Tag Archives: List

Top 10 National Forests for Dispersed Camping 

We cannot think of a single National Forest without a designated campground, but what makes these public lands unique is that they allow free dispersed camping along most of their unpaved roadways.  The Forest Service requests that campers use a site with an established fire ring, pack out (do not burn) all trash, and stay a maximum of 14 days.  We have all seen people who abuse these lightly-enforced policies, but if we all are responsible then, hopefully, we will retain this camping privilege in the future.  Dispersed camping is typically not allowed near campgrounds or on private property, so watch for road signs and use the Visitor Map app.  Some areas of high usage have designated spots, like the free sites marked along Vedauwoo Road in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists, including our favorite National Forest campgrounds and backpacking areas.

10. Manistee (Michigan)

The Nordhouse Dunes are a popular destination for backpacking on Lake Michigan, but not far from the developed campgrounds are flat spots for dispersed camping

9. Cibola (New Mexico)

The Manzano Mountains south of Albuquerque are a great place for dispersed camping, and there are also several campgrounds there

8. Apache (Arizona- New Mexico)

There are many dirt roads that spur from the paved Coronado Trail Scenic Byway (Highway 191) with good camping options

7. Tongass (Alaska)

Scott did his M.S. research in Tongass National Forest and camped all over the islands, which literally have thousands of miles of gravel logging roads to explore

6. Payette (Idaho)

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is managed by Oregon’s Wallowa National Forest, but we camped before our whitewater rafting trip at an overlook on the well-maintained Kleinschmidt Grade; plus we stayed at a great site on the shores of Brundage Reservoir (see photo at top)

5. Black Hills (South Dakota-Wyoming)

There are at least half-a-dozen places we have dispersed camped in this area with fast access to Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Custer State Park, and Devils Tower National Monument

4. La Sal (Utah-Colorado)

We passed some awesome sites along the 58-mile-long Elk Ridge Scenic Backway and just off the paved La Sal Mountain Loop Road

3. Chequamegon (Wisconsin)

The Moquah Barrens is a cool place to camp, and there are some campsites on the back roads of the Bayfield Peninsula close to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

2. Sequoia (California)

There are developed campgrounds in Giant Sequoia National Monument, but our favorite dispersed sites are around Dome Rock off Highway 190

…and finally our #1 National Forest for dispersed camping:

1. Inyo (California-Nevada)

The night skies are incredible in this high-elevation region; we have dispersed camped around Mono Lake, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and the Kearsarge Pass Trailhead

Honorable Mentions

Colville (Washington)

We found excellent dispersed campsites along the unpaved portions of Deadman Creek Road, plus good options in the Selkirk Mountains further east

Gallatin (Montana)

If you cannot find a campsite in Yellowstone National Park, try this National Forest on the west side of the park, specifically the free designated sites along Taylor Fork Road

Modoc  (California)

We have found many nice options in the northeast corner of California around Lava Beds National Monument, although snow blocks some roads well into June

Coeur d’Alene (Idaho)

We have camped at Bullion Pass and on the West Fork of Eagle Creek on the road to the Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars

Kaibab (Arizona)

If you want to avoid the busy campgrounds in Grand Canyon National Park, try the National Forest that sits outside its boundaries on both the North and South Rim

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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Top 10 Non-Fiction Books on Trees and Forests

When we compiled our last Top 10 list on National Forest non-fiction books in honor of our new publication, we realized there were many great books on forests that did not fit that category.  So we created this list of the best books we have read about specific tree species and forests.  Some of the selections are history, some biology, some biography, and some ecology (or a mix of all four).  Click here to see all of our Top 10 lists, including quite a few other book lists. 

10. Beyond the Aspen Grove (1970) by Ann Zwinger

Quaking aspen trees are special, not just because they grow huge clonal stands or turn beautiful colors in the autumn

9. Oak: The Frame of Civilization (2005) by William Bryant Logan

From Eurasia to North America, the many species of oak trees have been essential to humankind

8. The Bristlecone Book: A Natural History of the World’s Oldest Trees (2007) by Ronald M. Lanner

An in-depth look at the oldest single-stem trees on the planet—Great Basin bristlecone pines

7. The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter (2005) by Colin Tudge

A great introduction to dendrology full of fun facts and figures

6. Tales from the Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life  (2001) by David W. Wolfe

The visible parts of forests would never grow without the activity of trillions of microorganisms in the soil

5. American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation (2012) by Eric Rutkow

The history of forests in the U.S., including the huge impact of chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease

4. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (2016) by Peter Wohlleben

Unable to move, trees use pheromones and other means for intraspecific and interspecific communication; the author also published Forest Walking in 2022

3. The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed (2005) by John Vaillant

Basically about a mutant Sitka spruce tree that was killed, this well-written story is hard to put down

2. The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring (2007) by Richard Preston

Mostly set in Redwood National Park, this book focuses on the people who research the tallest trees in the world

…and finally our #1 non-fiction book on trees and forests:

1. A Sand County Almanac (1949) by Aldo Leopold

The greatest ecologist of the twentieth century, Aldo Leopold worked in Gila National Forest as a young man where the events of the seminal essay “Thinking Like a Mountain” took place

Honorable Mentions

Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History (2010) by Diane Wells

A beautifully illustrated sampling of information on common trees from around the world

Tree: A Life Story (2004) by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady

The life cycle of a single tree, beautifully narrated and illustrated

What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses (2012) by Daniel Chamovitz

An excellent summation of decades of little-known research on plants of all sizes

The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature (2012) by David George Haskell

A detailed look at the activity in a small patch of old-growth forest in Tennessee

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books on National Forests

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books on National Forests

This Top 10 list is in honor of publishing our new guidebook and giving a presentation on recreating in National Forests on June 21, 2022 at our local library in our hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  We worked with the Laramie County Library to pull a cartful of our favorite books on National Forests to display on the 3rd floor outside the computer lab.  This is a partial list of the best we have read, most of which can be found at the library.  There are also countless hiking guides to specific National Forests, regions, and Wilderness areas that we did not include.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 lists, including quite a few other book lists

10. Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout (2011) by Philip Connors

Connors shared his experiences working as a seasonal fire lookout atop a remote mountain in Gila National Forest

9. Travels in the Greater Yellowstone (2008) by Jack Turner

The incredibly beautiful Wind River Range in Bridger and Shoshone National Forests figures prominently in this book

8. The Forest Service and the Greatest Good: A Centennial History (2005) by James G. Lewis

Released for the centennial of the Forest Service’s founding in conjunction with a documentary film, this is the best volume on the agency’s history

7. The Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship, Tragedy, and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness (2002) by Lynn Schooler

The author traveled by boat throughout the Inside Passage and Tongass National Forest in search of an elusive subspecies of black bears with a famous wildlife photographer

6. The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009) by Timothy Egan

An engaging history of the early Forest Service and the devastating 1910 fires that revolutionized the agency’s mission

5. Young Men and Fire (1992) by Norman MacLean

Helena National Forest’s Big Belt Mountains were the site of the of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire, which killed 13 smokejumpers who were immortalized in this classic book

4. The Singing Wilderness (1956) by Sigurd F. Olson

Olson wrote many great books on his explorations of Superior National Forest’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

3. This Land: A Guide to Central National Forests (2022) by Robert H. Mohlenbrock

Now out of print, Robert H. Mohlenbrock’s three-book series was an invaluable resource when writing our own guidebook

2. Our National Forests: Stories from America’s Most Important Public Lands (2021) by Greg M. Peters

A modern look at the issues facing the Forest Service by a former Communications Director of the National Forest Foundation

…and finally our #1 non-fiction book on National Forests:

1. Out in the Woods: An Introductory Guide to America’s 155 National Forests (2022) by Scott, Tiff, and Mary Sink

We may be biased, but we think our new travel guide is the best resource available for recreating in the National Forests

Honorable Mentions

Flagstaff Hikes (2001) by Richard and Sherry Mangum

In college, Scott carried this book and its companion Sedona Hikes on thousands of miles of trails in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (2014) by Ben Montgomery

A fun biography of the woman who popularized thru-hiking the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (which crosses several National Forests)

On Trails: An Exploration (2016) by Robert Moor

A reflection on trails of all kinds by a man who thru-hiked the Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Top 10 Movies Filmed in National Forests

Many classic movies have been filmed within the boundaries of America’s National Forests due to their natural beauty (or maybe their state’s favorable laws and tax breaks).  Our ranking is partially based on the quality of the movie and partially on the prominence of the setting to the story.  We hope this list brings back some fond cinematic memories.  Click here to check out all our Top 10 Lists, including our favorite movies filmed in National Parks.

10. Fire in the Sky (1993) Umpqua National Forest (Oregon)

This terrifying alien abduction story took place in Arizona, so naturally they filmed it in Oregon

9. The Thing (1982) Tongass National Forest (Alaska)

John Carpenter’s book The Thing is set in Antarctica, but this parasitic alien preferred a temperate rainforest

8. ¡Three Amigos! (1986) Coronado National Forest (Arizona)

This comedy was filmed close enough to Mexico to stand in for it

7. 3:10 to Yuma (2007) Santa Fe National Forest (New Mexico)

50 years after its original release, this remake had its tunnel scenes filmed in this National Forest

6. The Last of the Mohicans (1992) Pisgah National Forest (North Carolina)

The 1920 version was filmed in California’s San Bernardino National Forest (see Honorable Mentions below) so they’re getting closer to the book’s northeastern U.S. setting

5. Homeward Bound (1993) Deschutes, Mt. Hood, Wallowa-Whitman, and Willamette National Forests (Oregon)

The incredible journey of three beloved pets was filmed across the state of Oregon

4. The River Wild (1994) Kootenai National Forest (Montana-Idaho)

A wet and wild thriller that featured this National Forest’s whitewater rivers

3. The Hunger Games (2012) Pisgah National Forest (North Carolina)

The forests of District 13 are where we first witness Katniss’ skills with a bow and arrow

2. A River Runs Through It (1992) Gallatin National Forest (Montana)

Beautiful scenery helped this film win the 1993 Academy Award for best cinematography

…and finally our #1 movie filmed in a National Forest:

1. Dances With Wolves (1990) Black Hills National Forest (South Dakota-Wyoming)

This Academy Award-winning film separately inspired both our families go west to see bison in 1992

Honorable Mentions

Glory (1989) Osceola National Forest (Florida)

The famous 54th Massachusetts fought at Olustee in 1864 and they filmed on site, which is also true of Ocala National Forest’s The Yearling (1946) based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel

Dante’s Peak (1997) Idaho Panhandle National Forests (Idaho)

Not the greatest movie, nor are we sure which of the three National Forests were featured: Coeur d’Alene, Kaniksu, or St. Joe

Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Angeles National Forest (California)

Given its proximity to Hollywood, you would have thought more films would highlight this National Forest…

Dr. Doolittle (2001) San Bernardino National Forest (California)

…but directors seem to prefer to go a little further east based on these classic titles: Heidi (1937), Gone with the Wind (1939), Lassie Come Home (1943), The Yearling (1946), Shane (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and Old Yeller (1957)