Tag Archives: Top 10

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 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

Top 10 of Our Top 10 Lists

We have completed a surprising 55 Top 10 Lists for this travel blog, so we thought now would be a good time to rank our favorites.  Like most of our lists, this one is purely based on personal opinion and not number of page views.  A meta-analysis of the lists revealed that Yellowstone National Park in our home state of Wyoming consistently ranks near the top of many different lists.  So if you want to visit one National Park* you might do well to choose the world’s first.  Another good place to start is our Top 10 from Our First 100 Blog Posts, 101-200, and 201-300Click here (or above) to see all our Top 10 Lists.

*A reminder that of the 423 units in the National Park Service (NPS) system, only 63 are called National Parks so we tend to split our lists between those 63 and the other 360 NPS Sites

10. Top 10 of the 50 States for NPS Sites

This was one of our favorite lists to make, and surprisingly our home state didn’t even make it

9. Top 10 of the 63 National Parks for Wildlife Watching

Wildlife makes some National Parks great destinations, plus don’t miss out on our Top 10 NPS Sites for Wildlife Watching

8. Top 10 NPS Sites to See America First

When international travel is not an option, visit these lookalike spots without a passport

7. Top 10 Sand Dunes at All NPS Sites     

We love climbing, backpacking, photographing, and sledding on sand dunes

6. Top 10 Museums at the 63 National Parks

Not all National Parks even have a museum, but some are really well done as are the ones in our Top 10 Museums at NPS Sites

5. Top 10 Caves at All NPS Sites 

Caves are not for everyone, but wild caving tours have been some of our best park experiences

4. Top 10 of the 63 National Parks for Hiking

The easiest way to lose the crowds at a National Park is to hike for a mile or two, which is also true in our Top 10 NPS Sites for Hiking

3. Top 10 National Monuments

The NPS manages 82 of the nation’s 128 National Monuments and there are some that are better than the 63 National Parks

2. Top 20 of the 63 National Parks for Photography         

Ten was not nearly enough for this list, nor for our Top 20 NPS Sites for Photography

…and finally the #1 Top 10 List:

1. Top 10 of the 63 National Parks

Our highly-opinionated list does not even mention some of the most visited National Parks

Honorable Mentions

Top 10 Primitive Campgrounds at the 63 National Parks

We actually did four lists for camping, including Campgrounds (with running water), Designated Backcountry Campsites, and Dispersed Backcountry Camping

Top 10 Waterfalls at the 63 National Parks

Waterfalls are often the most visited feature in any given National Park, as is the case in our Top 10 Waterfalls at NPS Sites

Top 10 NPS Sites for Kayaking

We have kayaked at quite a few NPS units (including Channel Islands National Park in November 2021)

More Honorable Mentions

Many of our lists are for books and films, so here are our favorites among those:

Top 10 Movies Filmed in National Parks

These are not necessarily the best movies of all time, but they all feature great landscapes

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books Set in Multiple NPS Sites

Just had to update this list after reading Conor Knighton’s Leave Only Footprints; also check out our Top 10 Novels and Top 10 Non-Fiction Books Set in a Single NPS Site

Top 10 Guidebooks to National Parks

We’re #1!  What else can we say?  Planning is a fun and essential part of good travel

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Top 10 National Parks for Winter Recreation

Most of the 63 National Parks in snowy areas close their roads over the winter, but this allows for a variety of different recreation opportunities, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snow biking.  There are several National Parks that are actually best to visit in winter to avoid the heat (like Everglades and Saguaro), but this ranking focuses on those where snow adds to the experience.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Lassen Volcanic (California)

Winter lasts so long in this park, you might find you need snowshoes in July

9. Grand Teton (Wyoming)

When the park roads close, they become cross-country skiing and moose traveling routes

8. Mount Rainier (Washington)

Plows make sure the popular snow play area at Paradise is always accessible

7. Bryce Canyon (Utah)

It snows often at 7,000 feet in elevation, making the hoodoo formations even more beautiful

6. Denali (Alaska)

Dog sledding is how the National Park Service (NPS) rangers get around during the long winter

5. Voyageurs (Minnesota)

Ice fishing is such a draw when these lakes freeze over that the NPS even maintains an ice road

4. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)

It is possible that the trailhead at Bear Lake is actually busier in the winter (also try the Wild Basin area)

3. Crater Lake (Oregon)

The lake is never prettier than when surrounded by snow and the entry road is plowed year round

2. Sequoia (California)

The orange bark of giant sequoia seems to glow when surrounded by snow

…and finally the #1 National Park Service site for winter recreation:

1. Yellowstone (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Take a snow coach or snowmobile to the Winter Lodge at Old Faithful for a “bucket-list” experience

Honorable Mentions

Acadia (Maine)

The park’s 45 miles of carriage roads are ideal cross-country ski routes

Mesa Verde (Colorado)

Tours end in the winter, but we included it specifically for the one night in December when the NPS lights luminaries in the ruins

Kenai Fjords (Alaska)

There is a public use cabin located down the road to Exit Glacier open to snowmobilers by reservation

Badlands (South Dakota)

Nothing in this park really closes in the winter, but we think the formations are even prettier in snow

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