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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

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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)

Top 10 Campgrounds in National Forests 


This was a difficult ranking because there are thousands of campgrounds in the 155 National Forests and we tend to prefer dispersed camping (since we don’t love campfire smoke).  That said, we have stayed in a quite a few U.S. Forest Service campgrounds (especially in 2020-21) all across the country: this top 10 list represents 10 different states +6 others in the Honorable Mentions!  Click here to see all our Top 10 Lists, including four that cover camping in National Parks.

10. Chattahoochee (Georgia)

Hickey Gap Campground offers free streamside campsites near the start of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail at Springer Mountain

9. San Isabel (Colorado)

Turquoise Lake Recreation Area has beautiful mountain views just outside historic Leadville

8. Jefferson (Virginia)

We stayed in a mountaintop campground in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area before hiking a section of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail inhabited by wild ponies (who like to bite)

7. Humboldt (Nevada)

It is impressive how many campsites they jammed onto the mountainside next to stunning Angel Lake, plus check out the campgrounds in pretty Lamoille Canyon

6. Allegheny (Pennsylvania)

Aptly-named Hearts Content has a large campground across the road from an old-growth forest of white pines and eastern hemlocks

5. Siuslaw (Oregon)

Elk Creek Campground is only one option with access to coastal Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

4. Coconino (Arizona)

Lockett Meadow Campground is special place, as are the coveted campsites in Oak Creek Canyon on scenic Highway 89A

3. Ocala (Florida)

Crystal clear natural springs attract swimmers and campers to Juniper Springs, Silver Glen, Salt Springs, and Alexander Springs Recreation Areas (reservation recommended)

2. Beaverhead (Montana)

Potosi Campground is free and only a short hike from Upper Potosi Hot Springs

…and finally our #1 campground in a National Forest:

1. Los Padres (California)

Incredibly scenic Kirk Creek Campground sits atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur

Honorable Mentions

Cache (Utah)

Although the campgrounds are located right along Highway 89, we suspect the Logan River drowns out the road noise

Tongass (Alaska)

This scenic spot just outside Wrangell would rank higher, but it is more of a designated campsite than a campground

Homochitto (Mississippi)

Maybe we are partial to Clear Springs Campground because we arrived in the dark after fleeing a fire in Kisatchie National Forest, plus it had showers

Hiawatha (Michigan)

Hovey Lake Campground is free, but it only has four campsites; it would be fun to boat to a campground in Grand Island National Recreation Area

Finger Lakes (New York)

We spent a quiet night in Blueberry Patch Campground on a forested ridgeline between two of the Finger Lakes

Mt. Hood (Oregon)

Located east of Portland, Lost Lake Campground has to have one of the best views in the country

Nebraska (Nebraska)

Pine plantations are a nice break from the sandhill prairies surrounding Bessey Recreation Complex, as well as Steer Creek Campground in Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

Top 10 National Memorials

We recently posted about Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial and Monument, so now feels like the perfect time to release this Top 10 List.  That is the only National Memorial managed by the U.S. Forest Service, but there are 31 in the National Park Service (NPS) system, and it only seems like all of them are in Washington, D.C. where the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial opened in 2021.  There are many others not run by the NPS, and we have not been to all of them yet, but these are our favorites.  Click here to see all our Top 10 Lists.

10. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (District of Columbia)

Opened in 1997, this series of sculptures is appropriately wheelchair-accessible

9. Fort Caroline National Memorial (Florida)

The original French fort has never been found (and is probably underwater), but you can tour a one-third scale reconstruction of the triangular structure based upon a drawing from 1564

8. General Grant National Memorial (New York)

Often referred to as Grant’s Tomb, this 150-foot tall marble and granite rotunda is the largest mausoleum in North America

7. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio)

This 352-foot tall memorial tower is located on South Bass Island in western Lake Erie

6. Lincoln Memorial (District of Columbia)

This iconic building at the west end of the National Mall receives around 7-million visitors annually

5. Flight 93 National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

As far we are aware, the only National Memorial representing the 21st century

4. Wright Brothers National Memorial (North Carolina)

The brothers’ momentous 12-second flight occurred here on December 17, 1903

3. Coronado National Memorial (Arizona)

There is no statue of Coronado, but there is a steep three-quarter mile trail to a 600-foot long limestone cave

2. Pearl Harbor National Memorial (Hawaii)

The memorial built atop the sunken U.S.S. Arizona is tasteful and beautiful

…and finally our #1 National Memorial:

1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

Inspiring during the day, but for the full effect do not miss the Evening Lighting Ceremony offered May through September

Honorable Mentions

Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial (District of Columbia)

Washington, D.C. is full of memorials (even the Washington Monument counts), but this one is the most unique

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial (District of Columbia)

Simple yet stunning, this statue of MLK is surrounded by some of his best quotes

Hamilton Grange National Memorial (New York)

Alexander Hamilton’s house is the only memorial built by the person it honors, though it has been moved twice since his death