Why National Forests Are Better Than National Parks

National parks are one of our nation’s treasures, but I’d like to introduce you to national forests. Our forests, with the tagline of “Land of Many Uses,” are in many ways better than parks.

Here are 5 reasons you should visit a national forest instead of a national park.


If you’re a dog owner, you might know that the National Park Service doesn’t really roll out the red carpet for our pups. Most parks don’t allow dogs on trails and basically only allow dogs on paved roads and parking lots and in some campgrounds. National Forests, on the other hand, are extremely dog friendly. Your dogs are invited on trails and most forests have very few dog-related restrictions. You and your dog are free to explore the lands of many uses.


Happy boy hiking in the Eldorado National Forest

Honestly I could end the post here (because dogs!), but I will keep going…

2) No Crowds

Last year, there were 331 million visitors to national parks. The top ten parks had between 3 – 11 million visitors. That equals a lot of crowds. Lines for spots in parking lots, traffic in Yosemite Valley, elbowing your way around large groups on trails – these aren’t really things you’d expect when visiting protected natural lands. National forests on the other hand, had an estimated 140 million annual visits (and more than double the amount of acreage of the national park system). When you visit a national forest, chances are you won’t see another soul. Or you’ll only see a handful of souls (and several of them will be furry!).


Desolation Wilderness – we hiked for 7+ hours on this trip and probably saw 5 people on the trails?

3) Save Money

Personally I love paying the entrance fee to a national park. It’s a simple, monetary way for me to show my appreciation for the work of the NPS. But, those fees can add up so if you’re looking to save some money, a national forest is a free option.

4) More Adventurous

Similar to point number 2, the lack of crowds lends itself to a more adventurous feel than, say, driving the south rim of the Grand Canyon. But not only are you often by yourself, you will also come across slightly less groomed trails. Sometimes the markers won’t be clear or you might take a wrong turn or two. If you like the idea of “getting lost” you’ll probably enjoy hiking a national forest more than a national park.


Sequoias, man. The Trail of 100 Giants is on the side of the road in Sequoia national forest.

5) It’s Basically the Same as the Park

The greatest thing about national forests is that they often surround national parks. Love Yosemite but hate traffic? Head up to the surrounding national forests and you’ll get the same exact rock formations, waterfalls, and views of valleys. If you’re visiting a park this summer, check out some of the national forests nearby and give it a try.


This is the trail to Mount Whitney. The first part is through the Inyo National Forest. The second half is in King’s Canyon National Park. You literally walk into a national park from the national forest. Fun fact: Dogs cannot be on the national park portion of the trail, but can do the first portion in the forest (go figure…)

What national forests have you visited? Why do you love the land of many uses?

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About Stephanie Y.

I'm a professional news writer in Frederick, Maryland. I blog at S.Y. Ciphers.

One response to “Why National Forests Are Better Than National Parks”

  1. Vanda Yamkovenko says :

    Good thoughts and well presented!

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