National Forest Week: Enjoy Nature — Without the Crowds

Looking Glass Rock in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest; (photo/Shutterstock)

The sixth annual National Forest Week is from July 8 to 14 this year. Hosted by the National Forest Foundation (NFF), the week includes several community events, volunteer opportunities, and a photo contest. It is a great time to get out and explore the national forests near you — or go on a trip and visit one you’ve always wanted to see.

The National Forest Foundation (NFF) partnered with local organizations to host a series of events in various states, including New Mexico, Colorado, California, Arizona, and North Carolina.

Not inclined to volunteer? That’s OK. You can celebrate your own way by simply getting out and enjoying your national forests. Go for a hike. Go on a camping trip. Or just go drive. With 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands across the country — many of them with free campsites — there’s no shortage of opportunities to avoid the crowds.

Get Involved

Waterfall,And,Mossy,Boulders,In,Lush,Green,Forest,-,Rio
Waterfall and mossy boulders in the Santa Fe National Forest; (photo/Shutterstock)

I have been a long-time user of America’s national forests for hiking and climbing. The more I’ve used them, the more I’ve grown to appreciate and value what they offer — both in terms of recreation and retreat. They’re an amazing resource.

Through National Park Week, you can give back. Sign up for any of the numerous events the NFF is hosting for National Forest Week. They range from trail restoration to guided hikes and education courses.

Check out the entire list of events on the NFF website. Here are a few highlights.

NFF Events

  • Colorado: In one notable event on July 11, in conjunction with the Hardrock 100, volunteers will gather at the Ice Lake Trail Head in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest. Participants will help naturalize campfire rings placed too close to waterways — a crucial task for protecting the Animas watershed.
  • Arizona: On July 13, NFF and the Arizona Lottery are hosting a Tonto Creek Cleanup at Tonto National Forest in Payson, Ariz. Participants will join Smokey Bear for a fun and educational cleanup event. They’ll also learn about watershed protection and help with forest maintenance.
  • New Mexico: An exclusive guided hike on the Santa Fe National Forest is slated for July 14. Led by the Santa Fe Watershed Alliance, hikers will explore the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve and the Upper Municipal Santa Fe Watershed, areas typically closed to the public. This hike will offer insights into the role of beavers in the ecosystem and broader forest ecology.
  • North Carolina: Don’t worry, East Coasters, there are a few things for you, too. On July 12, help with maintenance on the Meadows Trail in Pisgah National Forest. It needs brushing of non-native and invasive plant species.
Lower,Lewis,River,Falls,In,Gifford,Pinchot,National,Forest, Washington,
Lower Lewis River Falls in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest; (photo/Shutterstock)

National Forest Week Photo Contest

Fancy yourself a photographer? Enter the photo contest by submitting your favorite shots in national forests.

The first 2,000 entrants will receive a 40% discount on an AllTrails subscription. Contest winners can expect prizes from Ignik, Southwest Airlines, Bronco, Filson, and Küat. There’s also a trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting.

There are five photo categories, including landscape, recreation, and animals. There is also a video category. Submit your photos through the online portal by July 14.

Still not convinced? Peruse the National Forest Foundation website to find other ways to get involved. You can also donate to the foundation or shop the sweet T-shirts from the organization’s partnership with The Landmark Project.

No matter what you choose, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of America’s forests — and the importance of protecting them. And take advantage of National Forest Week by getting outside, getting involved, or finding your own way to appreciate our public lands.

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