National Forest Foundation

Find A Forest And Hit The Trail!

The National Forest System


You've saved all the beautiful instagram pictures showing off grid trails, mountains drenched in a purple alpine glow, and smiley faces holding steamy mugs of coffee as they take in the view. You've even bought a fancy new pair of hiking boots, the kind with the ankle support! You are well on your way to taking your first backpacking trip.

EXCEPT, where to start?

National Forests offer the perfect trails for backpackers of all skill levels!

Many National Forest offer free backcountry trails permits and also have free open and dispersed camping.

This means you can go out, hit the trail, and set up camp almost anywhere, however make sure to check the restrictions in the area. This is especially great for those only wanting to go a couple miles down a trail or for a quick spontaneous night under the stars.

Here’s a step by step guide on how to find a location for a backpacking adventure:

Jump onto the internet and go to look at the map below and find your location and locate the forest nearest to you. (Awesome fact: 7 in 10 Americans live within 100 miles of a National Forest)

Found it? GREAT!

Now click on its link and read a brief introduction.

National Forest meet a future backpacker, future backpacker this is your National Forest.

The beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Now is where the fun begins, and by fun I mean a little more digging around being persistent.

Head over to look up your National Forest.

From here you will be taken to your forest’s page, it might look a little overwhelming, that's okay.


Look for the recreation side link, click to expand that, then select backpacking.

This is the point I have found it easier to write down the trails that look interesting to me and use the web to do an external search for length of the trail, and other hikers photos of the area. (THANK YOU SOCIAL MEDIA LOCATION TAGS)

If you have any questions, it might seem scary but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the office, ask them for recommendations and help.

Ultimately, I find that the toughest part is deciding where to go with so many places vastly available. It might take a little bit of work to thoroughly research an area but having the name of the forest in which you want to explore is already half the battle

Remember that these lands are yours, they exist for you to explore and most importantly help protect.

Happy trails!

About the Author

Karen Ramos is the founder of the nonprofit Get Out, Stay Out/Vamos Afuera. Learn more about Karen at and on Instagram at @naturechola.

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