Day 11: National Forests, Hidden Gems of U.S. Public Lands

Last Updated on February 4, 2020 by Janet Frost

As a continuation of the National Parks Series, we are going to look deeper into National Forests. National Parks and National Forests are often referred to interchangeably. While there are some similarities, there are also some distinct differences. The most important commonality between National Parks and National Forests is that they are both U.S. public lands set aside for use by the people.

Let’s Go!Learn Things about U.S. Public Lands known as National Forests…

U.S. Public Lands: National Parks vs National Forests

The U.S. public lands known as National Forests are managed by the U.S. Forest Service under the auspices of the Dept of Agriculture. In contrast, the National Park Service manages U.S. public lands through the Dept of Interior. While National Parks are strictly limited in usage for preservation purposes, National Forests are managed for many purposes. Lumbering, grazing, fishing, hunting and recreation to mention a few of the uses.

National Forests cover over 193 million acres of public lands in the United States. This is significantly more land than the National Parks at 84 million acres.

Many of the National Forests are a great alternative to visiting the crowded National Parks during the popular summer months. These U.S. public lands offer similar terrain and landscapes to their neighboring and more recognized National Parks, often allowing for a better experience of Nature.

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Learn More: 16 National Forests Near Popular National Parks

Arizona National Forests

Arizona boasts miles of National Forest land from the southern Coronado National Forest bordering Mexico to the northern Kaibab National Forest, crossing the Grand Canyon into Utah.

A few of my favorite spots are Sabino Canyon and Madera Canyon in the Coronado National Forest and the Cliff Dwellings in Tonto National Forest. These two National Forests showcase the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert and the Sky Islands. You will discover the flora and fauna of an incredible desert, soaring mountain peaks, miles of stately saguaros and unexpected cool forests, the rich history and culture of indigenous peoples and the Wild West.

Learn More from the posts below:

Colorado National Forests

Colorado is another beautiful state filled with National Forests . The Rocky Mountains run north to south through the central third of the state. To the east U.S. public lands consist of prairies and grasslands such as Pawnee National Grasslands and the Cimarron National Grasslands. Thirteen million acres over 11 different National Forests cover over 35% of Colorado.

I have had the privilege to hike and explore several different segments of Colorado National Forest land. Just north of Durango and Mesa Verde Country i s the majestic San Juan National Forest and just northwest of Boulder is of course the Rocky Mountain National Park and sisters Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests. There is really nothing quite like the mountain ranges Colorado.

Learn More about Colorado National Forests

Mark Twain and Ozark National Forests in Missouri and Arkansas

The Ozarks are an extremely popular destination in the central part of the U.S. They are composed of the Boston and St. Francois Mountains. These interior highlands cover 47,000 square miles cutting diagonally through Missouri and Arkansas. Visitors enjoy rolling hills, forested bluffs, lazy rivers massive cave systems and some Branson entertainment.

Learn More: Discover the Ozarks

Nicolet and Chequamegon National Forests in Wisconsin

A peculiar tradition in the northern Midwest states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota is spending our already short summer season in forests several hundred miles further north. For years while my family was young, we drove 5 hours north from Milwaukee to a cabin in the Nicolet National Forest. These deep rich forests are full of pristine lakes, flowing rivers, rushing waterfalls and soaring eagles. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is 1.5 million acres across 11 northern Wisconsin counties. Hiking, biking, fishing, camping, boating, hunting, the list of outdoor adventures is endless. No wonder we drive hundreds of miles north.

Learn More: Chasing Waterfalls Across the Midwest

Over the course of this National Park Series we have discovered an array of U.S. public lands destinations. I hope that you use some of the suggestions for your next adventure. National Forests are a great option that you will find all across the country.

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