States ranked from most to least woodsy
America’s national forests do more than offer us opportunities to play outside in nature. They protect our wildlife and play a valuable role in our ecosystems. Even in cities, they boost air quality, moderate air temperatures, and help reduce harmful ultraviolet radiation.
2019 was a banner year for the nation’s forests. According to a December United States Department of Agriculture news release, the Forest Service opened hundreds of thousands of forest acres and sold 75 million more board feet of timber than the 2018 record. Additionally, the agency “improved forest conditions and reduced wildfire risk on over 4 million acres,” and through a combined effort of the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, “treated 100,000 acres in 2019 to improve forest health where public and private lands meet and to protect nearby communities.”
Every single U.S. state, from the West Coast to the East Coast, has something to offer its residents in terms of the great outdoors. Many are familiar with renowned treasures like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Mount Rushmore, but from the Appalachian to the Rocky Mountains and out to the Redwoods and Alaska, more than 400 sites await millions of visitors each year. Our forests provide refuge, recreation, and plenty of miles of trails to explore with our friends and families.
Here, Stacker has ranked the states from least to most woodsy, based on how much of each state's land is covered by forest. These rankings are based on the 2016 United States Department of Agriculture Forest Inventory and Analysis Report, the most recent data available.
USDA researchers across the country used remote image sensing and other biomass survey techniques to determine how much land in each state is covered by forests. In total, the estimated forest cover in the conterminous United States is 36.2%, or a whopping 818.8 million acres.
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#50. North Dakota
- State covered by forest: 1.7% (760,000 acres)
Despite its well-known status as a prairie state, North Dakota still has plenty of pine trees—450,000 acres, or 1%, of forest, to be exact, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Around half of its forests are located in the Killdeer Mountains, Turtle Mountains, Pembina Hills, and around Devils Lake.
#48. South Dakota
- State covered by forest: 3.9% (1.9 million acres)
South Dakota, although relatively flat, has about 1.9 million acres of forest, but that’s only slightly more than 3% of the state’s total land. Most of the forest, peppered by ash trees, is located in the Black Hills region in the western part of the state.
- State covered by forest: 4.8% (2.5 million acres)
There’s no place like home when it comes to woodsy in Kansas. You’ll find 5.2 million acres of forests, woodlands, and trees here, taking up 10% of the state’s total land area. Surprisingly, 95% of the state’s rural forest is privately owned.
- State covered by forest: 8.4% (3 million acres)
When most people think of Iowa, they envision the heartland, with miles and miles of corn and crop dusters. But Iowa has four major forests, including Loess Hills State Forest—the state’s biggest.
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- State covered by forest: 13.6% (4.8 million acres)
Nicknamed the Prairie State, Illinois is marked by farmland, rolling hills, and of course, Chicago, but it also has plenty of wildlife throughout its six state forests and 4.4 million acres of forest land. The Shawnee National Forest, land designated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, is the single largest publicly owned body of land in the state.
- State covered by forest: 15.9% (11.2 million acres)
Nevada may have Las Vegas, but it also has the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (HTNF)—the largest national forest of the United States (excluding Alaska). The forest is so big at nearly 6.3 million acres that it actually stretches into California.
- State covered by forest: 18.4% (11.4 million acres)
With a whopping eight national forests and 9 million acres of wilderness, Wyoming offers plenty of hiking, fishing, camping, and backpacking activities. Wyoming is also home to Yellowstone National Park, hundreds of animal species, and the signature Old Faithful geyser.
- State covered by forest: 21.1% (4.8 million acres)
There are 25 state parks in this Great Lakes state, whose motto is “the crossroads of America.” From Turkey Run State Park to Spring Mill State Park, there’s no shortage of wilderness to explore in Indiana.
- State covered by forest: 25.6% (18.6 million acres)
Arizona, famous to many for the Grand Canyon, has six national forests that are incredibly diverse, with steep mountains and high stony plateaus. Plus, the state’s “cypress thicket” is unique to the state.
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