National forests are often mistaken for national parks, but they are actually quite different. While national parks are meant for preservation, national forests are managed to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the forests. There are many national forests to explore, each with its own unique features and activities.
Eldorado National Forest in California is a nature lover’s dream, with 400 miles of hiking trails and over 600 miles of fishable streams and rivers. There are also opportunities for mountain biking, horseback riding, and water sports like kayaking and rafting. Winter sports such as backcountry skiing and snowmobiling are also popular here.
(Thousand Trails Ponderosa is less than 10 miles from Eldorado NF.)
Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina was established in 1916 and boasts over 500,000 acres of forest. A portion of the land was originally owned by the Vanderbilt family, but was sold to the federal government. Pisgah is home to many scenic waterfalls and a drive through Asheville is a great way to see them. The Pisgah Field School offers a Waterfalls and Wine tour that is a fun way to experience the forest.
(Thousand Trails Green Mountain is less than 30 miles from Pisgah NF.)
Deschutes National Forest in Oregon offers year-round recreation and breathtaking vistas. There are three scenic byways to explore, and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument showcases lava flows and geologic features. For those interested in caves, there are over 350 in the forest, with several accessible to the public.
(Deschutes National Forest is just 5 miles from Thousand Trails Bend-Sunriver.)
Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington is one of the oldest national forests in the US. The Trails of Two Forests is an interesting hike where two forests run side by side, with one side featuring Douglas firs and western red cedars and the other side being new forest growth that covers an area previously wiped out by a Mount St. Helens lava flow over 2,000 years ago.
Exploring national forests is a great way to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors. Each forest has its own unique features and activities, making them perfect for camping trips or day trips. As naturalist John Muir once said, “the clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
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