A Guide to California’s National Forests: Part 1

California is home to the highest concentration of National Forest land anywhere in the United States, containing 18 total officially designated National Forests and several more State and National Parks within its confines.

Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between all the different forest lands, with unknown boundary zones and natural barriers throughout the state.

With this blog we will be exploring 10 National Forest or State Park areas of interest, with information on when they were established, what kind of flora and fauna are within, their contribution to our industry, and recreation available in each.

  • Redwood National and State Parks
  • Six  Rivers National Forest
  • Klamath National Forest
  • Shasta-Trinity National Forest
  • Modoc National Forest
  • Lassen Volcanic National Forest
  • Plumas National Forest
  • Tahoe Batuibak Firest
  • Mendocino National Forest
  • Eldorado National Forest

Redwood National and State ParksPacific Southwest National Forests

There are actually four total 'Redwood' parks, all four parks combined protecting over 133,000 acres of old growth forests and miles upon miles of pristine coastline. The four parks include Redwood National Park, Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks, the oldest of which were established in the 1920s. There are roughly 200 miles of trails within the parks, and within them, you're likely to see gray whales during their migration cycles, Roosevelt elk as the most abundant wildlife in the park, an abundance of birds, as well as those creatures visible in the tide pools. Kayaking, canoeing, camping, and biking are all extremely popular activities in the redwoods parks, though most people come specifically to marvel at the redwood giants.

Redwood National Park Pixabay Public Domain

Redwood National Park Pixabay Public Domain

Six Rivers National Forest

This national forest was established by Harry S. Truman in 1947, stretching from the southern Oregon border to Mendocino County, covering 140 miles. Within this area, you will find coniferous forest land, oak woodland, and grassland,  several different important endangered species such as the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon calling these woodlands home. There are, as the name suggests, six rivers within the park's confines, being the Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Van Deren, and Eel. There is plenty of water recreation options available for visitors here, as well as hiking, backpacking, and camping options. The forest's headquarters is located in Eureka.

Klamath National Forest

The Klamath National Forest encompasses 1,700,000 acres in both Siskiyou County California and Jackson County Oregon. Klamath is known for contributing greatly to local and national needs for timber, gold, and other natural resources. This gorgeous, expansive forest land contains pines, douglas fir, and mixed conifer forest, as well as over 200 miles of river fit for rafting and 152 miles of forest/wild river. Fish, wildlife watch, kayak, or raft the Klamath River, Salmon River, or Scott River, then head to any of the 5 different wilderness areas for hiking and backpacking. The 5 areas include Marble Mountain, Russian Wilderness Area, Trinity Alps, Red Buttes Wilderness Area, and Siskiyou Wilderness Area. There are 34 campgrounds total here.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest is the largest in California, established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1905. The two forests, Shasta and Trinity, were officially combined into one in 1954, making the area a total of 2.2 million acres. Within this acreage you will find over 6,000 miles of rivers and streams, 5 wilderness areas (Castle Crag, Chanchellulla, Mount Shasta, Trinity Alps, Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel), 4 main mountains (Shasta, Hoffman, Lassen, McLoughlin), and parts of the Pacific Crest Trail. Mount Shasta is the grand centerpiece of the Shasta Cascade region, the volcanic peaks reaching 14,179 feet. In addition, there are also 365 miles of shoreline with Shasta's Lake, Lewiston Lake, and Trinity Dam. Enjoy hiking, mountain climbing, wildlife watching, horseback riding, boating, skiing, snowboarding, and much more here.

Mount Shasta Pixabay Public Domain

Mount Shasta Pixabay Public Domain

Modoc National Forest

The Modoc tribe first called this land 'The Smiles of Gods', the Native American tribe being the first inhabitants of this gorgeous national forest. Roosevelt officially established the park in 1904 within the extreme northeast corner of California. Within the forest, you will find Ponderosa Pine, Jeffrey Pine, White Fir, Sugar Pine, Western Juniper, Purple Sage, Mountain Mahogany and so much more. Visit Devils Garden Plateau, the Alturas, Eagle Peak, the Southern Warner Wilderness and mountain range, and the Medicine Highlands, which contain the largest shield volcano in North America. You can see over 300 species of wildlife within the park, including elk, wild horse, mule deer, and antelope, as well as enjoy plenty of outdoor recreation options such as hiking, backpacking, camping, and more.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Home to the southern-most volcano in the Cascade Mountain range, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a geological wonderland and scenic adventure destination. Lassen Volcanic National Park was officially established as a national landmark by President Roosevelt in 1907 and includes the landmarks of both Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak within the park's beautiful borders. Over 300,000 visitors reach Lassen Volcanic National Park every year to enjoy the sites and recreational opportunities. There are a number of activities regularly experienced, including horseback riding, fishing, bird-watching, and of course hiking. Making one's way to the top of Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone are among the top activities as are visits to Bumpass Hell, the geothermal wonderland filled with hot springs, boiling mud pools, and other remnants of the park's volcanic activity.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Pixabay Public Domain

Lassen Volcanic National Park Pixabay Public Domain

Plumas National Forest 

Plumas National Forest is a 1,146,000 acre 'scenic mountain land' located in the northern Sierra Nevadas of California, just south of the Cascade Mountain range. This forest is used for recreation purposes, timber resources, hydropower, and water. Roosevelt established this national forest in 1905, the deep canyons, mountain valleys, meadows, peaks, streams and lakes attracting several guests looking to immerse themselves in classic Cali forest land. The area is uncrowded and versatile, containing everything from timbered slopes to rugged high country. Plumas extends from Lake Orville to US Highway 395.

Tahoe National Forest 

Highly popular for its contribution to the timber industry, its rugged beauty, and its major water source, the Tahoe National Forest is one of the most important in California. This forest straddles the crest of the Sierra Nevadas, the land containing foothills, slopes, peaks, rivers, and creeks abound. The river basins within supply water for millions of people and thousands of acres of farmland, the major waterways including the American River, Yuba River, Truckee River, and Bear/Deer Creek. Find trees such as Live Oaks, Giant Sequoias, Red Firs, and Ponderosa Pine within, as well as a plethora of wildlife. You can hike, camp, rock climb, bike, sightsee, and even hunt within this forest. Tahoe is situated in the midst of several other major wilderness areas, with Plumas to the north, Eldorado to the south, Humboldt to the east, and of course, Lake Tahoe to the west. Lake Tahoe is a major recreation destination in of itself.

Lake Tahoe Pixabay Public Domain

Lake Tahoe Pixabay Public Domain

Mendocino National Forest

Mendocino National Forest is the only one out of the 18 in California to not be crossed by a paved road or highway, making it extremely likable to nature lovers seeking solitude and relaxation. The 913,306 acres of forest land was established by Roosevelt in 1907 and contains 4 distinct wilderness areas: Snow Mountain, Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel, Yuki, and Sanhedrin. You will see everything from oak woodlands and conifer forest to wet meadows and grass glades within the area, which is 65 miles long and 35 miles wide. Wildlife watch for native species such as black bears, mountain lions, and quail while you enjoy your time hiking and/or biking around the area. You can also learn the history of the area, including several Native American tribes, copper mining, and hot springs.

Mendocino National Forest Pixabay Public Domain

Mendocino National Forest Pixabay Public Domain

Eldorado National Forest

The Eldorado National Forest is located in the central Sierra Nevada, bordered on the north by Tahoe National Forest and on the south by Stanislaus National Forest. The area contains woodland, chaparral, conifer, fir, and subalpine, with much hardwood, brush grass, and forbs within. The area may be most well known for its water, both precipitation wise and body of water-wise. The Mediterranean climate zone sees about 40-70 inches of annual precipitation, easily filling the 611 miles of fishable streams and 297 lakes and reservoirs within. The canyons and plateaus of Eldorado are broken up by the Mokelumne, Cosumnes, American, and Rubicon Rivers, as well as by the over 2,300 miles of roads and 350 miles of trails within, used often for transportation reasons.