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A Guide to California's National Forests

A Guide to California's National Forests

Whether you want to see towering redwoods or unique rock formations, here are the California national forests to add to your bucket list.


3 min read

March 18, 2020

Between California’s national parks, beaches, state parks, and national monuments, there’s no end to the state’s scenic destinations—but add in California’s national forests, and there’s something fascinating to see in nearly every locale. From redwood forests in California’s northern edge to chaparral and pine groves in the Golden State’s southern tip, nearly every section of the state is spotted with patches of woods to explore. The U.S. Forest Service’s official California forests include the following. 

Southern California’s National Forests

Located less than 30 miles from bustling downtown L.A., Angeles National Forest provides a peaceful respite for city slickers.

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  • Angeles National Forest
  • Cleveland National Forest
  • Inyo National Forest
  • Los Padres National Forest
  • San Bernardino National Forest
  • Sequoia National Forest
  • Sierra National Forest

National Forests in Northern California

Tahoe National Forest draws millions of visitors year-round with its opportunities for outdoor recreation in spectacular surroundings.
  • El Dorado National Forest
  • Humboldt–Toiyabe National Forest
  • Klamath National Forest
  • Lassen National Forest
  • Mendocino National Forest
  • Modoc National Forest
  • Plumas National Forest
  • Shasta-Trinity National Forest
  • Six Rivers National Forest
  • Stanislaus National Forest
  • Tahoe National Forest

Notable National Forests in the Golden State

With so much to see—including the giant sequoias in California’s Sequoia National Forest and the famous redwoods in Six Rivers National Forest—figuring out where to go first can be the most challenging part. Here are some of our top picks to help inspire you.

The 700,000-acre Angeles National Forest is home to sparkling lakes, lush forests, and undulating slopes waiting to be explored.

Angeles National Forest

Established in 1892, Angeles National Forest is a diverse playground of natural wonders, covering approximately 700,000 acres northeast of Los Angeles’ urban center. Explore the forest’s chaparral, pine, and fir trees; pack a picnic to enjoy as you look out onto the reservoirs; go skiing, fishing, and swimming without leaving the stunning surroundings; and bring your hiking boots to traverse the trails (just make sure to watch out for equestrians and mountain bikers who may also be on the trails). When you’ve finished your excursion into the wooded areas, cruise to the nearby Vasquez Rocks for a bout of rock climbing to round out the day.

Myriad hiking trails lead past the towering trees and natural wonders tucked inside the stunning Sequoia National Forest.

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest is a 353,000-acre expanse and is home to 33 giant sequoia groves, though it has only been a designated national forest since April 2000. Alpine and subalpine forests converge, offering red and white fir trees, pines, wildflowers, meadows, lakes, and streams in addition to the forest’s namesake trees. Spend the weekend camping, hiking, picnicking, and exploring the massive trees and caverns that make this forested area so unique. Then, drive east to check out the unbelievable beauty of Death Valley National Park.

With shimmering waters, rugged peaks, and snow-dusted trees, Tahoe National Forest is a sight to behold in the winter.

Tahoe National Forest

Nestled in the northeast Sierra Nevada, reaching as far as the California–Nevada border, Tahoe National Forest boasts a unique landscape that weaves in and out of public and private lands. Located roughly three hours east of Sacramento, the 850,000-acre Tahoe National Forest is composed of rivers, hidden waterfalls, snow-capped peaks, and everything in between. Alpine meadows, granite cliffs, and steep canyons keep visitors captivated, while brilliant wildflowers provide an extra dose of joy in the springtime. Once you’ve seen it all, cruise to South Lake Tahoe to take it easy on the beach, continue your hiking adventures along the Tahoe Rim Trail, or hit the powdery slopes if the season is right. 

Planning a trip to Shasta National Forest, Mendocino Forest, or any of California’s other tree-covered destinations? Let us know in the comments below.

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