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By: Dave Helgeson

Places to Ride: Tahuya State Forest, Washington

Clear cut logging area
Clear cut logging area

Deep in the forest
Deep in the forest

Gravel Pit
Gravel Pit

Anyone who rides an ATV in Western Washington has ridden or at least heard about Tahuya State Forest.

Near Belfair, Washington, Tahuya State Forest is the premier riding area for off-road vehicles of all types. What makes Tahuya so popular?

  1. It is one of the few areas in Western Washington with dedicated ATV trails.
  2. The area is open year around.
  3. It is less than 80 miles from Seattle, the largest city in the State of Washington, and 50 miles from Tacoma, the second largest city in the State of Washington.
  4. It is very near sea level which means moderate winter temperatures and no snow.
  5. The area consists of glacial till which means very little mud and firm bottoms to the numerous winter water hazards.

In addition to the logistical reasons listed above are the awesome, well-signed trails that allow numerous loop opportunities through the forest. Short loops of a few miles are available for mom and the kids. Those that want to spend some serious time on the trail can spend a good portion of their day on the Overland Trail which takes you far from the staging areas, but still offers a loop opportunity. Those that just want to play or watch their kids play, can visit the Sand Hill Gravel Pit (a small semi- abandoned gravel pit) which has a user-made track and various spur trails in and through the trees. Designated 4x4 trails are also open to ATV use. Tahuya State Forest consists of around 2,000 acres of riding area on forested state land. Some trails are occasionally closed as the portions of the forest are periodically logged to provide state funding for schools. There is very little change in elevation over the area, so if hill climbing is your passion, Tahuya is not for you.

There are several day-use staging areas to ride from:

  • Elfendahl Pass Staging Area (Camping also allowed)
  • Mission Creek Staging Area
  • Sand Hill Gravel Pit

A map of the riding area can be viewed at:
When you tire of riding, grab your fishing gear and ride over to Howell Lake. A nice loop trail passes by the lake.

There are four designated camping areas at Tahuya State Forest. They are:

  • Elfendahl Staging area
  • Tahuya River Horse Camp*
  • Kamenga Campground*
  • Camp Spillman*

They have pit toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings.

You can ride your ATV in and out of the campgrounds.

Limit your stay to 7 days

*These are group campgrounds that require advance reservations with the exception of the following holiday weekends: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. On holiday weekends spaces are on a first-come, first-serve basis. To make reservations, send an e-mail to or call 360-802-7070, Ext. 2400. When making a reservation please include your name, e-mail address, group size, requested dates, campground name, and site number(s).

Nearby Belfair State Park offers showers and full hook up RV spaces. However, you cannot access the trail system from the state park, and you may not operate your ATV in the park.

Do you like mud?
Do you like mud?

Trail Point
Trail Point

Ridge Line
Ridge Line

Rules and Regulations:

  • All ATVs must be titled and registered, with owners receiving an Off-Road Vehicle use permit and ORV tag to place on their ATV.
  • Motorized use after dark is not permitted.
  • No one under age 13 may operate an ATV on or across a highway or road except on a road designated for off-highway vehicle use under direct supervision of a person at least 18 who has a driver's license.
  • No overnight camping is allowed at the Sand Hill Gravel Pit or any other undesignated site.
  • USFS Spark arrester is required.
  • No Fireworks
  • Campfires in designated DNR fire pits only
  • Stay on designated trails

Getting There:
From Belfair head west on NE North Shore Road (Hwy 300). To reach the Sand Hill Gravel Pit turn right on NE Sand Hill Road and follow it up the hill to the pit on the left. For more centralized staging, continue straight on NE North Shore Road (Hwy 300) past Belfair State Park. Then turn right on Belfair Tahuya Road heading up a fairly steep hill. When you reach the top of the hill the Mission Creek staging area will be on your right. To reach Elfendahl Pass Staging Area and the campgrounds, continue straight to NE Elfendahl Pass Road. Take a right on Elfendahl Road and continue a couple miles to the Elfendahl Pass Staging Area which will be on your right. Elfendahl is a great place for a first visit to get you familiarized with the area. It is centrally located and offers many loop options to explore. The campgrounds are nearby; consult the map for locations.

Fuel, groceries, restaurants ,and lodging are available in nearby Belfair. The nearest ATV shops are in Bremerton.

For more information visit: ... orest.aspx
Or contact:

Washington State DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources)
PO Box 47000
1111 Washington Street SE
Olympia, WA 98504-7000
(360) 902-1000

Be safe, enjoy, and I hope to see you on the trails.

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