National Forest Foundation | Umatilla National Forest

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Umatilla National Forest

The Umatilla National Forest, located in the Blue Mountains of southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, covers 1.4 million acres of diverse landscapes and plant communities.

The Forest has some mountainous terrain, but most of the Forest consists of v-shaped valleys separated by narrow ridges or plateaus. Elevation ranges from 1,600 to 8,000 feet.

The Forest takes its name from the Indian word meaning "water rippling over sand." Explorers Lewis and Clark came past this land in 1805 on their Columbia River Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman passed this way in 1836 to establish a mission at Wailatpu near Walla Walla, Washington.

Three designated wilderness areas exist on the Umatilla National Forest: the Wenaha-Tucannon, the North Fork Umatilla, and the North Fork John Day. The Umatilla's wilderness radiates down into steep gorges and canyons from high plateaus instead of upward to high peaks and alpine lakes. This unusual terrain offers a unique wilderness experience.

The Forest habitat supports a wide range of wildlife, including one of the largest herds of Rocky Mountain elk found on any National Forest in the nation. Among its diverse wildlife, you may see blue and ruffed grouse, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, a California bighorn sheep.

There is a wide range of recreational activities available, including: fishing, riding Off-Highway Vehicles, rafting, hiking and equestrian trails, hunting, and camping. Throughout the Umatilla you can visit scenic overlooks.

You can also experience the Umatilla's beauty from your car by driving the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, which consists of 130 miles of paved road, allowing east-west travelers an alternative route between the Columbia River near Arlington and Baker City, Oregon. This Scenic Byway is not accessible year-round due to snowfall at the higher elevations, so check ahead for route closures.

Winter on the Umatilla offers a number of recreation opportunities: cross-country ski trails, downill skiing (Bluewood Ski Area and Spout Springs Ski Resort), snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sledding, and innertubing.



Oregon, Washington

Nearest Large Urban Area:


Notes & Conditions:

Research campground locations and amenities at the U.S. National Forest Campground Directory. The Web site is full of pictures and detailed descriptions to help you plan your next trip.

If you want to experience a guided recreation trip in a National Forest, visit Adventure Vacation to learn about whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hiking and fishing trips.


Visit the U.S. Forest Service Map Directory to see what maps are available for this Forest and others you may want to visit.