March 21, 2014 is World Forestry Day.  Established by the UN thirty years ago, World Forestry Day (also known as The International Day of Forests) seeks to bring attention to the pivotal role that the forests provide in our ever-changing environment.

The forests of the world do not only provide essential building material for humans but they are a home to both animal and plant wildlife.  In addition, the millions of trees that protect and foster the millions of other plants growing beneath them provide clean air and water.

So, here are the Top Five National Forests that you can visit:

1) SEQUOIA & KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK – California

One of the many giant Sequoia trees.

One of the many giant Sequoia trees. photo credit: James CW Chang

South of Yosemite, in the Sierra Nevada, is home to the Sequoia – the Giant Redwood.  These ancient, massive trees were nearly extinct due to the early settlers in the region but, a hundred years later, the Sequoias are flourishing.

You can spend the day hiking up Mount Whitney (and, if you’re an expert, hike to the summit of the tallest mountain in the Continental U.S.) or explore the several caves in the area.  Pear Lake Trail will lead you to Watchtower trail and Heather Lake.  There you can enjoy wildlife and the majestic views.

2) ARCADIA NATIONAL PARK – Maine

A lake for fishing and mountains for hiking.

A lake for fishing and mountains for hiking. photo credit: Alans1948

No matter what season it is Arcadia has something for everyone.  Alongside the Atlantic Ocean, the park provides several cliffs for the beginner and expert climber and hiking trails for those looking for a more leisurely afternoon.  Fresh water lakes provide ample opportunity to catch mackerel in the Summer and Winter.  The old carriage roads have been maintained throughout the years and now provide an excellent path for cyclists and, even, the occasional dogsled in the snowy months.  Take a drive along the Park Loop Road to enjoy all the park has to offer and end at the top of Cadillac Mnt. to watch the sunset.

3) BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE – Florida

A sample of the native wildlife.

A sample of the native wildlife. photo credit: mauricholas/ Maureen Leong-Kee

Not as well known as the neighboring Everglades, Big Cypress is just as unique.  The name Big Cypress doesn’t refer to the size of the tropical trees that populate this tropical Florida swampland but to the massive acreage that the park contains (over 700,000 acres).    The endangered Florida Panther is one but several unique species that call the Cypress trees home.  Raised walkways allow for visitors to stroll through the swamp and canoes are available for those who would like to get a little closer.  Park your car off the side of I-75 and hike the Tamiami Trail, remember it is a swamp and the water may get rather deep at some points (go in the winter months to avoid the mosquitoes and the heat).

4) THE SHAWNEE NATIONAL FOREST – Illinois

The sunset over the Fall foliage of the forest.

The sunset over the Fall foliage of the forest. photo credit: Michael Hart Photography

The Shawnee National Forest is a collection of four adjacent parklands at the northern part of the Mississippi River Valley.  The terrain throughout has a hardwood ecosystem and the trails are rugged and narrow.  These trails, however, lead you through the history of the forest; historic cemeteries and homesteads of the long-passed settlers.  If you make it to the southern-most edge of the park, you will be treated with a picturesque waterfall.  Show up at Oakwood wetlands in the Fall to see the Pin Oak leaves change color and the diverse population of waterfowl as the waters rise.

5) DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE – Alaska

The majest Mount McKinley overlooking the forest.

The majest Mount McKinley overlooking the forest. photo credit: DenaliNPS

The Alaskan wildlife roams freely throughout this six million acre park.  Majestic Mount McKinley stands above the surrounding taiga forest.  A single road lays through the preserve and, with the exception of bus tours and the lucky few, no vehicles are permitted; allowing for the peace and serenity of nature overtake you as you enjoy the last true remnants of nature.  The Triple Lake Trail is a 7.7-mile walk through the park with the moose and caribou.  Many, smaller, side trails lead you down to the lakes.

 

BONUS) PETRIFIED FOREST NATIONAL PARK – Arizona

One of the many petrified trees.

One of the many petrified trees. photo credit: tvanhoosear

Dinosaur fossils aren’t the only things you will find here.  Remnants of trees long gone, turned to stone by time, litter the desert vista.  Hikers will find a calmness as they pass the fossilized stumps, especially as the night sky rolls in from the East blanketing the desert in stars.  Drive Route 66 through the park to enjoy the most of the desert landscape.

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