Although some of you broke out the camping gear the moment the temperature rose above 50 degrees, for most Southwest Washingtonians, Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start of the outdoor recreation season. Fortunately, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest gives us so much to choose from: 40 campgrounds, 102 trailheads, nine horse camps, and 17 picnic and boating areas—just for starters. In addition to the traditional campgrounds and trailheads, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest also has Johnston Ridge Observatory on the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument for you to explore.
Some campgrounds require reservations (go to www.reserveamerica.com) and some trails require a pass to help us keep them maintained (see Recreation Passes and Permits)—but every acres of National Forest lands belong to you and beckon you to come visit. Unlike some public lands, you can camp nearly anywhere in your national forests. There are three fee-free days and a fee-free weekend left this year, with two coming up in June. Here they are:
- National Trails Day, June 7
- National Get Outdoors Day, June 14
- National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27
- Veterans Day Weekend, Nov. 8-11