My favorite way to see a National Forest is from the top of a mountain. My husband and I spend as much time as we can in the mountains, which I credit to our big appetite for long days, sore legs, and views from the top. Often times people will ask how we figure out where to hike, or what to climb. After all, to reach the top of a mountain you often have to follow a remote trail – if there is even a trail to follow!
The easiest place to start is with a National Forest. Below I list nine National Forests that boast mountains, including both well-known peak-bagging meccas and lesser-known areas with a lot of neat rock. Of course, there are thousands of mountains to climb across the National Forest System. My list only captures a few of the places I have been, or hope to be soon. Oh, and you’ll notice a slight bias for Montana’s mountains (but I can’t help it – I live here!).
Before you go, remember that climbing any mountain, regardless of the rating, is a challenging pursuit. Climbing on a steep grade is much slower and more tiring than hiking on flat ground. Be safe. Consider your fitness level.
Familiarize yourself with how mountains are rated , and make sure you’re climbing a mountain that’s appropriate for your skill level. Bring plenty of water and food. Check the weather before you go, and bring weather-appropriate clothing, and a first-aid kit. Do not consider an off-trail route unless you are 100% confident in your map-reading abilities. Wear a helmet if there are other climbers above you or any chance that falling rock could hit you.
Most importantly, trust your judgment. R.J. Secor, author of the classic guidebook High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails , summed things up best by stating, “…safety depends on the character of the individual rather than on the use of equipment or knowledge of specialized techniques. The judgment of a party can make all the difference between a pleasurable journey and a preventable tragedy.” Always use your best judgment.
Now, stop reading and go enjoy the mountains!