Gifford-Pinchot National Forest

Washington State National Forests

On top of the already substantial wilderness areas, Washington state is home to no less than 5 National Forests. With more than 6,000,000 acres of land, you would be hard-pressed to explore all of any one of these parks in just a summer.

While the more well-known National Parks of Washington state, Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades, get more attention from tourists and travel writers, Washington’s National Forests offer a more relaxed opportunity to explore the wilderness.

National forests in Washington are popular alternatives to Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks. Crowds are far more spread out, making securing a campsite or finding trailhead parking a more straightforward endeavor. National forests are also popular options for dog owners, with far fewer pet restrictions in place.

Below is information on each of Washington State’s National Forests, the main things to see there. Additionally, there is information on both camping in campgrounds as well as dispersed camping in Washington State National Forests.

Are Dogs Allowed in Washington State National Forests

Dogs are allowed in National forests with some specific restrictions. In general, dogs are allowed to be off-leash in National Forests except when in developed areas, and along interpretive trails where they need to be on no more than a 6′ leash. Exceptions to this include the Enchantments wilderness area and the Lake Ingalls Trail. 

It is a good idea to always check the specific trail/region you are hiking for specific rules regarding dogs and leashes before you head out.

One thing to consider is that while it is legal to let dogs run free in National Forests, it isn’t always a great idea as pets can easily become lost. If you do, make sure that they are wearing tags or are chipped and consider a GPS tracker for dogs (Amazon link) in case they wander off.

Dispersed Camping in National Forests in Washington State

Dispersed camping is camping in any non-developed area, which generally refers to camping along roads, along trails, and in wilderness areas. In general you can camp in all Washington state National forests, but there are general restrictions, particularly in designated wilderness areas, and in areas where bears are an issue.

How many National Forests are in Washington state?

There are five National Forests in Washington state: Colville, Gifford Pinchot, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, Okanogan-Wenatchee, and Olympic National Forests. Each of these forests offers unique opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and enjoy the wilderness. From hiking and camping to fishing and wildlife watching, Washington State’s National Forests have something for everyone.

List of National Forests in Washington State

Colville National Forest

Colville National Forest

Located in the northeastern corner of Washington state, the Colville National Forest comprises 1.5 million acres of mountains of forested adventures.

The park spans three mountain ranges, the Okanogan, Kettle River, and Selkirk.

the Colville National Forest has 1.5 million acres in northeastern Washington and includes the Kettle River, Selkirk mountain ranges, and the upper reaches of the Columbia River. The forest has four ranger stations and a supervisor’s office that govern the forest’s five districts: Three Rivers Ranger Station in Kettle Falls, Republic Ranger Station in Republic, Tonasket Ranger Station in Tonasket, Newport-Sullivan Lake’s Station in Newport, and Newport-Sullivan Lake’s Station in Metaline Falls.

Colville National Forest’s wild huckleberries, camping, hiking trails (486 miles), OHV trails, mountain biking, horse trails, lakes, rivers, and streams. The forest also boasts exciting wildlife such as the grizzly and black bears, cougars, bald eagles and the last remaining herd of caribou in the U.S.

Nearby attractions also include Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge and the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

gifford pinchot national forest

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Nestled in the southern part of Washington state, Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers a diverse landscape filled with old-growth forests, towering mountains, and pristine rivers.

Covering over 1.3 million acres, Gifford Pinchot National Forest is named after the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service and encompasses the slopes of Mount St. Helens.

The forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with activities like hiking, fishing, skiing, and camping available throughout the year.

Popular attractions within Gifford Pinchot National Forest include the iconic Mount Adams and

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Washington state’s Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is amazing! It has snow-capped mountains, green forests, and super clear lakes. This huge forest covers over 1.7 million acres, so there’s tons of space for hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, and snowboarding.

You can climb Mount Baker with its beautiful glaciers or hang out in the pretty Snoqualmie Pass area. Washington’s forests are full of cool wildlife like black bears, cougars, and bald eagles.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is another awesome place. It’s named after a guy who helped protect forests and has old trees and the giant Mount St. Helens volcano. You can hike, fish, ski, and camp there all year long!

Okanogan & Wenatchee National Forests

Okanogan & Wenatchee National Forests

Escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests boast a wide variety of flora and fauna, making them a haven for botanists, bird watchers, and wildlife enthusiasts.

Visitors can explore numerous trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints, serene lakes, and hidden gems tucked away in the forests. The Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through both forests, offers hikers a chance to experience the beauty of the Cascade Range up close.

For those seeking a more adrenaline-fueled adventure, the national forests provide opportunities for rock climbing, river rafting, and skiing in the winter months. With campgrounds scattered throughout the area, visitors can immerse themselves in nature and spend nights under the stars.

The conservation efforts in place ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the pristine wilderness of the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests. Educational programs and guided tours are available for those interested in learning more about the ecosystems and history of these majestic forests. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an action-packed outdoor excursion, these national forests have something to offer for everyone.

olympic national forest

Olympic National Forest

Nestled in the heart of Washington State, the Olympic National Forest stands as a testament to the beauty and diversity of the Pacific Northwest. From lush rainforests to snow-capped peaks, this enchanting forest offers a myriad of experiences for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

Traverse through old-growth forests dripping with moss, embark on epic hikes to stunning viewpoints, or paddle along pristine rivers teeming with life. The Olympic National Forest is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities ranging from camping and fishing to mountain biking and wildlife watching.

The Hoh Rainforest, a gem within the forest, is a primeval paradise unlike any other, with towering trees draped in emerald moss and a symphony of bird calls echoing through the canopy. Visitors can wander along enchanting trails, marvel at crystal-clear streams, and breathe in the pure, earthy scent of the rainforest.

For those seeking solitude, the backcountry offers remote wilderness areas where one can truly disconnect and immerse themselves in nature’s embrace. With its rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes, Olympic National Forest beckons all who yearn for adventure and serenity amidst the untouched beauty of the natural world.

Dispersed Camping In National Forests

Dispersed camping in national forests is a unique opportunity for those seeking solitude and a deeper connection with nature. Unlike traditional campgrounds, dispersed camping allows visitors to set up their campsites away from designated areas, providing a more immersive outdoor experience.

In Washington State’s national forests like Olympic National Forest, dispersed camping offers the chance to truly disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Imagine waking up to the gentle rustling of leaves, the melodious chirping of birds, and the crisp mountain air filling your lungs.

To partake in dispersed camping, visitors must adhere to Leave No Trace principles. This means packing out all trash, respecting wildlife, and minimizing your impact on the environment. Always check with the forest ranger station for specific rules and regulations before you head out.

Umatilla National Forest

Nestled in the rugged terrain of eastern Washington, Umatilla National Forest holds a unique charm waiting to be explored. Steeped in history and teeming with diverse ecosystems, this forest offers a glimpse into the past while providing endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Umatilla National Forest encompasses over 1.4 million acres within the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon and southeast Washington.

It covers a variety of terrain, with elevations ranging from 1,600 to 8,000 feet above sea level. Landscapes in this geological-rich region include rolling uplands and V-shaped valleys. Umatilla and “the Blues” are well known throughout the region, but they are otherwise less explored than other public spaces in the state, and recreation opportunities await throughout the year.

Popular things to do in Umatilla include backpacking, hiking, and horse riding. Other activities like camping and picnicking are also popular. River activities also define much of the fun of the Umatilla National Forest. Three designated Wild and Scenic Rivers run through its boundaries, including the Grande Ronde, the Wenaha, and The North Fork of the John Day.

All three rivers support activities like fishing and shoreline hiking, but the North Fork of the John Day River is the one that attracts river enthusiasts from across the world. The forest also has three designated wilderness areas within its boundaries. In total, these untouched landscapes comprise over 20 percent of the forest’s acreage. The Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness is the only one within Washington, encompassing over 175,000 acres.

Here, ambitious backpackers find over 200 miles of trails to explore. For a memorable drive through the forest, head to the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway. The western terminus for this 145-mile route starts near the Columbia River and the Washington Border. It heads southeast from here, traveling throughout the best of the Blue Mountains and northeast Oregon.

camping in washington state

Washington State National Forest Campgrounds

Dispersed camping not your thing? Then maybe check out one of these Washington State National Park campgrounds for some less

  • Colonial Creek Campground: Nestled in old-growth forest with lake access, perfect for boaters and anglers.
  • Goodell Creek Campground: Lush, riverside location great for families and those seeking a quieter atmosphere.
  • Newhalem Creek Campground: Popular basecamp for exploring the park, offers access to trails and the North Cascades Visitor Center.
  • Cougar Rock Campground: Near the beautiful Paradise area, known for wildflower meadows and mountain views.
  • Ohanapecosh Campground: Situated in an old-growth forest, ideal for hiking and enjoying a peaceful ambiance.
  • White River Campground: On the sunrise side of the park, offers access to scenic trails and backcountry adventures.
  • Kalaloch Campground: Beachfront camping with stunning ocean views and the chance to spot marine wildlife.
  • Mora Campground: Located near Rialto Beach, famous for its tidepools and sea stacks.
  • Hoh Campground: Immerse yourself in the lush Hoh Rainforest, with trails leading to old-growth giants and tranquil rivers.

Are there any endangered species protected within Washington State National Forests?

Yes, Washington State National Forests provide habitat for endangered species like the Northern Spotted Owl and the bull trout. Conservation efforts within these forests aim to protect and preserve the biodiversity of these crucial habitats for both wildlife and future generations.

0/5 (0 Reviews)

Table of Contents

About The Author

Related Posts