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By: Dave Helgeson

Places to Ride: Blue Lake Loop near Randle, Washington

Trail climbing towards Blue Lake
Trail climbing towards Blue Lake

ATV sales have soared in recent years, but the US Forest Service has been slow in Washington State to add recreational opportunities for ATV users. Few single-track trails have been widened for ATV use and virtually no new ATV trails have been constructed. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington State is one of the few exceptions. Some single-track trails have been reconstructed to ATV standards creating the Blue Lake Ridge Trail and Valley Trail. Designated Trail #271, Blue Lake Ridge Trail leaves the Blue Lake ORV Trailhead and climbs steadily through thick conifer forests. The trail crosses several decommissioned roads before arriving at Blue Lake after about 3 miles of travel. The trail then proceeds along a gently sloping ridge, passing by Mouse Lake before descending to Trail #270. Trail #270, also known as the Valley Trail, can be used to complete your loop back to the trailhead. Total loop distance is about 23 miles. You can also head east from the junction of Trails #271 and #270 and ride as far as Road 78 which will provide access to Cat Creek Campground. I recently had a chance to ride some of the trail and found it enjoyable, challenging in spots and very scenic. The trail was well signed at junctions with trail numbers and difficulty ratings. They are well suited for 48” wide ATVs. I wouldn’t recommend wider ATVs unless you are comfortable crossing side hills with half your tire hanging off the trail in places. A trail map can be found at:

http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/recreation/trails/maps/cvd-blue-lake.shtml or http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/recreation/trailbikes/documents/bluelakequadloop.pdf

Trail Junction
Trail Junction

Where to camp:
Camping is available at Blue Lake Creek, Cat Creek, Adams Fork, and dispersed sites preferably near trailheads. In these areas, including campgrounds, you may ride your ATV to trailheads within or adjacent to camp areas.

Developed campgrounds:
Blue Lake Creek Campground is located just north of Blue Lake Trailhead with direct trail access via Trail #270. It contains 11 sites which run $15 per night. Complete details are available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/recreation/campgrounds/sites/blue-lake-creek.shtml. Cat Creek Campground contains 5 spaces, and there is currently no fee to camp. Trail access is across the street. Complete details are available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/recreation/campgrounds/sites/cat-creek.shtml

Adams Fork Campground also accesses the trail system. This campground will accommodate RVs to 22-ft. and is on the reservation system. Complete details are available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/recreation/campgrounds/sites/adams-fork.shtml#information

Trail out of staging area.

Rules and Regulations:
License and equipment required: Motorized users (motorcycles and ATVs) need to meet the requirements of Washington State Law and Forest Service regulations.  State law requires current ORV stickers (issued by the Department of Motorized Vehicles).  Forest Service regulations require approved spark arresters.  Motorized users must stay on designated trails.

The trails are closed Dec. 1 – April 1 to minimize disturbance to wildlife. Typically the higher trails are free of snow, and wind fall is logged out by mid-June.

Fireworks are not allowed.

Getting there:
From I-5, travel east on State Highway 12 to Randle, Washington. From Randle, head south on State Highway 131 one mile, stay left at Y for Forest Service Road 23.
Follow Forest Service Road 23 to the trailhead.

More information:
US Forest Service
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Randle Ranger Station
3068 Hwy12
Randle, WA 98361
360-497-1100
Be safe, enjoy; and I hope to see you on the trails.


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