The Ahtanum State Forest covers more than 75,000 acres of forest in central Washington state. It is located around 30 miles west of the town of Yakama, just north of the Yakama Indian Reservation, and is comprised of several smaller campgrounds with a combination of drive-in and walk-in campsites. Miles of trails, most of them a part of the approximately 562-mile green dot road network, criss-cross the territory, traveling through diverse evergreen forests that are home to many different creatures, and along lively creeks and rivers full of bull trout. The views are spectacular, particularly from the White’s Ridge trail and the Eagle’s Nest Vista. These multi-use trails are open not only to hikers, but also to people on horses, dirt bikes, motorcycles, and ATVs, and your leashed canine companions are welcome to explore along with you. When the snow falls in the winter, the state grooms nearly 70 miles of the trails for those who prefer to explore the territory via snowmobile. The first-come, first-served campsites available in this park are primitive but well-kept, and the large number of mature evergreens helps to protect them from the noise of the nearby country road. With so much to see and do, you'll love driving your RV or camper to Ahtanum State Forest to explore Washington's beautiful wilderness.
The border of the 75,000-acre Ahtanum State Forest is approximately 30 miles west of Yakama, WA. Ahtanum Road, which leads to the campgrounds, is a fairly narrow road that has a number of curves and a few altitude changes as it winds its way into the mountains, which may be difficult for big rigs or those towing trailers. The shoulders along the road are also narrow, and in many areas, sheer cliffs of rock will rise above you on one side as you drive. There are several tiny rural communities along the way, a few of which have gas stations and a restaurant or two, but there is no guarantee that they will be open, so fueling up before you leave is a good idea. This area is frequented by several different varieties of wildlife, including deer, elk, and sheep, so it is important to keep your eye on the road, particularly during the early morning and twilight hours. The exits to the campgrounds are difficult to spot, and the roads inside the campgrounds are tight and somewhat challenging to navigate as well. Additional parking, listed on maps as the Lower Snowmobile parking lot, can be found just a little south of the Ahtanum Meadow Campground.
Ahtanum Meadows Campground is located near the Ahtanum Winter Recreation area and the North Fork of Ahtanum Creek, and provides access to many of the trails that are groomed for snowmobiling in the winter. The campground has approximately ten sites available, four of which are walk-in only. The remaining six sites are able to accommodate either tents or trailers up to 32 feet, although they do vary somewhat in size from site to site. There are several restrooms available at this camp, as well as potable water. Each site includes a fire ring for campfires, a picnic table, and a grill for the convenience of visiting campers. Generators are allowed during daytime hours but are prohibited during Ahtanum Campground’s quiet hours, between 10 PM and 7 AM. Your canine companion is also welcome at the Ahtanum Meadows Campground, and on the nearby trails, but must be attended at all times and either confined or restrained on a six-foot or shorter leash.
Ahtanum Campground is located on the North Fork of Ahtanum Creek near the paved county road, and is open during the summer months. This fairly small campground has a handful of sites that boast the ability to accommodate either tent camping or rigs up to 32 feet, but they do vary somewhat in size. Campsites are shaded by large, mature trees which provide a buffer from the sound of the road as well as some privacy between sites. Each site also comes equipped with a fire ring, a grill, and a picnic table for the convenience of the campers and there are a few toilets available, as well as faucets for drinking water in this campground. Generators are allowed during daytime hours but are prohibited during Ahtanum Campground’s quiet hours, between 10 PM and 7 AM. Your canine companion is welcome in Ahtanum State Forest, but must be attended at all times and either confined or restrained on a six-foot or shorter leash.
The Tree Phones Campground is a small but popular campground situated near the Middle Fork of Ahtanum Creek. It is comprised of just a handful of sites that are suitable for either tent camping or RV camping for rigs up to 35 feet in length, however, the sites do vary more in size compared to other campgrounds. It is designed to be an equestrian facility, and there is a snow shelter available here, as well as a hitching post, and an old hand pump for water. Each campsite comes equipped with a grill, a fire ring, and a picnic table. Generators are allowed at Tree Phone Campground during daytime hours but are prohibited during quiet hours, between 10 PM and 7 AM. Your canine companion is welcome in Ahtanum State Forest but must be attended at all times and either confined or restrained on a six-foot or shorter leash. The only exception to this is for dogs accompanying owners who are riding horses; they are allowed to be off-lead as long as they are under voice control.
Be sure to bring your hiking boots in your campervan when visiting Ahtanum State Forest. There are several trails suitable for hiking that traverse the varying ecosystems in this wilderness. The Grey Rock Trail wanders through 23 miles of ponderosa pine forests, douglas-fir stands, and sub-alpine spruce and fir forests. The White’s Ridge Trail, just under 11 miles long, follows along the creeks and provides outstanding views of the Yakama Valley and Mount Adams. Cell service in the forest is not consistent, so it may be a good idea to download any maps that you might need.
Many of the multi-use trails that wind through Ahtanum State Forest make wonderful equestrian trails as well. The Tree Phone Campground provides amenities for horseback riders and their steeds including an old handpump for water, a snow shelter, and hitching posts. There are 21 different trails to choose from when horseback riding which range in length from just .4 miles to a little over six miles. Your canine companion is also welcome to join you on equestrian trails but must be under voice command at all times.
If you enjoy watching animals in their natural habitat, you will want to pack your binoculars in your trailer. This huge state forest plays host to several different ecosystems, which provide homes for many different types of animals. Among the animals you might catch a glimpse of in this area include elk, deer, bighorn sheep, beavers, and river otters. Rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons are also abundant in the area, as are many species of bird, including starlings, swallows, woodpeckers, and owls.
If you are a fan of riding ATVs, be sure to tow your vehicle along with your camper or trailer. All of the roads and trails marked with green dots are multiuse trails that are suitable for both hiking and for riding ATVs and dirt bikes. It is important to be aware of hikers and equestrians on the trails.
If snowmobiling is your passion, the 67 miles of groomed snowmobile trails that are located in the state forest will make a wonderful winter destination. Trails designated for snowmobile use are groomed from December to April of each year, giving visitors a chance to experience these majestic pine forests when they are covered with a thick blanket of snow. Trails include, among others, the White’s Ridge Trail, a nearly 11-mile trail with views of Mount Adams and Yakama Valley, parts of the Ahtanum Meadows Campground, and the Red Saddle Trail.
Photography buffs will want to ensure that their camera is packed in their trailer. Along with the wide varieties of wildlife there are to photograph in Ahtanum State Forest, including elk, bighorn sheep, and white-headed woodpeckers, there are a number of stunning views as well. Picturesque images of Mount Adams and the Yakama Valley can be captured from the White’s Ridge trail and the Eagle’s Nest Vista provides an amazing view of Dome Peak, the North Fork Ahtanum drainage area, and the Goat’s Wilderness area.