If you are an equestrian living within driving distance of Eatonville, WA, you are a lucky rider indeed! You get to enjoy the delightful year-round riding at Pack Forest, home of the University of Washington’s Center for Sustainable Forestry. This beautiful area is laced with closed roads that provide excellent winter riding. And in summer and fall when the soil dries out, you’ll find additional riding on a very nice network of single-track trails.
The Little Mashel River flows through Pack Forest.
While Pack Forest’s primary purpose is the study of sustainable forestry practices, the entire 4,300-acre property is open to non-motorized recreation. Its roads and trails are justifiably popular with equestrians, hikers, joggers, dog walkers, and mountain bike riders alike.
In wet weather you can explore the forest via miles and miles of gravel roads that are never muddy or slick. And in summer and fall you can vary your rides using the forest’s single-track trails, which connect with the forest roads to create additional loop opportunities.
The parking area at Pack Forest can accommodate many trailers.
In addition to the forest, meadows, and ponds you’ll find at Pack Forest, you can also visit the summit of Hugo Mountain, a 1,700-foot peak that rewards you with views of the Olympics and the Nisqually River Valley.
Or you can ride the single-track Falls Trail to see the three Little Mashel Falls (the falls are certainly not little, but the water flowing over them comes from the Little Mashel River). The largest is Middle Falls, also known as Bridal Veil Falls. You’ll need to tie your horse and scramble down the steep hillside to get a view of the falls, but use care because the terrain can be treacherous when wet.
Middle Falls, also known as Bridal Veil Falls, on the Little Mashel River.
As you ride, you’ll notice that the routes signed with yellow diamonds are open to hikers only, while the routes marked with blue diamonds are open to equestrians and bikes as well as hikers. This is a working forest, so logging operations may temporarily close some sections of the forest. Dogs are allowed but must be under voice control, and hunting is allowed in season.
Whether you ride the forest’s roads or trails, visit Hugo Mountain or the falls on the Little Mashel River, or simply enjoy a relaxing ride through its pretty forested terrain, Pack Forest will not disappoint.
The Riding: On the east side of the equestrian trailhead, ride around the large steel gate and pick up Road 1010. From here you can explore the entire forest.
Trail Statistics: Pack Forest has dozens of miles of non-motorized trails, with elevations of 800 to 1,700 feet. The riding is easy to moderate, and the trails are shared with hikers and mountain bike riders. Because the forest roads are graveled, hoof protection is recommended. There is no stock water on the trail.
Getting to Pack Forest: From Eatonville, drive south on Hwy. 161 (Eatonville-LaGrande Road). Four miles after crossing the Mashel River, turn left on Hwy. 7. In 0.1 mile, turn left on an unsigned gravel road that leads to the gravel parking area for horse trailers.
Season: Year round
Parking Facilities: Parking for 4-8 trailers. No other facilities. No fee for parking.
More Information: The Pack Forest trails are covered in the “Pack Forest” chapter of Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, Ponderosa Press, 2016).
Reprinted with permission from Northwest Rider Magazine, March 2016.