Lizzie Dragon
by Lizzie Dragon
Posted May 13, 2021

If you ask us, National Forests don’t get enough credit. 153 stunning National Forests make their home in 40 states, and we’re here to give credit where credit is due. Wait before heading to google to search “national forest near me,” because we’ve got you covered.

We’ve gathered a list of the best national forests to visit in each of these 40 states. Keep reading to find national forests nearest you!

Alabama — Talladega National Forest

Image source: trailheadtraveler.com

Sitting along the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, Talladega National Forest is surely a sight to behold. You’re in for some great views whether you take a drive on the Talladega Scenic Byway or a hike to Cheaha Falls.

Alaska — Tongass National Forest

Image source: outsideonline.com

With 16.7 million acres, Tongass National Forest is the largest U.S. National Forest. That alone should convince you it’s worth a visit. While you’re there, you can fish in the streams or even take a dog sled ride on a glacier. And if you’re lucky, you may even spot a brown bear or four.

Arizona — Coconino National Forest

Image source: sedonamonthly.com

Coconino National Forest has one of the most diverse landscapes on the list. Comprised of the red rocks of Sedona and the Ponderosa pine forests, this national forest is one your eyes will never tire of.

Arkansas — Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

Image source: fs.usda.gov

With Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, you get a 2-in-1 deal. Ozark National Forest is 1.2 acres and is located among the Ozark Mountains. Here, you’ll find the tallest mountain in the state, Mount Magazine, and the living underground cave, Blanchard Springs Caverns. Over at St. Francis National Forest, the small but mighty 22,600 acres is home to diverse forestry.

California — Inyo National Forest

Image source: alltrails.com

Anglers, mountain bikers, and snow sport enthusiasts gather at Inyo National Forest. Whether it’s winter or summer, there is always something here for everyone to enjoy across the 1 million acres of wilderness.

Colorado — San Isabel National Forest

Image source: colorado.edu

There are more than 50 mountains in Colorado known as “fourteeners” — mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet. 19 of these can be found in San Isabel National Forest, including the tallest mountain in Colorado, Mount Elbert.

Florida — Ocala National Forest

Image source: stateparks.com

With more than 600 lakes and rivers , visitors to Ocala National Forest can swim, fish, kayak, and even snorkel. Take a dip under the canopy of oaks in Juniper Springs and experience Florida wildlife in all its beauty.

Georgia — Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

Image source: exploregeorgia.org

Spanning 867,000 acres in Georgia, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest has thousands of miles of streams, around 850 miles of trails, and more than 500 different fish and wildlife species. Each year, over 10 million people visit the Chattahoochee forest, and this year, you should be one of them.

Idaho — Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Image source: peakvisor.com

Caribou-Targhee National Forest stretches more than 3 million acres and is easily accessible from every border. Go cross-country skiing, hike Darby Canyon, or horseback ride through the mountains.

Illinois — Shawnee National Forest

Image source: recreation.gov

From the forest to the bluffs, Shawnee not only has diverse scenery but also diverse wildlife, including Big Foot. Hike through the Garden of the Gods or make a trek to find a local favorite, the Golden Circle.

Indiana — Hoosier National Forest

Image source: visitbloomington.com

Hoosier National Forest, in the rolling hills of Indiana, has more than 260 miles of trails, making it great for a short trek or a backpacking adventure. Keep an eye out for eagles!

Kentucky — Daniel Boone National Forest

Image source: kentuckytourism.com

The sandstone cliffs of Daniel Boone National Forest are a climbers paradise. If rock climbing isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are more than 600 miles of trails with hikes of varying difficulties.

Louisiana — Kisatchie National Forest

Image source: hikingproject.com

Wander around Kisatchie National Forest under the shade of its tall pines. Venture by foot on the Wild Azalea trail as the azaleas are in spring bloom or through the longleaf pines by car on the Longleaf Trail Byway.

Maine — White Mountain National Forest

Image source: visitmaine.com

White Mountain National Forest spans 800,000 acres of western Maine and New Hampshire. Visitors can hike the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness of Maine from June to September, or make the trek throughout the 47,000 acres to frolic through the fall foliage.

Michigan — Hiawatha National Forest

Image source: muninsing.org

Kissing the shorelines and beaches of three Great Lakes, Hiawatha is home to six historic Michigan lighthouses and an abundance of natural beauty. Spend the day at two Great Lake islands, paddle along the beaches, and venture through the hardwood forest.

Minnesota — Superior National Forest

Image source: queticosuperior.org

There are boating, fishing, swimming, and canoeing opportunities galore at Superior National Forest. With over 2,000 lakes and streams, water-lovers will fall in love with this Minnesota forest.

Mississippi — De Soto National Forest

Image source: reddit.com

Meander through the Southern pines and kayak through the clear streams in De Soto National Forest. How you get around is up to you. Ride a horse, ATV, or bike as you explore.

Missouri — Mark Twain National Forest

Image source: 417mag.com

1.5 million acres make up Mark Twain National Forest, with 200 miles of the 500-mile Ozark Trail winding through. Float along the clear streams or take a dip in Greer spring, one of the most pristine in the state.

Montana — Flathead National Forest

Image source: discoverkalispell.com

The 2.4 million acres of Flathead National Forest sits among the Rocky Mountains of Northwest Montana. South of the Canadian border, there’s beauty to discover during every season.

Nebraska — Nebraska National Forest

Image source: onlyinyourstate.com

Located in the Nebraska sandhills is the largest hand-planted forest in the United States, Nebraska National Forest. Go stargazing in the Scott Lookout Tower or floating in the Middle Loup River. The views will take your breath away.

Nevada — Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Image source: travelnevada.com

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest hosts over four million visitors each year. Composed of 6.3 million acres of volcanic canyons, gray limestone peaks, and diverse plant life, it’s the largest Forest in the lower 48 states.

New Hampshire — White Mountain National Forest

Image source: nationalforests.org

White Mountain National Forest, with some of the highest peaks in New England, is great for winter activities, including alpine skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling. Outside of the winter season, popular activities including basking in the sunshine at the Lower Falls and taking in the gorgeous views on the Welch-Dickey trail.

New Mexico — Cibola National Forest

Image source: nationalforests.org

From the desert to the juniper, pine, and spruce-fir forests, Cibola National Forest boasts a vast landscape and varying activity. Hunt elk, antelope, turkey, or deer, ski at Sandia Peak, or fish at McGaffey Lake.

New York — Finger Lakes National Forest

Image source: americanforests.org

At Finger Lakes National Forest in New York State, you can go blueberry picking, wildlife watching, and horseback riding. A gorgeous woodland backdrop, open lands, and free-ranging cattle make up this forest.

North Carolina — Pisgah National Forest

Image source: visitnc.com

Hardwood forest and whitewater rivers decorate the Pisgah National Forest. Take America’s favorite scenic drive, Blue Ridge Parkway through the forest, stopping to hike Black Balsam. Or wander down Forest Heritage Scenic Byway to Moore Cave Falls and Looking Glass Rock.

Ohio — Wayne National Forest

Image source: ohio.org

In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains lies Wayne National Forest. Here, you can enjoy off-roading and horseback riding, canoe Muskingum River, or travel the historic Covered Bridge Scenic Byway.

Oklahoma — Ouachita National Forest

Image source: travelok.com

Ouachita National Forest in all its 1.8 million-acre glory spans central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. History buffs visiting the oldest national forest in the South can take the Talimena Scenic Drive to see Horsethief Springs and the Old Military Road. Meanwhile, fearless adventurers can go hang gliding or take a dirt bike on Oklahoma’s rugged terrain.

Oregon — Willamette National Forest

Image source: traveloregon.com

From rafting the McKenzie River to tubing at Willamette Pass, there are many ways to explore Willamette National Forest. And with more than a million acres of evergreen forest to explore, you’ll want to stay awhile.

Pennsylvania — Allegheny National Forest

Image source: recreationnews.com

The 7,647-acre Allegheny Reservoir spans the border between Pennsylvania and New York. The 14 miles in Pennsylvania are surrounded by the lush forest of Allegheny National Forest, drawing in crowds for the water recreation activities.

South Carolina — Sumter National Forest

Image source: travelbeaches.com

One of the most unforgettable experiences you can have in Sumter National Forest is whitewater rafting in the Chattooga River. Beyond that, the forest is famous for other adventurous activities, including biking The Forks Area Trail System.

South Dakota — Black Hills National Forest

Image source: maps.roadtrippers.com

An “Island in the Plains,” Black Hills National Forest stretches from eastern forests to the western plains. Those making their way to see Mount Rushmore will find themselves in this pine forest. Here, there is much to discover, from the extensive cave systems to the grand waterfalls.

Tennessee — Cherokee National Forest

Image source: peakvisor.com

Like many national forests on the list, Cherokee National Forest sits within the Appalachian Mountains. Needless to say, you can expect exceptional mountain scenery and hiking opportunities, along with the world-class whitewater and trout streams.

Texas — Sam Houston National Forest

Image source: trailngear.com

Sam Houston National Forest is a Texas treasure. You would be remiss not to take a hike on the 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail and camp under the bright stars deep in the heart of Texas.

Utah — Dixie National Forest

Image source: utah.com

The largest national forest in Utah, Dixie National Forest is home to Red Canyon, where red-colored cliffs abound. Take in the sites with a trek through Pine Valley or a scenic drive on Boulder/Grover Road.

Vermont — Green Mountain National Forest

Image source: hipcamp.com

Made up of 2000 archaeological and historic sites, Green Mountain National Forest details Vermont’s history. You can also experience the Green Mountains scenery any time of year, all while getting a history lesson. Make sure to keep your eyes open for moose!

Virginia — George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

Image source: alltrails.com

Another forest landscape stretching across the Appalachian Mountains, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests has countless scenic drives, including the Blue Ridge Parkway. For that reason, a fall visit is a must.

Washington — Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Image source: recreation.gov

With breathtaking glacier-covered peaks and spectacular old-growth forests, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is one of the most highly visited forests in the nation. Experience the serenity of the landscape on a hike to Bridal Veil Falls and, of course, Lake Serene.

West Virginia — Monongahela National Forest

Image source: planetware.com

Monongahela National Forest is home to the highest point in West Virginia, Spruce Knob. And Seneca Rocks, one of the most well-known West Virginia landmarks, rises 900 feet above the North Fork River. That said, the Spruce Knob – Seneca Rocks Wilderness Area is a rock-climbers dream.

Wisconsin — Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Image source: travelwisconsin.com

1.5 million acres of history and recreation, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is comprised of dense woodlands of old-growth trees, shimmering waters, and nationally recognized historic places. Take in the views from Mountain Fire Tower, paddle on Pine River, or drive along Rustic Road 74.

Wyoming — Medicine Bow–Routt National Forest

Image source: wyomingpublicmedia.org

Downhill skiing and winter sports are popular activities at Medicine Bow–Routt National Forest; however, year-round activities still abound. Stroll to Fish Creek Falls, picnic at Mirror Lake, or go fish off Bear Lake Fishing Pier.

Hit the road

You know where to go on your national forest road trip. Now, we’re here to help you get there. Rent an RV on Outdoorsy, book your campground, and get ready to hit the road!

Lizzie Dragon

Outdoorsy Author

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