Bucket List January 03, 2022
19 Incredibly Lush Forests Across America That Will Bring Out Your Inner Explorer
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir said this, and it’s certainly true. There’s nothing more wonderful than time spent in basking in the wilds of Mother Nature, and there are many, many places here in the U.S. where we can do just that. Whether you’re on the coast, landlocked, or located in one of the country’s outliers, America is a lush and lovely land full of opportunities to escape in nature. More than a third of the United States is made up of forests or woodland areas, in fact, which amounts to 822 million magnificent, marvelous acres rife for exploration. The following are 19 incredibly lush forests across America sure to bring out your inner explorer, and fill your bucket with awe and wonder.
Hoh Rain Forest - Washington
Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks, WA 98331, USA
Olympic National Park is one of Washington's most sublime natural wonders; it's 922,651 acres of pure, unadulterated beauty. And there’s one place within this resplendent region that’s the most transcendent and revelatory of all.
Hoh Rain Forest
is one of the only temperate rainforests on the planet; it's filled with untamed mosses and hanging ferns, old-growth trees, and an abundance of wildlife. The rainforest gets a staggering 12-14 feet of rain annually, which gives this thriving ecosystem its striking canopy of mosses, ferns, and trees. The result is an enchanting, emerald-green Garden of Eden -- right here in the U.S.
Silver Falls State Park - Oregon
Silver Falls State Park, 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385, USA
Oregon is home to some of the most lush and lovely forests in the country, and within this
Silver Falls State Park
stands out. This place is a vision; a portrait of pure, pristine, perfect Oregon beauty.
Widely considered to be the ‘crown jewel’ of Oregon’s state park system, this 9,000-acre-park is also the largest and most popular -- and it's not hard to see why. For starters, Silver Falls State Park is home to a lush temperate rain forest flush with Douglas-fir, western hemlock, Oregon grape, and other native trees and plants. The park's Trail of 10 Falls traverses past -- you guessed it -- all 10 of the park's incredible cascades. Stand behind a waterfall curtain, traipse through old-growth forest, pitch a tent for the night... this Oregon forest is a place to bask in the beauty of Mother Nature.
Salmon-Challis National Forest - Idaho
Salmon–Challis National Forest, Shoup, ID 83469, USA
Idaho is an oft-overlooked state, which is a shame, as it's home to some of the most amazing places in the country. Take the Salmon–Challis National Forest, for example. Located in the east-central region of the state, the Salmon–Challis National Forest covers 4,235,940 acres, making it one of the largest national forests in the lower 48 states. It covers much of the land area of the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness, which is the largest wilderness area south of Alaska. Numbers aside, this forest is a place of immense beauty and splendor, boasting the state's most unbridled scenery and wildlife. It's an
iconic adventure destination
for nature-loving Idahoans; and, considering it protects several mountain ranges, rivers, and extensive wildlife, it's no wonder why!
Bighorn National Forest - Wyoming
Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming 82834, USA
Wyoming is a nature lover's paradise, and Bighorn National Forest is one of its most shining stars. One of the most remote and pristine places in the country, Bighorn National Forest is a national treasure sure to satisfy the wanderlust of all who explore its 1,107,571 pristine acres. Bighorn is home to literally
thousands of miles of trails
, myriad mountains, and dozens of lakes, and it's hard to imagine a better place to get away from the world -- especially within the park's Cloud Peak Wilderness. One of Earth's last true wilderness areas, this is an immensely beautiful forest that truly is a
bucket-list must for all explorers
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park - California
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City, CA 95531, USA
Redwood National and State Parks are 139,000 acres of lush, old-growth forest in Northern California, and one of our country's most precious and protected treasures -- and
. During western expansion in the 1800s, the redwoods were under siege. The massive trees offered early settlers a seemingly endless lumber supply; however, within 100 years, the vast forests had dwindled to a shadow of their former glory. By the early 1900s, it was apparent that the future of the old-growth redwood forests was in jeopardy. Thanks to the actions of California's Save-the-Redwoods League, the redwoods received the protection they needed. Today, Redwood National and State Parks, or RNSP, is one of the least-visited sites in the National Park System, and its expansive size means this national treasure is generally not very crowded. If you want to lose yourself in the forest, à la John Muir, visit these awe-inspiring, ancient forests.
Sierra National Forest - California
Sierra National Forest, Sierra County, CA 91024, USA
California's Sierra National Forest is a show stopper; a place of pristine pools, majestic mountains, and lush forests. The landscape includes rolling, oak-covered foothills, heavily forested middle elevation slopes, and the starkly beautiful, snow-covered alpine scenery of the High Sierra. Abundant fish and wildlife, varied flora and fauna, and numerous recreational opportunities make Sierra National Forest an
outdoor lover's paradise
, and absolutely a must-visit for those seeking the sublime solace of the woods.
Great Basin National Park - Nevada
National Forest Development Road 448, NF-448, Nevada 89311, USA
One of Nevada's
treasures, Great Basin National Park is a place that will wholly surprise you. While technically located in the desert, this is a lush land with some of the most fertile and flourishing forests in the West. What's more, Great Basin National Park's remote location makes it one of the best places in the country for
-- it's one of the darkest places in the entire country, in fact -- an adventure that absolutely deserves top spot on your bucket list.
Coconino National Forest - Arizona
Coconino National Forest, Arizona 86017, USA
While the West might not be the first place that comes to mind in terms of "lush forests," Coconino National Forest defies all desert stereotypes. From the iconic red rocks of Sedona to its mountainous alpine tundra, this woodland expanse is one of the most diverse national forests in the country. This epic expanse was made for hiking, boasting some of the very best,
bucket-list-worthy treks in the country
. At the top of the list is the Fossil Creek Waterfall Trail, a 2.6-mile, out-and-back hike that traverses past, among other things, a real-life tropical oasis.
Ozarks - Arkansas
Ozarks, Arkansas 72752, USA
In the Natural State, there's nowhere more beautiful than the Ozarks. This sea of green spans 1.2 million acres across Arkansas, and contains some of the most pristine and untouched wilderness in the Midwest. The hiking and camping here is unrivaled, as is the fishing and floating on the
Buffalo National River
, America's first nationally designated river. If you've yet to experience the untold beauty of the Arkansas Ozarks, what are you waiting for?
Everglades National Park - Florida
Everglades National Park is only a one-hour drive from Miami, but it’s quite literally a world away from this bustling metropolis. The park encompasses 1.5 million acres of tropical and subtropical habitats with one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Within the Everglades, there are five unique habitats, 750 different varieties of native plants, over 300 types of birds, and hundreds of animal species — 60 of which are endangered. In order to protect and preserve this idyllic region, Congress established the Everglades as a National Park in 1934. The park has since been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a World Heritage Site.
Everglades National Park is a real-life Garden of Eden
— a pristine oasis that offers an authentic, up-close experience with nature that’s simply unparalleled.
Superior National Forest - Minnesota
Superior National Forest, Stony River Township, MN 55731, USA
Minnesota gets a lot of attention for its myriad lakes, and rightfully so. But Minnesota is so much more than
10,000 lakes; the state is home to over 17 million acres of forest, including 54 state forests. These lush landscapes are full of many different kids of trees, flowers, and abundant foliage -- not to mention some of the most diverse and wondrous wildlife in the country. One of the most notable forests?
Superior National Forest
, the ancient forest in Minnesota that looks like something out of a fairy tale. Superior National Forest is made up of 3.9 million acres of woods in the northernmost region of the state; this boreal forest is teeming with towering pine, birch, oak, maple, and aspen trees. What's more, the forest is home to the grandest view in the state: the summit of Eagle Mountain, which, at 2,301 feet above sea level, is the highest point in Minnesota.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio, USA
You might not think to include Ohio in a roundup of bucket-list-worthy forests, but once you've visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park, you'll surely change your tune. Ohio's
one and only national park is a stunner
; it's 33,000 acres of pristine beauty that rivals any of its big-name national park brethren. Lauded for its amazing trails, waterfalls, and fall foliage, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a lush landscape offering near-endless opportunities for year-round recreation in the Midwest.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park - West Virginia
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, 171 Shoreline Dr, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, USA
In the Mountain State, Harpers Ferry National Park is a vision of endless emerald greens in the spring, golden yellow hues in the summer, bold oranges in the fall, and a white wonderland in the winter. Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in the eponymous West Virginia town, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park really does have it all. This site of great history and national significance is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and its location along the Appalachian *and*
American Discovery Trails
make it the perfect place for numerous bucket-list-worthy adventures.
Nantahala National Forest - North Carolina
Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina 28734, USA
The national forests of North Carolina are home to some of the best scenic overlooks, waterfalls, hiking trails, and natural beauty in the country. At 531,270 acres, Nantahala is the largest national forest in North Carolina -- and it's gorgeous. The forest lies in the southwestern region of the state and spans from mountains at 5,800 feet elevation to valleys at 1,200 feet. With the powerful Nantahala River running through the forest, as well as several others, Nantahala is home to hundreds of North Carolina waterfalls, including the show-stopping
Upper Whitewater Falls
. Known as the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, Whitewater Falls boasts two tiers -- one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina -- totaling a stunning 811 feet!
Allegheny National Forest - Pennsylvania
Allegheny National Forest, Sheffield Township, PA 16347, USA
Established in 1923, Allegheny National Forest is the only national forest in Pennsylvania, spanning a magnificent 517,000 acres in the northwestern region of the state. Within this expanse -- a lush, fertile land of trees, knobs, mountains, and valleys -- the
Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Area
lays claim to the biggest old-growth forest in the state. The ancient forest, boasting eastern hemlock and American beech trees dating back 400 years, spans more than 2,000 acres, and is rife with opportunities for exploration and adventure. This is an area of immense natural splendor, sure to both stoke and satisfy your wanderlust.
Adirondack Mountains - New York
Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack Mountains
The Adirondack Mountains of New York are a place that needs to introduction. It's home to over 100
marvelous mountain towns
, pristine peaks, verdant valleys, commanding cliffs, and placid lakes. Spanning more than six million acres, the Adirondack Mountains are actually home to the largest protected natural area in the Lower 48. An outdoor enthusiast's mecca, the Adirondacks are made up of 10 distinct regional destinations, each offering their own variety of adventure. From paddling and hiking to skiing and cycling, the offerings in this resplendent region are unmatched. Of course, if you prefer to snuggle up for a cozy mountain retreat in this lush landscape, you can most certainly do that here as well.
Green Mountain National Forest - Vermont
Green Mountain National Forest, Wallingford, VT 05742, USA
This picturesque region in Vermont is a vision, and while the fall foliage tends to steal the spotlight, Green Mountain National Forest is truly beautiful all year long. This gorgeous region is rife with opportunities for outdoor recreation: skiing and ice skating in the winter, hiking and paddling in the summer, and epic leaf peeping in the fall. A natural beauty, while the region is home to several top-tier resorts and attractions, nothing beats simply spending time basking in the flourishing forests of the
Tongass National Forest - Alaska
Tongass National Forest, Alaska 99833, USA
In the Last Frontier, there is a place of extraordinary beauty that offers a glimpse into the past.
Tongass National Forest
is home to some of the most ancient trees in America. These old-growth trees are usually Sitka spruce, yellow or red cedar, or Western Hemlock; the Western Hemlock tend to be the tallest, and can grow upwards of 135-170 feet tall, with diameters of up to 11 feet. An important part of southeast Alaska, some of these majestic trees are over 1,000 years old; they are an awe-inspiring testament to the history of the area, and a stark reminder of why we need to treat our planet with the upmost respect and care.
Akaka Falls State Park - Big Island of Hawaii
Akaka Falls State Park, 875 Akaka Falls Rd, Honomu, HI 96728, USA
The Big Island of Hawaii is home to some of the most incredible tropical forests in the world, and
Akaka Falls State Park
is truly a nature lover's dream come true. The headlining act of the park -- Akaka Falls -- is 442 feet tall and well-worth seeking out. But the magic of this waterfall is as much in the journey as it is the destination; the park is teeming with lush greenery, vibrant native flowers, vivacious birds, and an abundance of tropical wildlife. This is a place where photographs simply can't do justice, and the very definition of a bucket-list experience.
Mother Nature is beckoning. Heed her call by setting out on an adventure in the American wilds. We promise, you’re sure to discover something wondrous along the way.
Address: Coconino National Forest, Arizona 86017, USA Address: Green Mountain National Forest, Wallingford, VT 05742, USA Address: Tongass National Forest, Alaska 99833, USA Address: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks, WA 98331, USA Address: Ozarks, Arkansas 72752, USA Address: Allegheny National Forest, Sheffield Township, PA 16347, USA Address: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City, CA 95531, USA Address: Everglades, Florida, USA Address: Adirondack Mountains, Adirondack Mountains Address: National Forest Development Road 448, NF-448, Nevada 89311, USA Address: Superior National Forest, Stony River Township, MN 55731, USA Address: Silver Falls State Park, 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385, USA Address: Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming 82834, USA Address: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, 171 Shoreline Dr, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, USA Address: Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina 28734, USA Address: Sierra National Forest, Sierra County, CA 91024, USA Address: Salmon–Challis National Forest, Shoup, ID 83469, USA Address: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio, USA Address: Akaka Falls State Park, 875 Akaka Falls Rd, Honomu, HI 96728, USA