By Lindsay Seventko, American Forests

America’s forests are popular destinations for hikers, joggers and outdoor enthusiasts to get outside and enjoy nature’s beauty. If your standard forest expedition of choice is getting boring, take a walk on the wild side and use one of these ways to explore forests from a completely different perspective.

1. On the Water

There’s something incredibly refreshing about exploring a forest by water. Rivers are the lifeblood of forests, and paddling down a remote waterway is a sure way to see the unique habitat and wildlife of the river’s banks. Whether you’re looking to rest and replenish or get a wild adrenaline rush, there’s the perfect river waiting to be explored. A gently moving current will soothe you and do most of the work in moving your canoe or kayak along, so you can relax and take in the beauty of the forest and water. Conversely, picking a rushing whitewater location will immerse you in the immense power of the natural world as you ride the waves.

Credit: OakleyOriginals via Flickr.

2. Under the Stars

Many of the country’s most wild and beautiful forests offer remote campsites, where you can experience sleeping under the night sky with views of the stars unobstructed by city lights, and the sounds of the forest unmasked by the noise of your neighbors. The next time you want to take an extended trip in the great outdoors, avoid the typical campgrounds and head deep within the forest to a remote campsite. The deep stillness of a forest at night, with the smell of the trees and soft sounds of nature, are an unparalleled experience.

Camping under stars
Credit: Zach Dischner via Flickr.

3. Zip over Canopy

When you hear about ziplining over a forest canopy, many people think of tropical rainforest expeditions in South America or African safaris, but amazing zip line adventures can be had in forests across the United States. If the thought of human-made structures in the forest bother you, don’t worry! There are many zip lines now that used sustainable construction tactics that don’t harm the existing trees or forest! Zipping through an exciting course is bound to offer a new and exciting perspective on the forest from the air.

Credit: Sergio_Leenen via Flickr.

4. Go Underground

While people typically traverse no lower than the forest floor, in some places there’s a whole world waiting to be discovered beneath the trees. At Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Utah, mountain lion prints leading through the forest gave away the hidden entrance to a breathtaking cave. Slowly carved over time into massive rooms filled with incredible geological formations, the cave is home to bats and other rare wildlife. Many popular national forest destinations boast similar trails through the forest to well hidden caves and caverns that are filled with fascinating formations, rare geodes and unique wildlife.

Credit: Kaija O. via Flickr.

5. Ride a Gondola

Some U.S. forests offer a uniquely relaxing way to view the foliage from the seated comfort of a gondola ride. Typically reserved for ski vacations, many locations offer scenic rides year round, allowing you to see the spring blooms and fall foliage from the convenience of an effortless, seated ride up the mountainside.

Credit: kris krug via Flickr.

6. Snowshoe a Winter Wonderland

As winter approaches, many people start spending less time in forests and switch from hiking and walking to more seasonally specific activities like skiing and sledding. But, forests in the cold months truly transform into winter wonderlands. Switch up your winter routine by going for a snowshoe hike. The stillness of the trees, cleanness of unbroken snow and evidence of winter wildlife are a truly unique experience from every other season. If you don’t want to invest in your own gear before you try it, many outdoor recreation and sporting stores offer inexpensive rentals!


7. Bike a Trail

If the thought of mountain biking brings to mind alarming adrenaline-filled races on treacherous paths, don’t worry. There are plenty of easy, well-maintained trails suitable for the beginning biker in local parks and national forests, offering a way to explore more parts of the forest than you could reasonably walk on foot. Forest bike rides offer a fun way for the whole family to get outside, exercise and explore, away from the bustle of suburban roads and with plenty of interesting landscapes to stop and check out as you come across them.


There are countless ways to traverse America’s forests, but whatever your method of choice, switch it up once in a while and see the forest from a whole new light. Share your favorite way to explore a beautiful forest in the comments!