While Mount St. Helens may be the best-known feature of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwestern Washington, the trails are what attract dual sport riders.
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest, named after the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, encompasses 1.3 million acres of scenic beauty: forests, mountains, rivers, waterfalls and more. Congress established the 110,000-acre Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in 1982.
The Forest Service cautions that many of the back country routes don’t receive regular upkeep so they aren’t for casual riders.
Most of the trails in the Blue Lake area are easier to ride than other trails so the Forest Service says these trails are great for riders who are new to the forest. There are several loop rides that don’t involve any roads.
The Dark Divide and High Lakes trails are much more difficult to ride. In fact, the Forest Service says, “The Dark Divide trails are extreme in every sense of the word.” Why?
“The trails can be extremely narrow, often the width of a tire,” the Forest Service says. “Most of the trails have extremely steep sideslopes with rocks and stumps hidden in the bushes. Hitting one of these could result in highsiding and falling down steep hillsides. It may be difficult or impossible to retrieve the bike. Riders should be realistic about their abilities, have lightweight bikes and be in good physical condition. Wear good gear, right for the weather. Even the weather can be extreme. Read up on the trails, plan a route and be realistic.”
Other safety tips include: Don’t count a cell phones, because they may not work; let someone know where you are going in case searchers need to hunt for you; take along food, water and a first-aid kit; buy a district or forest map and check on current road conditions by contacting your nearest ranger district office.
If you would like to camp, there are several campgrounds that OHVers can use including the Adams Fork Campground and the Blue Lake Creek Campground.
The Adams Fork Campground is a wooded area along the Adams Fork of the Cispus River. The campground contains historic basket trees used by the Upper Cowlitz Tribe and has interpretive signage. The campground is located near the OHV trails of Blue Lake Ridge and the Valley Trail. To get there from Randle, Wash., travel south on state Highway 131 (Forest Roads 23 and 25). Veer left in 1 mile at the Y of Forest Road 23 and Forest Road 25. Continue to follow Forest Service Road 23 for 18.5 miles then turn left onto Forest Road 21. Follow Forest Road 21 for 4.6 miles and turn right onto Forest Road 56. The campground is less than ¼ mile on the left.
The Blue Lake Creek Campground is a small campground just off Forest Road 23. The campground itself is in a small hardwood stand surrounded by conifers. Sites are typically open and grassy. Valley Trail 270 can be accessed from the campground. This trail is a heavily used motorized trail. The High Log Trail #295 is directly across from the campground. This hiker only trail is only .3 miles long and drops down to a nice pool on the Cispus River.
To get there from Randle, travel south on state Highway 131 (Forest Roads 23 and 25). Veer left in 1 mile at the Y of Forest Road 23 and Forest Road 25 for Follow Forest Road 23 for 16.1 miles and arrive at the campground on your left.
For information, contact the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, 10024 US Hwy 12, PO Box 670, Randle, WA 98377 (360) 497-1100; Mt. Adams Ranger District, 2455 Hwy 141, Trout Lake, WA 98650 (509) 395-3400; Forest Headquarters, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661 (360) 891-5000 Mailing Address: 501 E. 5th St., #404 Vancouver, WA 98661.
For more information, go to fs.usda.gov/activity/giffordpinchot/recreation/ohv/?recid=31178&actid=93.