April 23rd, 2012 by

So far this Earth Month, we’ve been looking at a lot of the great benefits that forests provide, from mitigating climate change to providing homes for wildlife and managing water flow in our cities. But today, let’s look at a completely different thing that forests provide for us: Fun!

hiking through the forest

Photo credit: Miguel Vieira

Forests are like amusement parks, only with more variety. When it comes to recreation, there’s very little that the forests around the U.S. don’t offer. You can hike, bike, ski, snowshoe, swim, kayak, raft, canoe, climb, camp, photograph, explore and learn. And that’s just the beginning. You can see giant trees, bizarre plants, unusual animals, glaciers, geysers and more. You can use forests to relax and de-stress or to work out, amp up and get your blood pumping. All you have to do to take advantage of this is find the park or forest nearest you. Here are just a few of the great examples of how you can get out there and have some fun.

Take a Hike!
Just about every park or forest can offer you some great hiking, but the arguable king of trails in the U.S. is the Appalachian Trail. This 2,181-mile trail stretches from Mount Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia. It passes through 14 states, including miles of wilderness, forests and national parks. You can pick it up at any point along its route and hike sections as long or short as you like — either way, you’re guaranteed a great view. Or, if you’re really intense, you can try the whole thing.

Not located out east? That’s ok, check out the Pacific Crest Trail (2,663 miles) if you’re out west or the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles) if you’re in the Rockies. There’s something for everyone, as you can see from our list of the best hiking trails in the U.S.

Rafting the lower rogue river

Photo credit: USDA Forest Service

Rolling on the River
If moving along on the water is more your style, there are always a lot of options, from rivers to lakes. One of the most famous in the U.S., of course, is the Colorado River. Stretching from the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico, the river offers 1,450 miles of adventure for rafters, kayakers, canoeists and other paddlers, whether beginners or experienced adrenaline junkies. It passes through no fewer than 11 national parks, as well as number of national forests and state parks.

Camp Out
Sometimes a day trip just isn’t enough — you want to stay out in nature day and night. This means it’s time to break out the tents because you’re going camping! Whether it’s in your back yard or out in the wilderness, camping can be a fantastic getaway.

camping

Photo credit: Miguel Vieira

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular sites for camping in the U.S., but you can have fun with camping just about anywhere. Check out this list of top camping sites in national parks or head on over to the USDA Forest Service to find a national forest near you.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for a feature article on camping across the U.S., coming in the summer issue of American Forests magazine.

Can’t get away from the city? Enjoy the trees in your city park, whether it’s on the scale of the 843-acre Central Park in New York City, or the cozier green space in your neighborhood.

While we’re talking about fun outdoors, this week is National Park Week. From April 21 to April 29, all national parks are admission-free, so don’t forget to take advantage!