What are some great forests?
September 5, 2010 9:08 PM   Subscribe

What are some amazing, intact, awe-inspiring, late-succession forests? What are good backpacking routes for seeing them?

I had a great trip to the woods for Labor Day weekend, and it got me thinking about how amazing trees are. It also got me noticing evidence of recent logging and human impact. I know that so many forests have been logged in fairly recent history. So, what are the amazing, intact forest ecosystems out there? I'd love to go see some vast forest that has not recently been logged and that is full of large old trees. If you know of good backpacking trips in those forests, that would be especially great to hear about. I live in California but would consider traveling anywhere.
posted by salvia to Science & Nature (17 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Off the top of my head, Muir Woods in San Francisco and Acadia National Park in Maine both had some pretty incredible hiking trails and trees.
posted by coppermoss at 9:13 PM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: Olympic National Park in Washington state has a bunch of old-growth forest.
posted by proj at 9:20 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I came in to say Olympic National Park.

One of the few things I miss about Washington.
posted by Netzapper at 9:46 PM on September 5, 2010

The hemlock trail portion of Ohiopyle in (perversely) SW Pennsylvania has stunning old-growth hemlocks. Breathtaking in Spring, when the ground is covered in 3' ferns, but probably magnificent at other times, too.

Benny: it's also close to Falling Water, for a brief side-trip.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:03 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yosemite National Park is a good one, I was just there a couple of weeks ago. There are some giant trees to be seen! Coming from an area with flat lands and lackluster trees, I really loved the park. It costs $20 for per car for entry but the pass lasts for seven days so I recommend staying out there for a while! Plus, it's in California :)
posted by cruncheweesy at 10:04 PM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: List of old growth forest. Lucky for you, a lot of the old growth forest in the US is in California. In the UK, they have what they term ancient woodland- I've driven past Sherwood Forest, and can attest that it looks unlike any other forest I've ever seen.
posted by MadamM at 10:11 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: seconding Olympic National Park. the Hoh rainforest is totally lovely, though if you're like me, it's a summertime type of trip (gets mighty cold n damp in the Pacific Northwest). Also -- Gila National Forest in New Mexico.
posted by custard heart at 10:15 PM on September 5, 2010

Oops, and forgot Allegheny National Forest, occupying a HUGE chunk of NE Pennsylvania. Lots of virgin pine/hemlock/birch forests, 200-400 years old.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:44 PM on September 5, 2010

If you're on the East Coast, there are some areas in Franconia Notch that are certainly older than most of the other forest I saw growing up. I am not absolutely certain of how much there was cut, but nearby Crawford Notch is on that Wikipedia list linked above. It isn't redwoods, admittedly, but there are lots of awesome trees growing out of rocks.
posted by maryr at 10:56 PM on September 5, 2010

Lake Ozette and environs
posted by hortense at 11:27 PM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: Friends of mine recently camped and hiked Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, loved the experience, and brought back pictures of incredible trees and old-growth forests.
posted by illenion at 11:42 PM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is huge and amazing, although because of the northern latitude the trees, while old, are not quite as big around as you would see in CA or other places.

There has been quite a bit of logging, but those parts designated wilderness are still really spectacular. I did a particularly memorable bear-watching trip in the Kootznoowoo Wilderness/Admiralty Island National Monument a few years ago, to Pack Creek. Misty Fjords National Monument is pretty great, too. There are not a lot of lengthy/developed trails for backpacking, but there are lots of shorter trails and kayak/canoe opportunities.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:45 PM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: Last weekend, for the first time, I went for a hike in the Ancient Forest in the interior of British Columbia. It's the only inland wet-temperate rainforest in the world, full of giant old cedars. It's well worth a visit, and the land around there is amazing--the Robson Valley is beautiful, especially at this time of year. The biggest tree there measures 5 metres (about 16 feet) in diameter, and is estimated to be close to 2000 years old.

Hiking/trail information

Flickr set of the Ancient Forest

Block 486, a short documentary about the potential threat of logging in this forest
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:33 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: If you've never been to Redwood State and National Park, which straddles Humboldt and Del Norte Counties in far northern Calfornia, go. On your way up there, take Avenue of the Giants.
posted by carmicha at 7:22 AM on September 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all of these suggestions. I'm glad to hear about all of them, and I marked as best answer anywhere with enough old growth to backpack in. This excluded a lot of East Coast answers (e.g., Allegheny: "Harvests during this era [1890-1930] were the most complete ever made in the area, clearing nearly every accessible tree of every size. The once vast forest of the Allegheny Plateau was almost completely removed, leaving barren hillsides as far as the eye could see"), but it was still great to hear that these forests have some remnants and are worth checking out. I appreciate all of the information. I'm hoping to get to the California suggestions in the next few months, and I am particularly interested in planning bigger trips to check out Olympic, the Tongass, and some of the forests in British Columbia.

Thanks again for all of these suggestions and any more that people wish to share.
posted by salvia at 10:44 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: In the U.S. the largest virgin forest is the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, intact, awe-inspiring, and it's a Wildlife Refuge so no motor boats or snowmobiles. Unfortunately, I don't think you'd make it very far without a canoe, kayak, skis, or dogsled. The town of Ely is basically built around providing those options to visitors. Outward Bound has a major base there too.
posted by Locobot at 3:44 PM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: If you really meant "anywhere", then the Bibbulmun Track in SW Australia passes through Jarrah and Karri forests. Not sure how much is old growth, but they are amazing trees, particularly the Karri. Tasmania is also known for it's old growth forests and hiking.
posted by kjs4 at 5:28 PM on September 6, 2010

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