By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern
National Forests are often synonymous with a long walk in the woods under canopied skies, but here’s a collection of five must see locations in our forests that offer much more than their thick trees or dense foliage alone. From a cliff-top lookout to a giant glacier waterfall and herds of wild bighorn sheep, these exciting destinations are sure to keep you entertained.
1. Round Island Lighthouse, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
Connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are the treacherous Straights of Mackinac, full of rocky shoals and shallows that tore apart many ships in centuries past. In 1895, Round Island Lighthouse was built to help warn of these dangerous areas. Long since decommissioned, the lighthouse has been added to Hiawatha National Forest and restored into a breathtaking historical landmark on the tip of a protected wilderness island.
2. Nugget Falls, Tongass National Forest, Alaska
Nugget Falls rushes out of the melting Mendenhall glacier and into the mountain-framed lake below. This area of Tongass National Forest is home to dense forest which has aged more than 200 years, but the forest also welcomes new life. The melting and moving glacier has revealed new land that has only been without ice in the last 50 years. The result is beautiful young-growth — patches of lush moss and colorful lichens, tiny fungi and sapling spruce.
3. Sheep Mountain, Angeles National Forest, California
When people think of Southern California, lush forests and abounding wildlife don’t typically come to mind. But, with Sheep Mountain Wilderness in Angeles National Forest, breathtaking vistas and unique animals are the norm. Many hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail cite this section as their favorite, and it’s easy to see why. Home to peaks of more than 10,000 feet in elevation, the wilderness is a wildlife corridor home to three large groups of bighorn sheep that roam the highlands.
4. High Rock Lookout, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington
You can view both Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens from the shelter of this lookout in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Teetering on the brink of sheer cliffs that drop 600 feet vertically and then careen further to the valley below, High Rock Lookout is an exhilarating hiker’s resting place. Built in 1930, pack mules were needed to carry the necessary timber up the precarious ridgeline. While no longer in official use, the lookout is still the perfect destination for sheltered snacking while looking thousands of miles in all directions, over jagged mountain peaks and gem blue lakes.
5. Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, Arizona
Countless photographers have been unjustly accused of photoshopping the rich colors and dramatic contrasts of the Red Rocks Ranger District in Coconino National Forest. Reminiscent of old western movies, this wilderness area is a drastic change from its historic status as wetlands. Now, sharply carved cliffs jut out of Ponderosa pines and rugged desert terrain, their unique geological formations laced in rainbows of red, orange and yellow.