Harvesting a Christmas Tree

Have you ever thought about heading into the woods and cutting your own Christmas tree? If you haven’t considered it, you should!

This was our first year cutting our own tree, and it was a great learning experience!

How Much Does it Cost?

A tree permit costs $5 in all of the forests listed below EXCEPT Snoqualmie-Baker – tree permits there are $10.

Do you happen to have a 4th grader? Then your tree permit is FREE! This is made possible by the Every Kid in a Park Initiative, which you can learn more about here.

Gifford Pinchot NF dusted in snow

Where to Harvest:

Forest locations:

Ranger Stations:

Gifford Pinchot National Forest Headquarters 
1501 E. Evergreen Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98661
Hours: Tues-Sat 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (360) 891-5001
Mt. Adams Ranger District 
2455 Highway 141, Trout Lake, WA  98650
Office Hours: Mon to Fri 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed for lunch) (509) 395-3400
Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
10024 US Hwy 12 – PO Box 670, Randle, WA  98377
Office Hours:  Mon to Fri 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed for lunch) (360) 497-1100
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument  
42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd., Amboy, WA  98607
Office Hours:  Mon to Fri 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (360) 449-7800
Tree Permit 2.png
Christmas Tree Permit 

Buy Your Tree Permit:

You can buy tree permits from either a ranger station located within the forest you’ll get your tree from (they’re location specific and nonrefundable) or you can pick one up at one of the vendors listed below:

  • Amboy: Amboy Market (360) 247-5421
    • Chelatchie Prairie General Store (360) 247-5529
  • Ashford: Ashford General Store (360) 569-2377
    • Ashford Valley Grocery (360) 569-2560
  • Carson: Wind River Market (509) 427-5565
    • Lakeside Country Store (360) 238-5202
  • Cougar: Cougar Store (360) 238-5228
    • Lone Fir Resort (360) 283-5210
  • Elbe: Elbe Mall (360) 569-2772
    • Elbe Junction (360) 524-7707
  • Home Valley: Home Valley Store (509) 427-4015
  • Kalama: Kalama Spirits and Tobacco (360) 673-4991
  • Kelso: Sportsman’s Warehouse (360) 423-2600
  • Packwood: Blanton’s Market (360) 494-6101
  • Randle: Fischer’s Market (360) 497-5355
    • Randle One Stop (360) 497-3261
  • Stevenson: Main St. Convenience Store (open 24 hours) (509) 427-5653
  • Trout Lake: Little Mountain (True Value) Hardware (509) 395-2773
  • Vancouver: Sportsman’s Warehouse (360) 604-8000
Our tree!

Picking a Tree

  • Search for your tree at least 150 feet from lakes, streams, ponds, or any wetland area
  • Avoid developed areas such as campsites or buildings
  • Choose a tree under 12 feet in height, and less than 6 inches in diameter
  • Try to find your tree in a crowded area, so one area does not become void of trees
  • Leave as short of a stump as possible (no more than 6 inches above the ground)
  • If you dig your tree out of the ground please remember to fill up the hole

Anything Else?

Yes! Be prepared for snowy conditions! Chances are that you’ll be encountering snow while on the hunt for the perfect tree. As always, this means you’ll want to take some precautions:

  • Tell someone where you are going
    • There is often no cellular service in these areas
  • Bring plenty of warm, water resistant, and snow specific clothes
  • Check that you have the 10 Essentials
  • Double check the weather and leave early to maximize daylight
  • Bring a vehicle that is capable of handling snowy conditions
    • Chains and a shovel are always a good precaution
  • Don’t forget warm drinks and extra food!
Drive with Caution


Northwest Avalanche Center: Check the avalanche conditions

USDA Forest Service Guide to Cutting a Christmas Tree

USDA Guide [PDF]

NOAA: Check the weather



Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!



Little Mashel Falls

“Little Mashel Falls” is actually three different waterfalls in one area. They are all located within the Pack Forest and, fortunately, there are no passes or fees required to enjoy this trail!

Location: Southwest WA, Eatonville
Roundtrip: 5 mi.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Gain: 500 ft
Rating: ★★★


  1. Once you arrive at the Pack Forest park in the designated parking area (located between the trailhead and the greenhouse).
  2. Begin by walking down “1000 RD North”
    – You’ll pass a gate that includes signage stating the only further access for visitors is “hike in only”
    – Don’t be confused by the fact that this road does not appear to actually head North. Eventually, it does a loop around to the North, but you’ll turn off before then.
  3. Watch for the “1050” sign the right and the “1060” directly to the left of 1050. The next intersection (1070) is the one you will take – it’s a Y junction and unmarked. Head left onto road 1070 once you get there.
  4. Continue on until you see a rock on the left-hand side of the road with the word “Falls” and an arrow painted on it.
  5. Continue through the forest and down a hill to the tree with 2 yellow diamonds. These will point you in the directions to the Upper and Lower Falls.
  6. Explore the Falls before hiking back out the way you came.

Map v.2.png

The Pack Forest is located about 10 minutes outside of Eatonville. Thus, you can typically get cell phone reception here. Still, it may be a good idea to take a screenshot or print directions to the falls as the trails here can be a bit confusing without guidance.

IMG_7305.jpgPictured Above: Rd 1000 North

That being said, it is a rather easy hike that’s perfect for a cool autumn or winter day (the trail is open all year). You won’t need to pay to access the trail and you’re welcome to bring a leashed pet along, but please be respectful of the land and pack out any trash you bring in.

Pictured Above: Upper Mashel Falls

There is generally a porta-potty located at the trailhead for public use, but you may wish to make a stop in town to take care of your bathroom break as there are no other public facilities here. This is true for water as well. Bring some with you!

Pictured Above: Middle Mashel Falls

A good portion of this trail does follow a forest road, but it is an enjoyable hike none the less. Once you turn off of Rd 1000 North you’ll pass through some lovely meadows before descending into a more traditional hiking area near the falls.

Snapseed (3).jpg
Pictured Above: Meadows on Rd 1070


It is imperative that you wear proper footwear here. The hills around the falls are steep and can be slippery.


Are There Toilets? : There is one porta-potty located at the trailhead.

 How about Picnic Tables? : No.

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : Nope!

 Are Dogs Allowed? : Yes. All dogs are required to be on a leash.

Can We Camp Here? : There are some campgrounds in the general area, but we suggest you make this a day hike from home.

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : The trail is open all year. In spring the spray from the falls may obscure pictures and in the fall and winter, the hills and inclines can be especially slippery.

Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to send us a message via the contact tab on the main menu!



Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


Eureka! Survivor 2 Backpacking Tent

This was my first experience with using a Eureka! product, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

I was slightly familiar with the name when I purchased this tent, but the main reason I made the purchase was simply that it seemed to fit my needs at a reasonable price.

quick specks.png

Best Used:

This is a two person tent. It’s for that reason that this tent is a great option for backpackers simply looking for some extra interior room. This could be helpful if you enjoy rolling around in your tent, if you need extra space for an adventure pup, or, of course, if you have two people that plan on sleeping in the same tent.

If you are backpacking with two full grown adults the fact that there is only one vestibule might pose a bit of a problem. Nevermind having to crawl over each other to get out – you won’t really have enough room for both packs.

On the upside, you can split the weight between the packs and only have to tote around about 2 pounds per person. Not ultra lightweight, but not bad!

Final Thoughts:

If you’re looking for a two-person tent to start out with (that isn’t hundreds of dollars) this would be a good option, but if you plan on regularly backpacking with two adults you should consider something with 2 vestibules.

This tent is best used by backpackers that want extra room and don’t mind the extra weight they carry for it. Likewise, if you’re traveling with a dog or child this is a great option.


Happy trails!



Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


Cape Disappointment Campground

Cape Disappointment Campground is the most popular campground along the Washington coastline- and for good reason. It’s large, open year-round, within walking distance of the ocean, well-maintained, has a small general goods store, and it isn’t far away from many other fun beach activities. Need I say more?

Rating: ★★★★★
Extra Parking:  $10 per vehicle
Online Reservations:  Yes!
Max Length:  45 ft. (Limited Availability)
Hookups: Yes
Restrooms:  Flush Toilets + Showers
Potable Water: Yes

With over 200 campsites (in addition to the yurts and cabins) there’s a lot to choose from when visiting this campground. You can make online reservations, but be aware that you’ll likely have to plan ahead during the warmer months- this is a popular park after all!

If you catch a weekend with good weather (or even if you don’t) this is a great place to visit. The campground has its own beach access and the sites are all comfortable. You can see an example of one of the campground’s loops pictured below, but many of the sites within the campground are more private than the ones pictured.


Along with the hookup and tent camping sites, there are also cabins and yurts avalible. These are a perfect option if you’re planning on going during the offseason when the chance of rain is much higher than in the summer. 

You can make a cabin/yurt reservation in much the same way as you reserve other sites; simply navigate to the Washington State Park’s reservation website (link) and select the site you’d like to reserve!


Each loop has potable water, flushing toilets, and pay to use showers (you’ll buy shower tokens to use them). The restrooms are well maintained, and when we visited in October they even had a fresh coat of paint!

You can see an example of one of the restroom blocks pictures below.



Washington State Parks: Cape Disappointment

NOAA Weather Forcast


WA State Parks: Rules and Regulations


Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


Thanksgiving Giveaway

We’re showing our followers how thankful we are for their support with our First Annual Thanksgiving Giveaway! 

How does it work?

If you follow our Facebook page you’ll automatically be entered to win!

At 3:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day (November 22, 2018) we’ll stream a drawing via Facebook Live and announce a winner (note: Only the first name of the winner will be announced via the live stream)! 

We’ll reach out to the winner within 24 hours of the drawing and they’ll have 1 week to respond. If the winner does not accept the prize within that time they will be considered to have forfeited the prize and we will draw another winner.

What are the prizes?

We’ll be giving away a one-month gift subscription for a Carin Adventure Box! 

Carin Boxes contain products from the five categories shown below. What is sent is always a surprise, but it’s sure to delight any outdoor enthusiast. 

You can learn more about Carin by visiting their website, www.getcarin.com.



It’s the donations we receive from our supporters that make The Northwest Quest possible. Please consider donating so that we can continue to bring you breakdowns and articles about this amazing region! 




Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


Additionally, if there is something you would like to find out more about, or if you have some cool ideas for the site, please send us a message! It’s our goal to tailor this site to suit the needs of our readers, and your input is always appreciated!!

Anything else?

  • There is NO PURCHASE NECESSARY to enter or win this giveaway. We are asking that you consider donating, but doing so will not increase your chances of winning. 
  • Only followers located in Washington and Oregon will be available to win the prize this year. If you don’t live in one of those states be sure to check in on our next giveaway!
  • Participants must be at least 18 years of age or older to enter. 

If you’d like to take a peek at the official rules and documents feel free to read them here: Thanksgiving Giveaway – OFFICIAL RULES
If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask via the Contact tab on the menu located at the top of this page.

Good luck and Happy Trails!!

We have a winner!




Ike Kinswa Campground

Ike Kinswa is a wonderful campground for making memories with family and friends. It has sites and cabins that are available all year and, although it’s most popular in summer, it’s a beautiful destination year round.

Rating: ★★★
Extra Parking: $10 per vehicle
Online Reservations:  Yes, Reserve Here!
Max Length:  60 ft (limited quantity)
Hookups: 36 partial, 39 full
Restrooms:  Flush Toilets and showers
Potable Water: Yes

Ike Kinswa.PNG

One of the major draws to this location is in its proximity to other popular camping areas in this region. Keep this in mind if you’re considering a road trip to Mt. St. Helens or Rainier in the future.

Even if you’re not passing through, Ike Kinswa is a wonderful destination in and of itself. In the summer the kids can play all day in the water or on the playground and in the evening everyone can relax among the trees or snuggle into a cabin for the night.


The cabins are reservable and open all year. There are a few options for pet owners, and if you’ve stayed in a cabin or yurt with Washington State parks before then the layout and furniture will likely be familiar. There are two rooms, one with a futon-style couch that sleeps two and one with a bunk bed that sleeps 3. There’s no running water within the cabins, but there are spigots just outside the front door and bathrooms are never far away either. Plus, it’s heated!


We recommend this as a wonderful place to bring people together. While this park does lack the sprawling, breathtaking vistas of some campgrounds farther into the mountains it does offer a close and immensely enjoyable place to gather with some of the people that mean the most.



Washington State Parks Website: Ike Kinswa


Ike Kinswa Map PDF

Weather Forecast


Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


Quinault Rainforest Loop

If this is your first trip to the Quinault area, the Quinault Rain Forest Loop is a wonderful choice! It’s an easy and very accessible trail that guides you through a lush temperate rainforest.

Location: Olympic Peninsula, Quinault
Roundtrip: 3.9 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Gain: 500 ft
Rating: ★★★★

Trail Map.jpg

The map above includes several of the other hikes in the area. We’ve highlighted the route we took, but if you’re interested in finding more there is a wonderful Ranger Station near the Inn. They have a binder full of pictures and maps of specific trails and the rangers and volunteers are incredibly helpful!

We’ll also include a (non-highlighted) printable PDF version in the resources below!

If the ranger station is closed you can take a look in the outdoor nook right outside the front door. This area displays area maps and conditions.


The Rain Forest Loop is a well-maintained trail. Luckily, volunteers work to cut back the forest just enough to keep the trail wide and accessible (it gets grown over so fast!).

There is also a smaller Rain Forest trail that includes interpretive signs and some really neat sights. If you have the time, this little trail is worth the trek!


The route we took included the Lakeshore Trail. We’ll dive more into that in another post, but if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to send us a message via the Contact page above!


Are There Toilets? : Yes. It doesn’t matter where you start the loop- there are bathrooms nearby.

 How about Picnic Tables? : The options here are more limited, but there is a nice cafe in the mercantile!

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : It depends on where you park. If you park at the ranger station you won’t need a pass, but if you park in the day-use area by the smaller Rain Forest Loop you’ll need a Discovery Pass or a day pass.

 Are Dogs Allowed? : Yes!

Can We Camp Here? : Yes! There are 3 campgrounds on this side of the lake; one of those campgrounds is open year-round

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : Any time! Just make sure to bring your rain gear.

Additional Resources:

NOAA Weather Forecast

Quinault Recreation Trail System Map

Washington Trails Association Link

Reserve a Campsite: Willaby (year-round camping)

Happy Trails!


Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


Cape Disappointment

Hike through history as you traverse one of the best parts of Washington’s coastline. Cape Disappointment got its name when one of the first European captains to sail along the coast failed to navigate through the sandbars at the mouth of the Columbia River. Make no mistake though, Cape Disappointment is no disappointment!

Location: Southwest Washington
Rating: ★★★★★

There are a number of gorgeous attractions located inside Cape Disappointment State Park. You might choose to visit the North Head Lighthouse, which is featured in the video above, or you could head over to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (pictured below). There is a small fee for entrance, but the exhibit is worth seeing (and if you’re lucky you can do some whale watching from their ocean view window!).


There are also a number of hikes in the area. You might want to try section hiking a portion of the Discovery Trail or marching up to Mckenzie Head. If hiking isn’t really your thing you could opt for water activities as well. There’s boating opportunities as well as fishing, clamming, and crabbing!

Either way, it’s nice to relax at a beautiful campsite after a long day of exploration. In fact, there are two campgrounds located within the park! The Cape Disappointment Campground also has a few small cabins for rent.


If you’re really up for an adventure you could rent out a portion of the lighthouse keeper’s residence! It’s located near the North Head Lighthouse and is packed with history. This home might be a century old, but it still comes with a TV and DVD player!

It rents for $200-300 per night in winter and up to $440 in summer. If you would like to see pictures of the inside of the residence you can follow the link in the resources section of this article.


Are There Toilets? : Yes! There are many restrooms located throughout the park

 How about Picnic Tables? : There are a few located in the day use area just beyond the ranger station.

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : Yes. You can purchase a day pass for $10 or use a Discover Pass.

 Are Dogs Allowed? : Yes

Can We Camp Here? : Yes! There are a few campgrounds located here.

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : If the weather permits, head on down! It can be rainy in late fall and winter, but if there’s a break in the weather you should certainly take advantage of it.

Extra Resources:

Cape Disappointment Map – PDF

WA State Parks – Cape Disappointment

Weather Forecast

Vacation Rental: Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence

Hurricane Hill

Location: Olympic National Park, Port Angeles
Roundtrip: 3.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Gain: 650 ft.
Rating: ★★★★★


The Hurricane Ridge area played a huge role in inspiring this website. There are a great number of easy to moderate trails with expansive views of some of the most beautiful mountains in Washington state. Hurricane Hill is no exception. If you have the stamina it’s a must see when visiting the ridge.

There are three parking areas on the access road between the Hurricane Ridge Ranger Station and the trailhead. Two of which are specifically designated as picnic areas (as well as overflow parking).

Don’t let the signs that say “Not recommended for RVs or Buses” scare you off (unless, of course, you actually have an RV or bus). The access road is paved the entire way and passable by any passenger car or truck.

A great many people enjoy this trail, and a great number of them don’t expect quite the climb it actually ends up being. If you’re in great shape it won’t pose a problem, but if you’re more like us you may have to take it a bit slow. No worries though, you can absolutely make it!

This trail is an out-and-back style. If you’re super adventurous and have the stamina you can certainly add on the Little River or Elwha Ranger Station trails. They are much more strenuous though, so make sure to do a little research before planning on that!


Are There Toilets? : Yes! There are flush toilets available at all of the parking areas.

 How about Picnic Tables? : Oh yes, there are two picnic areas that also serve as overflow parking for the trail.

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : You will need to buy a pass at the entrance station if you do not already have a national park pass.

 Are Dogs Allowed? : No. This land is part of a national park and, therefore, pets are not allowed.

Can We Camp Here? : Heart o’ the hills is a wonderful campground that’s located just past the entrance station and to the left.

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : Anytime! Hurricane Ridge is open year-around (weekends only during winter).

If you’re thinking of heading up in the winter you’ll need snowshoes and tire chains. You should also take a look at the current road conditions through the Hurricane Ridge Twitter feed via this link!


Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


First Aid Certification!

The Northwest Quest has spent the last few weekends indoors- and it was well worth it!

We’re happy to announce that, after hours of lecture, study, and testing, we’ve been certified to provide wilderness and mountaineering oriented first aid!

This training program was facilitated by the Olympia branch of the Mountaineers.

As a community, the Mountaineers consists of over 13,000 outdoor enthusiasts here in the Pacific Northwest. It is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization that is dedicated to many of the same principles as the Northwest Quest.

We’re proud to be a part of this community and invite you to learn more by visiting their website with this link!


Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


Deer Park Campground

Getting to Deer Park might be a touch intimidating if you don’t often find yourself driving up mountains on narrow dirt roads. That being said, the road is well maintained and the view is well worth the 20-mile drive from the highway (9 of which are on the dirt road).

Rating: ★★★★ (.5)
Price:  $17 per night
Online Reservations:  No
Max Length:  Not Recommended for Trailers
Hookups: None
Restrooms:  Vault Toilets
Potable Water: None

A higher clearance vehicle is recommended for this road, and this is not a campground for RVs or even most trailers. Don’t fret too much though; our Subaru made it with no trouble at all. You can see a short clip in the above video of an example of the road within the campground, but this was the worst section of the entire drive up. The main road in, despite being dirt, is quite flat easy, riding.


The views from the campground are spectacular both day and night (if it’s not too cloudy). The campsites themselves range from very private to more open with wide views of the sky. Don’t expect too many neighbors though- this is a small campground of only 14 sites after all.


“Pets and bicycles are not permitted on the trails. Open fires outside of campground fire pits are not permitted above 3,500 feet. Backpackers must obtain a wilderness camping permit.”                                                                         

                                                                                                      – Olympic National Park

Keep in mind that there is no potable water here; make sure you have enough before heading up! At night ensure your food is in an animal safe container (such as your car, a bear canister, or the lockers provided by the park).

There is a Ranger Station nearby, but it is only occasionally occupied and only during warmer months (the road is closed in winter).


Take a look at the map below for hiking ideas (if you have the stamina, Obstruction Point shouldn’t be missed!), and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!



Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!


Staircase Rapids

Location: Olympic NP, Hoodsport
Roundtrip: 4 Miles (2 mi. w/o Four Streams)
Difficulty: Easy
Gain: 150 Ft.
Rating: ★★★★★map.png

The Staircase Rapids trail is a classic and it’s something you shouldn’t miss if you’re camping in the Staircase Campground.

You’ll begin by crossing over the bridge that’s visible from the parking area. There are a few benches here where you can stop and enjoy the sound of rushing water from the North Fork of Skokomish River just below.

Also, make sure you take a moment to carefully look over and into the waters; sometimes the river shines in brilliant blue hues.


You’ll continue past the trailhead a short way before coming to a small sign with an arrow. The sign simply says, “Big Ceder.” This is a short detour and worth the effort. The base of the tree, which is now resting on its side, has a 14-foot diameter!

If you so choose to take the short spur trail to the Big Ceder you can make your way right back to the main trail whenever you’re ready.

For the most part, the main trail is easy and only has a few spots where you’ll have to navigate a few rocks as the trail meanders through the old growth forest.


You’ll find the sign pictured above after about a mile on the main loop. From here you can either decide to travel down to (and back from) Four Streams by taking the trail to the left, or you may decide to continue right on to the bridge that crosses over the rapids by bearing right.

Either way, you’ll end up making your way across the bridge. After taking in the views you’ll find that the trail coming off the bridge is a touch tricky due to some social trails that have been cut down to the river. Just keep to the left and follow the trail back into the forest opposite the way you came.


Not long after crossing the bridge you’ll come to another small wooden sign pointing towards the ranger station by the campground. You’ll follow the arrow to the right and hike a quick mile back to finish the loop.

The trail ends in the overnight parking behind the ranger station; if you parked in the day use area or campground you’ll continue on just a bit more before you actually reach your vehicle.



Are There Toilets? : There is a vault toilet located at the trail head.

 How about Picnic Tables? : There are a few tables hidden on the trail to the amphitheater, but I wouldn’t count on eating lunch there.

 Do I Need a Parking Pass? : Yes. Either display your National Parks Pass or pay the entrance fee.

 Are Dogs Allowed? : No. This trail is located completely within the National Park.

Can We Camp Here? : Yes! Staircase Campground is located right by the trailhead. This campground does not have reservable sites.

 When is the Best Time to Visit? : This area is open all year!


Help support The Northwest Quest by donating today!