Thinking of new outdoor places to discover when life goes back to normal and social distancing isn’t a thing? Most likely, there is a national forest waiting to be explored not that far from you. In fact, there are 154 national forests in 41 states across the country, meaning seven in ten Americans live within a two-hour drive of these incredible public lands and resources.
For this week’s “10s on Tuesday”, here are 10 national forests to add to your outdoor mecca bucket list.
The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest's spectacular 6.3 million acres makes it the largest national forest in the lower 48 states. Located in Nevada and a small portion of eastern California, the forest offers year-round recreation of all types and manages 18 designated wilderness areas.
The Idaho Panhandle National Forests (IPNF) are a set of three jointly administered national forests located mostly in the state of Idaho with small areas extending into eastern Washington and western Montana. Vast lakes and miles of rivers support a world-class fishery. Rich in wildlife, the forest is home to large game such as elk and deer, as well as species such as grizzly bears, wolves, and caribou.
Established in 1909, Superior National Forest is known for its boreal forest ecosystem, numerous clean lakes, and a colorful cultural history. The majority of the forest is multiple-use, including both logging and recreational activities such as camping, boating, and fishing. Slightly over a quarter of the forest (one million-acre) is set aside as a wilderness reserve known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area where canoers can travel along interconnected fresh waters.
Tongass National Forest is the nation’s largest national forest at 16.7 million acres and covers most of Southeast Alaska, surrounding the famous Inside Passage and offers unique chances to view eagles, bears, spawning salmon, and the breath-taking vistas of “wild” Alaska.
The Gila National Forest manages 3.3 million acres of forested hills, majestic mountains, and range land - making it the sixth largest National Forest in the continental United States. It is probably best known for its wilderness areas, in particular the Gila Wilderness - the first Congressionally designated wilderness in the United States.
The Salmon-Challis National Forest covers over 4.3 million acres in east-central Idaho. Included within the boundaries of the forest is 1.3 million acres of the Frank Church-- River of No Return Wilderness Area, the largest contiguous wilderness area in the Continental United States. Borah Peak, the tallest mountain in Idaho, is also found here.
Monongahela National Forest provides visitors with scenic vistas, country roads, flowing streams and abundant plant and animal life. It was established in 1920 and encompasses one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the United States. Recreation opportunities include day hikes, rock climbing, camping, hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
The Ocala National Forest, located north of Orlando, is the southernmost forest in the continental United States and protects the world's largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest. The forest has more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs, including three first-magnitude springs where visitors can swim, snorkel and dive in crystalline waters year round.
The Tonto National Forest, outside of Phoenix, AZ, embraces almost 3 million acres of spectacularly beautiful country, ranging from Saguaro cactus-studded desert to pine-forested mountains. This variety in vegetation and range in altitude offers recreational opportunities throughout the year, whether it's lake beaches or cool pine forest. As the fifth largest forest in the United States, Tonto is one of the most-visited “urban” forests in the U.S. (approximately 5.8 million visitors annually).
Named by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 but officially merged in 1996, this 3.3 million-acre forest hosts numerous ghost towns which serve as reminders of the region’s mining history. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and the Nez Perce National Historical Trail both pass through sections of the forest. In total, there are over 1,500 miles of hiking trails, 50 campgrounds, dozens of lake and river boating access points and even 250 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.
Photos all courtesy of the USDA Forest Service
Looking for easy ways to connect with nature from home? We have you covered! Turn your yard, neighborhood trail, or even your windowsill into an untapped educational park experience. Check out these five grab-and-go activities, brought to you by our wooly mascot Buddy Bison, that will help your kids stay engaged with the outdoors no matter where you call home.
Click on the download links below to view and print the activities:
Leaf or Bark Rubbing
When leaves fall from the tree, it is a great time to look at them closely and make a great piece of art. Place a leaf or bark under the activity paper inside the square. Then rub the leaf or bark using your pencil or a crayon.
Listening to Nature
Nature never sleeps and is really noisy, but sometimes you have to slow down and quiet yourself before it can be heard. Listen to what is happening around you. Can you hear the call of a nearby bird or the rustling of leaves?
Design a Nature Collage
A great activity to do while in your backyard or neighborhood is to collect and bring home any interesting or unique pieces of nature. At home, use your collected materials, construction paper, and glue to create a one of a kind nature collage.
Backyard Scavenger Hunt
There are so many interesting things you can find in nature. When walking or hiking, make sure you stay quiet, look around your surroundings, and see what you can discover.
Find something in nature that really interests you. It could be an insect, plant, worm, flower, or any other object that you think is neat. Look at it closely; use a magnifying glass if you have one. Draw what you see and try to label its parts!
Over the last century, women have greatly contributed to the protection of our public lands. From conservationists who fought for the creation of new parks to leaders within the National Park Service, these 10 champions of our national park system are remembered for their contributions and perseverance.
Minerva Hoyt found solace in the desert landscapes of southern California after the separate deaths of her infant son and husband. Seeing how landscapers were ripping up plants and trees in this delicate ecosystem to sell for people's gardens in the city, she became determined to protect her cherished land as a national park.
In 1930, Minerva created the International Deserts Conservation League and unsuccessfully pitched the idea of creating a national park to the then director of the National Park Service. Her persistance lead to lobbying President Franklin Roosevelt, who in 1936 designated Joshua Tree National Monument, now one of the most iconic national parks in the system.
Photo: Minerva Hoyt Mural by NPS
Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Marjory Douglas staunchly defended southern Florida's tropical wetlands against efforts to drain and reclaim it for development. In 1947, Douglas wrote the iconic book The Everglades: River of Grass, the same year Everglades National Park was established. Douglas fought for the protection and restoration of the Everglades almost to the end of her long life, having lived to 108. In her honor, the park contains a wilderness area named for her legacy.
When Ohio-born Susan Thew moved to California and first saw the towering trees of Sequoia National Park, she was immediately mesmerized. She soon became a strong advocate for the park's expansion.
Susan would often hike in the Sierras, document the landscape, take photos, and eventually wrote a book titled The Proposed Roosevelt-Sequoia National Park, which she hoped would convince Congress to expand the park. In 1926, they did, tripling the size of Sequoia. The National Park Service sent her a telegram thanking her for her efforts.
Rosalie Edge first entered activism during the women's suffragist movement, but when the 19th Amendment passed, she needed a new cause to support. She found it first in the protection of bird species and then with land conservation.
Edge waged a national campaign leading to the creation of Olympic National Park in 1938, protecting nearly one million acres of mountains and temperate rainforest. She repeated her actions for Kings Canyon National Park and lobbied Congress to purchase about 8,000 acres on the perimeter of Yosemite National Park that were slated for logging.
Virginia Donaghe McClurg
When Virginia McClurg first saw the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde on a newspaper assignment in 1882, she was fascinated. She made it her personal mission to both promote the ancestral puebloan ruins and advocate for their protection. She founded the Colorado Cliff Dwellings Association (CCDA), helped build roads to the ruins, and personally led tours of Mesa Verde.
McClurg advocated for the creation of a state park around Mesa Verde, but instead, Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park in 1906. Even though McClurg eventually opposed the designation, the protection of the ruins owed her advocacy efforts a great deal of thanks.
Johnston was instrumental in the creation of Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas. While working as a librarian at nearby Lamar University, she joined Big Thicket Association, helped create a Big Thicket museum, edited and distributed newsletters, and took people on tours of the area.
In 1972, she took over as president of the association. She soon made several trips to Washington, D.C. to testify before Congress for the creation of a national park. Following the efforts of Johnston, Big Thicket Association, and other groups such as the Texas League of Women Voters, Big Thicket National Preserve was established in 1974.
Quimby, the co-founder of the personal care product company Burt's Bees, used her success to purchase and donate 87,000 acres to the National Park Service for the creation of a new park in Maine. After seeing that a majority of Mainers supported the creation of a park, the Obama administration designated the donated lands as Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Clare Marie Hodges
Clare Marie Hodges was the National Park Service’s first female park ranger. During World War I, Hodges heard about the difficulty that Yosemit National Park was having finding men to work as rangers due to the demands of the war. In the spring of 1918, she applied to Yosemite's park superintendent, Washington B. Lewis, who responded, "I beat you to it, young lady. It's been on my mind for some time to put a woman on one of these patrols." One of Hodges main duties consisted of taking the gate receipts from Tuolumne Meadows to park headquarters, an overnight ride on horseback.
Fran P. Mainella
Fran P. Mainella served as the first female director of the National Park Service. Early in her tenure, she enhanced and reinforced the partnership culture of the NPS with the development of director's order 75A mandating civic engagement and public involvement.
The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, established during Mainella's tenure, is an example of her vision of how to initiate successful partnerships with other agencies. The park was comprised of three Oregon state parks, and two Washington state parks, all in the vicinity around the mouth of the Columbia River.
Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Sue Kunitomi Embrey, along with her family and 10,000 other Japanese-Americans, were imprisoned at the Manzanar internment camp in California during World War II. After returning to the site on a pilgrimage in 1969, she began a public campaign for its protection.
Embrey became the co-chair of the committee that organized the annual pilgrimage and regularly gave speeches about her experience at the camp. After President George H.W. Bush signed the bill establishing Manzanar National Historic Site in 1992, Embrey continued to work with NPS to develop the interpretive site and continue to organize the yearly pilgrimage.
As we all know, the COVID-19 virus has impacted everyone in our country and many more globally. It has also impacted the thousands of children, teachers, and families whom we support across the country as well as our beloved national parks.
As the executive director of National Park Trust and the spouse of a cardiologist, I’ve been uplifted by so many stories that exemplify the extraordinary compassion, dedication, and generosity of neighbors, friends, family, and colleagues.
To our many partners and donors, thank you for your wonderful support for our mission and programs. During these challenging times, please know that we are taking careful steps to ensure that your gifts are being spent wisely, where the need is greatest.
As we experience social isolation, there has been a heightened awareness of how much we value our precious parks and public lands and waters. We miss them too!
Our staff has been reaching out to our nearly 300 partner schools in under-served communities and reassuring them that we will fund their students’ trips to parks after the current situation improves.
Finally, because we know that parents are looking for ways to educate and entertain their children at home, we are now sending special editions of our monthly newsletter that will be full of free downloadable resources to help bring our parks to your kids. Feel free to share this information with others and encourage them to join our newsletter list.
Please stay connected with us during this challenging time. We hope you and your family stay healthy and well.
“Someday we’ll find it. The Rainbow Connection. The lovers, the dreamers and me.” – Kermit the Frog
Kermit said it best, rainbows are a great way to feel connected to each other. For this week’s “10s on Tuesday”, let your imagination wander as you discover these 10 stunning parks that provide the perfect setting for rainbow connections to happen.
Joshua Tree's immense open space, amazing rocks, and its signature tree are a few of the reasons why desert lovers hold a deep affection for the park. Located in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree offers a unique landscape of sand dunes, valleys, and rugged mountains, making the perfect backdrop for a rainbow photo shoot.
Visitors from around the world come to Badlands, not just for rainbows, but to see the rugged beauty on the ground. This landscape of buttes, pinnacles and spires contains one of the world's richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the saber-toothed cat once called the 244,000 acres of the Badlands home.
An impressive array of landscapes mark this mountain range surrounded by weather-beaten desert. Scenic overlooks allow visitors to view valleys, rivers, and temple-like canyons. The 30-mile Roswell scenic drive provides great opportunities for rainbow-gazing in this majestic park.
Unique combinations of geologic colors and rock formations decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size and is actually the largest canyon on earth. Rainbows following showers are fairly common occurrences in the Grand Canyon region, and when this happens, the view becomes awe-inspiring.
The Mojave National Preserve is a 1.6-million-acre park that boasts impressive mountains, canyons, volcanoes, and sand dunes. This picturesque stretch of land allows visitors to see for miles, making spotting rainbows both easy and a treat for the eyes.
This park covers 230 square miles with semi-desert shrub-steppe, petrified trees, steep hills, and colorful badlands. The area's scenic Painted Desert, known for its red rock and lavender, provides stark contrast for rainbows that fall upon its landscape.
Home of the largest trees on earth, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park offers some of the most impressive and humbling scenery. This landmass contains canyons, lakes, waterfalls, and scattered sequoia groves. These parks are recreational gems that will challenge your sense of wonder.
Yellowstone National Park is best known as home to a large concentration of wildlife, including buffalo, moose, elk, and bears. It is the oldest and one of the largest national parks in the United States and gifts unique experiences such as breathtaking views and geysers shooting water 100 feet into the air, the perfect rainbow backdrop.
The glistening white dunes of White Sands National Park are one of the most iconic and unique natural features that the continental U.S. has to offer. Every year, more than 600,000 visitors stop to admire the shifting and sparkling white dunes and take part in a broad range of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, and even sledding.
Home to the highest peak in North America, this famous Alaskan wilderness is as picturesque as they come. The park is home to a unique landscape that includes many glacial valleys, boreal forest, and arctic tundra. Covering six million acres of pure wilderness, it offers the best opportunity to view not only amazing wildlife but also once-in-a-lifetime rainbows.