Often the point of getting outside is just to get away from it all. But with national park visitation records climbing higher year after year, it can be challenging to find a quiet space to relax. Enter our country’s 154 national forests. In the West, millions of acres of tranquil, uncrowded national forest land awaits solitude seekers who don’t mind going off the popular path to find magical places in nature.
Mendocino National Forest, California
Mendocino National Forest is California’s only national forest that isn’t crossed by a paved road or highway, so silence seekers are richly rewarded for making the scenic three-hour drive north from San Francisco. Once in these 900,000 acres, you’ll be surrounded by mystical old-growth forest, lush meadows, and sparkling waterways—environs perfect for uninterrupted forest bathing, camping, hiking, kayaking, or riding horseback.
Los Padres National Forest, California
Along the coast near Big Sur, Los Padres National Forest spans almost 2 million acres across five counties. Its campgrounds are secluded but accessible, and its backpacking trails are equally silent, wending past redwood groves, lakes and rivers, and a rugged coastline. Vicente Flat Camp gets busy, but beyond there, you won’t see many other people, especially if you decide to traverse Pine Ridge Trail or head farther into the forest, past Sykes Hot Springs. While on this remote and largely road-free land, take in the salted ocean air, the endangered wildlife, and the rare flora.