Elbe Hills and Tahoma State Forests

Elbe Hills State Forest (22,140 acres in eastern Pierce County) and Tahoma State Forest (32,600 acres in Lewis County) are DNR-managed lands that provide sustainable revenue in support of trust land beneficiaries. Timber production, biomass byproducts, communication tower leases, and other activities in these forests help fund specific beneficiaries, such as county services, prisons, universities, and the construction of public K-12 grade schools throughout Washington.
Left nearly barren by timber harvesting techniques of the early 20th century, these lands have been revitalized into productive working forests and natural habitat through extensive efforts by DNR. Through land trades with private parties in the 1980s, DNR improved access to both of these forests, which flank the town of Elbe in the Nisqually River Valley near Mount Rainier.
Like other forested trust lands DNR manages, Elbe Hills and Tahoma state forests help sustain healthy, diverse forest habitats; revenue production for trust beneficiaries and an array of educational and recreational opportunities for the public.

When working in or visiting these forests, always remember to:

Those interested in learning about planned forest activities in, or near, Elbe Hills or Tahoma State Forests may use our Habitat Conservation Planrecreation planning, Forest Practices Application Review System (FPARS), and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) web pages to find out about proposed and authorized timber harvests, thinning projects, road projects, planning efforts, and other activities.


Elbe Hills and Tahoma State Forests provide a wide array of recreational opportunities. Trail systems for horseback riding and off-road vehicle riding are the foundation of recreation in Elbe Hills State Forest. Tahoma State Forest is a destination for winter activities, including cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, and has overnight accommodations at backcountry ski huts, one of which is in Elbe Hills State Forest. The hut-to-hut trail system is also open to mountain biking and hiking in the summer.
  • To access recreation sites on DNR-managed land with your vehicle, you'll need a Discover Pass, your ticket to Washington's great outdoors.
  • To access sno-parks between November 1 and April 30, you'll need a Sno-Park Permit. You may either purchase a seasonal Sno-Park Permit or a one-day Sno-Park Permit. If you purchase a one-day Sno-Park Permit, you will also need a one-day Discover Pass or an annual Discover Pass.
  • Limit stay to 10 days in a 30-day period.
  • Enjoy a campfire in approved fire pits in designated campgrounds only. Always check for burn restrictions before lighting a campfire. 
  • Don't Move Firewood: Help protect Pacific Northwest forests by preventing the spread of invasive species. Firewood can carry insects and diseases that can threaten the health of our western forests. Please purchase your firewood near your campsite. Find further information here.
  • Dogs allowed on leash. Horseback riders may bring unleashed dogs controlled by voice command. No dogs allowed at backcountry huts.
  • Dispersed camping, or camping outside of a designated campground, is allowed in Elbe Hills and Tahoma state forests. 
Trail maps
 Download our georeferenced map to your smartphone using the Avenza PDF Maps Mobile app. For downloading instructions, visit our blog.  Or, purchase the printed version for $9 online or in person, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., from the Washington State Department of Printing, 7580 New Market Street St. SW, Tumwater, WA 98501. Use our statewide interactive recreation map to find other recreation opportunities near you.

Recreation sites

Elbe Hills State Forest
Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek Trailhead, in the Elbe Hill State Forest, provides visitors with access to the 40-mile Nicholson Horse trail system for horseback riding and hiking. There are also high lines for horses. Open dawn to dusk.
Directions: Start at Elbe. Go east on SR-706 for 6 miles. Turn left on 278 Street East. Continue 3.7 miles. and turn left. Go .1 mi. and turn left on first road. Go 1 mile and bear right, continue 1 mile. to trailhead on the left. Get directions
Elbe Hills ORV Campground and Trailhead
This 20-site campground and nearby trailhead provide access to 13 miles of motorized trails in the Elbe Hills State Forest. It has five picnic tables, a shelter, and a toilet.
NOTE: Reservations are required. Please call 360-825-1631 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Holiday weekends and work party weekends are open to everyone, no reservation needed. 
Directions: Start at Elbe. Go east on SR-706 for 6.3 miles. Turn left on 278 Avenue East. Go 3.1 miles. Keep right. Go .6 miles. Turn left for .1 miles to trailhead. Get directions
Memorial Trailhead
Memorial Trailhead, in the Elbe Hills State Forest, provides day-use visitors access to Nicholson Horse Trail system, which has beautiful views of Mount Rainier. Trailhead has high lines available for horses and vault toilet.
Directions: Start at Elbe, take DNR 5 Rd, from Hwy 7, continue 1.5 miles, bear left to trailhead entrance, .1 mile. High lines available for horses.
Sahara Creek Camp
Sahara Creek Horse Camp, located close to Rainier National Park, is a forested setting fit to accommodate horses. Provides access to the Nicholson Horse Trail System. Campground has 20 campsites, picnic tables, hitching rails, and vault toilets.
Directions: Start at Elbe. Go east on SR-706 for 5.3 miles. Campground is on the north side of highway. Get directions.
92- Road Sno-Park
Located in the Elbe Hills State Forest at 3,300 feet, the 92 Road Sno-Park provides access to winter activities in the Mount Tahoma Trail system. Sno-park provides opportunities for cross-country skiing and snow shoeing. Hiking and mountain biking is available in the summer. Parking lot has 30 spaces. Facilities include shelter, toilet.
  • To park at sno-parks on DNR-managed land, you'll need an all-season sno park pass; OR a one-day sno-park pass AND either a one-day Discover Pass or an annual Discover Pass.
Directions: Head east from Elbe on Highway 706 east to 278 Street East north for .5 mile. Continue 5 miles north on Roads 8, 9 and 92 to parking area.
Tahoma State Forest
1 Road Sno-Park
Located at 2,360 feet, the 1 Road Sno-Park provides cross-country skier and snowshoe access to Mount Tahoma trail system from the Tahoma State Forest. The location of the 1 Road Sno-Park moves depending on the snow level. If there is a lot of snow and the gate to the upper area is locked, then use the lower Sno-park at 2,360 feet elevation. If there is less snow and the gate to the upper area is open, then head farther up the road to the Upper 1 Road Sno-Park at 3,000-feet elevation.
  • To park at sno-parks on DNR-managed land, you'll need an all-season sno park pass; OR a one-day sno-park pass AND either a one-day Discover Pass or an annual Discover Pass.
Directions: Take Hwy 706 east from Elbe 6.5 miles.  Turn right to enter the Tahoma State Forest on DNR 1 Road (at the yellow church).  Follow forest road for 2.7 miles, turning left to continue on 1 Road.  Follow .4 miles and turn right.  Follow remaining 2.9 miles to the 1 Road Sno-Park.
Mount Tahoma Ski Huts
Three huts and a yurt make up the Mount Tahoma Ski Huts, managed by the Mount Tahoma Trails Association. Access the huts from the 50-mile Mount Tahoma trail system, which provides unparalleled views of the Cascade Range and Mount Rainier. Ski huts include the Yurt, Copper Creek Hut, Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut, and High Hut. Restrooms available at huts.
  • Huts are open to the public for day trips from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Overnight stays are available by reservation through the Mount Tahoma Trails Association (MTTA). Email mtta@skimtta.com for more information.
  • Dogs are not allowed in the huts and should be on a leash or under voice control on trails at all times. No dogs allowed in MTTA's north district, which includes Copper Creek Hut. The north district is located in the Mount Rainier Gateway Forest, a wildlife preserve. Service animals per the Americans with Disabilities Act are allowed. 
Directions: Follow directions for 1 Road Sno-Park. Huts are signed. To park at sno-parks on DNR-managed land, you'll need an all-season sno park pass; OR a one-day sno-park pass AND either a one-day Discover Pass or an annual Discover Pass.