Rainer, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams. It is truly sublime in all the scary yet amazing ways. Along with climbing Mt. St. Helens, visitors can check out Ape Caves, which is a good six-mile hike, camp, and generally enjoy the experience of this volcano.
This is probably my favorite National Forest that I have experienced thus far. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest has many caves, hikes, camps, flora, fauna, water, and other activities. It is well worth the experience.
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