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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- 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.
- 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: 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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- State covered by forest: 27.3% (340,000 acres)
Delaware's 16 state parks offer many outdoor activities, from hiking and biking to kayaking and swimming. The state is peppered with mixed oak forests, bald cypress trees and plenty of other greenery. During the spring and summer, tourists and locals alike particularly enjoy Fort Delaware State Park on Pea Patch Island.
- State covered by forest: 27.5% (25.6 million acres)
Often called “Big Sky Country,” this northwestern state, the fourth largest in the U.S., has a whopping 54 state parks with stunning scenery and trails to explore. Montana is the home of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Federation of Fly Fishers, and there are ample opportunities for trout and walleye fly-fishing.
- State covered by forest: 28.8% (12.6 million acres)
Hike, fish, or camp in Oklahoma’s 33 state parks scattered throughout the state. From Red Rock Canyon State Park to Little Sahara State Park, there are equal parts geographical diversity and natural beauty.
- State covered by forest: 30.9% (8.1 million acres)
The state’s forests vary in size—some clock in at 64,000 acres—and span across 21 Ohio counties. Shawnee State Forest, also called "The Little Smokies of Ohio," is the largest, with plenty of timber and equal room for wildlife and forestry research.
- State covered by forest: 32.7% (32.6 million acres)
The Golden State is a nature lover’s dream. California has 280 state park units, more than 340 miles of coastline peppered with scenic views and wildlife, and 4,500 miles of trails. Each year, more than 67 million people visit California’s state parks, often to see the famous sea otters on the central California coastline.
- State covered by forest: 34.4% (22.8 million acres)
From flat plains to steep mountains, Colorado has a great deal of forest to offer wildlife and residents alike, with plenty of spruce-fir and ponderosa pine trees. There are four national parks: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Mesa Verde National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site and Rocky Mountain National Park.
- State covered by forest: 34.5% (18.1 million acres)
Utah’s five national forests cover nearly 9.2 million acres—from the mountains of central Utah to the Wasatch Front—a source of drinking water to Salt Lake City. Dixie National Forest is the largest forest in the state and stretches 170 acres across southern Utah.
- State covered by forest: 35.2% (15.5 million acres)
In Missouri, there are more than 15 million acres of forest land, or about a third of the state, with plenty of oak, walnut, pine, and red cedar trees. Southern Missouri is also home to Mark Twain National Forest, and parts of the Ozark Trail wind through the forest, connecting St. Louis to the Arkansas border.
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- State covered by forest (coastline): 37% (14.4 million acres)
- State covered by forest (interior): 37.3% (62.4 million acres)
Alaska is home to the nation’s largest national forest, the Tongass National Forest, at a massive 16.8 million acres. The second largest, the Chugach National Forest, is nearly 6 million acres; comparable to Rhode Island and Massachusetts combined.
- State covered by forest: 37.3% (62.4 million acres)
In Texas, the U.S. Forest Service manages 675,000 acres that make up four national forests: the Sam Houston National Forest, the Angelina National Forest, the Davy Crockett Forest and the Sabine National Forest). Texas also is home to the Caddo-Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands.
- State covered by forest: 39.4% (2.5 million acres)
The Chesapeake Bay state has nine state forests and 145,394 acres of designated state forest. Its state tree is the White Oak—the most abundant species of oak in Maryland. It’s found in every single county.
- State covered by forest: 41.7% (2 million acres)
New Jersey’s Division of Parks and Forestry manages more than 50 protected areas that include state parks, state forests, and recreation areas. They range dramatically in size, from the 32-acre Barnegat Lighthouse State Park to Wharton State Forest, which is 115,000 acres in total. The Salem oak has been the symbol of New Jersey's state parks since 1905.
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- State covered by forest: 48.5% (29.8 million acres)
There are six state forests in Oregon, including Tillamook State Forest, which has 355,000 acres to explore along the northern coast. The streams, rivers, and lakes provide habitats for a variety of endangered fish species, including coho salmon, Chinook salmon, chum salmon, steelhead trout, and the Oregon chub.
- State covered by forest: 49.0% (17.0 million acres)
In 1878, Wisconsin became the first state to create a state park, which consisted of 760 square miles in northern Wisconsin. Today, there are 66 state parks that span more than 60,570 acres. In Milwaukee, the state’s biggest city, there is even a state park downtown called Lakeshore State Park.
- State covered by forest: 49.4% (12.5 million acres)
The Bluegrass State has 49 state parks with plenty of landscapes, from lakes and caves to lush forests that protect the state’s wildlife. The state is known for the Eastern Kentucky elk herd, which is the largest herd in America, east of the Rockies.
- State covered by forest: 50.7% (17.5 million acres)
In Florida, there are 11 national parks, including Biscayne National Park, which is within sight of downtown Miami but feels like a world away, with coral reefs and turquoise waters. Everglades National Park protects rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and panther.
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- State covered by forest: 52.7% (22.4 million acres)
The Evergreen State has plenty of greenery but is most famous for Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula, which receives heavy rainfall. There are more than 100 state parks in Washington, which has one of the biggest state park systems in the U.S., bald eagles, and priceless views of the Puget Sound.
- State covered by forest: 52.8% (13.9 million acres)
There are 56 parks and 1,300 miles of trails for visitors and locals to explore in Tennessee. Fall Creek Falls State Park is Tennessee’s largest park. It encompasses more than 26,000 acres and contains Fall Creek Falls, which at 256 feet, is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States.
- State covered by forest: 54.4% (360,000 acres)
Known for sandy shores, seaside towns, and Newport’s Gilded Age mansions, Rhode Island is also home to two national parks and 15 state parks. There are three state forests: Lincoln Woods State Forest, George Washington Memorial State Forest, and Wickaboxet State Forest.
- State covered by forest: 55.2% (1.7 million acres)
Named for the Connecticut River, this state has two national parks and plenty of state forests, including Tunxis State Forest and Devil’s Hopyard State Park. The Appalachian Trail passes through the state as does the New England Trail, which covers 215 miles and offers picture postcard-worthy snapshots of farmland, forest, and river valleys. Connecticut is also the home of J. Alden Weir, one of America's most loved Impressionists, whose home is set on 60-plus wooded acres.
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- State covered by forest: 55.6% (20.1 million acres)
In Michigan, which borders four of the Great Lakes, there’s so much forest to explore that people are never more than half an hour from a Michigan state park, state forest campground, or state trail system. There are 103 state park and recreation areas in total.
- State covered by forest: 56.3% (18.8 million acres)
Arkansas has 52 state parks. Mount Magazine State Park is a popular spot and is located on the state's tallest mountain with incredible views of river valleys and canyons. The park is great for rock climbing and mountain biking.
- State covered by forest: 58.6% (16.8 million acres)
There are 20 state forests in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The state forest system comprises 2.2 million acres of forestland in 48 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
- State covered by forest: 59.7% (18.6 million acres)
There are 10 national parks in North Carolina with around 18 million visitors. One of the most famous is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is known for its diversity in plant and animal life. The Trail of Tears also passes through the state, which commemorates the survival of Cherokee people who were removed from their homelands.
- State covered by forest: 60.6% (3 million acres)
There’s plenty of great outdoors to explore in Massachusetts, which is home to Cape Cod and 15 national parks. The Department of Conservation and Recreation manages more than 450,000 acres of forests and parks, nearly 10% of the state’s total landmass. There are also more than 2,000 miles of trails and 145 miles of paved bike and rail trails.
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- State covered by forest: 62.9% (19 million acres)
The Empire State might have bustling New York City, but it also has over 200 state parks, bald eagles, black bears, and coyotes. Hudson Highlands State Park offers hikes with impressive views. The park is a mostly undeveloped land of around 6,000 acres, with plenty of fishing and boating opportunities.
- State covered by forest: 62.9% (15.9 million acres)
The Virginia Department of Forestry manages 24 state forests at around 68,626 acres rich with history. The Charles Irving Thornton tombstone on the Cumberland State Forest is on the National Register of Historic Places with an inscription written by Charles Dickens.
- State covered by forest: 68.2% (13.1 million acres)
South Carolina has more than 80,000 acres of protected lands that span the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern border. Hunting Island State Park is the most popular park in the state, attracting 1.2 million visitors per year.
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- State covered by forest: 70.6% (22.9 million acres)
Alabama has four national forests: the Bankhead, Conecuh, Talladega, and Tuskegee. In the Conecuh, there’s plenty of wildlife to see on a trip, such as white-tailed deer and endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. Hikers will delight in all the trails—there are more than 342 miles to explore.
- State covered by forest: 77.8% (4.6 million acres)
Vermont might be the second smallest state by population, but there are still two national parks and millions of acres of forested terrain, especially hardwoods and conifers. The Green Mountains, which run north and south up the middle of the state, are wedged between Lake Champlain on the west and the Connecticut River Valley on the east.
- State covered by forest: 79% (12.2 million acres)
With six national parks and 37 state parks, this Appalachian state lives up to its nickname as the Mountain State. The Appalachian Trail, created in 1921, also runs right through the state’s scenic Appalachian Mountains, which extend all the way up to Canada.
- State covered by forest: 84.3% (4.8 million acres)
When it comes to woodsy, only one state ranks higher than the Granite State. New Hampshire is peppered by small towns stitched together by vast stretches of wilderness. Plenty of moose and black bears call the White Mountain National Forest home, while hikers delight in the Appalachian Trail, which runs throughout the state.
- State covered by forest: 89.5% (17.7 million acres)
New England’s northernmost state has four national parks, including Acadia National Park, where various habitats thrive along a rocky Atlantic coastline. From the mountains to the sea, more than 3.5 million people have set out to explore the park and 158 miles of its hiking trails, the National Park Service estimates.
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