Top 10 National Forests for Backpacking

We have only backpacked in about 35 National Forests of the 155 total, but we have camped in many of the most famous Wildernesses in America.  Our best memories from National Forests were made in these remote areas where the only way in is on foot or horseback (which is perfect if the physical requirements of carrying all of your gear is too much).  We hope you are inspired to don your backpack and hit the trail.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 lists.

10. Mt. Baker (Washington)

There is a short backpacking season in this snowy National Forest, but the mountain scenery is unparalleled

9. Talladega (Alabama)

Incredible views can be found on the Pinhoti Trail, Bartram National Recreation Trail, and Cheaha Falls Trail

8. Routt (Colorado)

Both the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness and Never Summer Wilderness (also in Arapaho National Forest) are worth exploring

7. Bitterroot (Montana)

Blodgett Canyon is incredibly beautiful and we hope to return to explore this area more

6. Shoshone (Wyoming)

Like our #1 National Forest, this one shares the Wind River Range, plus we have backpacked the Beartooth Plateau and Clarks Fork Canyon

5. Challis (Idaho)

The incredible Sawtooth National Recreation Area is spread across Boise, Challis, and Sawtooth National Forests

4. Ashley (Utah-Wyoming)

This is more of a vote for the High Uintas Wilderness, which is shared with Wasatch National Forest

3. Medicine Bow (Wyoming)

We have backpacked all over our local National Forest and highly recommend a trip into the Snowy Range

2. Gila (New Mexico)

The Gila Wilderness was the first designated in the world (in 1924) and remains one of the best for backpacking

…and finally our #1 National Forest for backpacking:

1. Bridger (Wyoming)

Titcomb Basin (photo above) and the Cirque of the Towers are overrun, but there are so many other great options in the Wind River Range

Honorable Mentions

Nebraska (Nebraska)

Not on most backpackers’ bucket lists, but we have enjoyed the solitude of the Soldier Creek Wilderness and Pine Ridge National Recreation Area

Los Padres (California)

If you like hot springs and poison-oak, then this foggy forest on the Pacific Ocean might be for you

Roosevelt (Colorado)

You may not expect to see moose in Colorado, but we typically see them in the Mummy Range north of Rocky Mountain National Park

Ouachita (Oklahoma-Arkansas)

This is more of a future pick, as we would like to backpack part of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail

La Sal (Utah)

The stunning canyons of the Dark Canyon Wilderness are included in Bears Ears National Monument

Wallowa (Oregon)

We have only been to the Eagle Cap Wilderness once, but it is famous among backpackers for a reason

Learn more about backpacking in all 155 National Forests in our new guidebook Out in the Woods

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3 thoughts on “Top 10 National Forests for Backpacking”

  1. No mention of Arizona’s incredible opportunities, especially fall on the North Kaibab, but truly especially, the Coconino, Tonto and Coronado? So much backpacking down in the Mazatzals, Superstitions, Rincons, and Sky Islands! Some of the best parts of the Arizona Trail.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment. We backpacked all over Tonto National Forest when younger and hiked more than 1,000 miles in Coconino NF, we even got married in Coronado NF. We much prefer all of those as day hiking trips (a future Top 10 list), especially the ones without reliable water sources. Hopefully we inspired you to check out some new National Forests for backpacking.

      Liked by 1 person

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