As said on the main page: Our country's forests often have vistas, trails and wilderness that rival our National Parks and with fewer crowds. There are already plenty of sites dedicated to our National Parks. Also National Park designation is a little haphazard. How else could one explain why the Gateway Arch was added as a National Park in 2018? It's nice but not exactly a place to see nature. National forests appear to be more stable and less subject to this type of pressure. The last national forest added was the Finger Lakes National Forest in 1985. By comparison there have been 15 National Parks added since then (and well over 200 wilderness areas) designated in that time. National forests are also simply great places to explore and to be out in nature. National Parks can get so crowded and you can feel like you need to win the lottery just to get a permit to get into the backcountry. Whereas national forests have less of these types of drawbacks. Wilderness areas are great, and a key part of many national forests, but if you were to just visit wilderness areas you would miss some of the best parts of our national forests. Moreover some wilderness areas are perfectly reasonable to merit protection but really aren't set up for exploring. A large marshland may be necessary to protect but not a whole heck of lot of fun to go on a backpacking trip through. If you only have time to pursue one bucket list of visiting all our nation's forests, parks or wilderness areas, for all the reasons stated above, I highly recommend visiting some or all of our national forests.
There are 156 national forests and 3 state forest regions (North Maine Woods, Adirondacks and the PA Wilds) that are too significant not to include. 156+3=159. You can find the complete list by clicking on the List button above. Yes I know other websites list different numbers for the number of national forests. I believe this list is correct and that others are not counting each national forest individually. For each national forest that you plan to visit I recommend using a website that allows you to see each individual national forest. Websites like natural atlas or gaiagps are helpful but you may also want to check the official national forest webpage: https://data-usfs.hub.arcgis.com/datasets/usfs::fs-national-forests-dataset-us-forest-service-proclaimed-forests/explore?location=36.159089%2C-94.689813%2C4.86 so you can be sure you are visiting the particular forest you intend to visit. I would also suggest, especially for the smaller national forests, to check out some of the spectacular local state parks while visiting your national forest.
The North Maine Woods is a term used by Mainers to describe the large swath of forest in the northern half the state. It is massive and well over 3.5 million acres but a lot of it is private property. When I'm referring to visiting the North Maine Woods I'm referring to the parts of the North Maine Woods open to the public, such as the Allagash Wilderness, the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and Baxter State Park. These areas, and especially Baxter, are near sacred to Mainers and I can not stress enough how much you need to follow the rules of the land you visit.
The PA Wilds is a term used by Pennsylvania to describe the northern central region of the state. Like in Maine it is a huge piece of land, 2.1 million acres, with very few residents. Most would include the Allegheny National Forest as part of the PA Wilds but since that national forest is already on the list, I'm referring to just the Pennsylvania state forests in that region: Sproul, Susquehannock, Tiadaghton, Elk, Moshannon and Tioga. These six state forests are all near each other and total roughly 1.3 million acres. If you check out a dark sky map you'll see why this grouping of Pennsylvania state forests called the PA Wilds has to be included.
This one is easy to define, New Yorkers set up a "blue line" and if you are inside it you are in the Adirondacks. Inside the "blue line" is 6 million acres, roughly half is private land and almost half is public land. This massive region definitely needs to be on any list of our nation's forests.
I tried to list the state the forest is mostly in. Just keeping things simple.
East Coast, the South, Southwest, Midwest, Mountain West, Pacific Coast, Alaska and Puerto Rico. I find this order easiest but I later plan to include the same list organized in different orders, for those that prefer say an alphabetical list or a list organized by size.
Let your own conscience be your guide. A visit to a relatively tiny forest could be visited in half a day but many national forests can only really truly be visited by spending several days.
I just felt like if you are the type of person to be interested in visiting a national forest, you are probably also the type of person who would at least drive through a nearby National Park. Basically that map is only there to give a very rough idea of where the forests are for your initial planning purposes.
I'd eventually also like to add a link with details about each forest and a voting feature. I don't want the best forests or best views/waterfalls within a forest to be just my opinion, I'd prefer it to be the collective wisdom of all who have visited. Ideally people would only vote once they spent time sampling all the contenders. I'd also like to add a submit photographs feature so we can have the most iconic and most beautiful picture for each forest. But remember I'm just one guy so give me some time!
Besides donating using the Buy Me a Coffee link or supporting the Redbubble shop, I will eventually need help from people who have visited forests that I haven't explored yet. If anyone has already visited all 159 forests I would love for you to contact me. Thank you to all who support this website.
This website is just to help you to start daydreaming and guide your initial planning goals. I hope this makes it helpful. Please make sure you are prepared and ready before entering a national forest. Learn how to hike safely, bring the 10 essentials and follow leave no trace principles. There is a link to the US Forest service on this website, click on it and read the rules and suggestions the US Forest service recommends for the national forest you are visiting. The three state forest regions listed above also have rules and suggestions that you should follow.