US National Forests of California

Cleveland National Forest is home to over 22 endangered animal and plant species.
Cleveland National Forest is home to over 22 endangered animal and plant species.

Within the United States, there are a total of 154 protected zones that have come to be classified as National Forests. Almost every state has a National Forest and the state of California is no different with a total of 20 National Forests. Some of them are exclusively within the bounds of California while a few are shared with other states. All National Forests are managed by the US Forest Service.

20. Cleveland

The Cleveland National Forest spans about 720 square miles and is the southernmost of all the National Forests in California. The forest was established in 1908 and is currently home to over 22 endangered animal and plant species. The climate within is warm and dry as most of the forest is chaparral.

19. Sequoia

This forest is situated in the south of the Californian mountains of Sierra Nevada. Sequoia was established in 1908 and covers an area of 1864 square miles. The majestic and colossal Giant Sequoia trees are responsible for the forest’s name.

18. San Bernardino

The San Bernardino National Forest has a size of about 1287 square miles of which 1059 square miles are federal. The forest was established in 1907 and encloses several reservoirs such as Lake Arrowhead. The forest has heights ranging between 2,000 and 11,499 feet.

17. Sierra

The Sierra National Forest lies on the western side of Sierra Nevada. Covering an area of 2046 square miles, this forest was created in 1893 and renowned for its natural resources and picturesque scenery. Elevations go as high as 13,986 feet.

16. Angeles

The Angeles National Forest was created in 1908 and has a size of about 1024 square miles. Most of the area is chaparral but the altitudes reach up to a maximum of 10,064 feet. As the name suggests, it is close to the metropolitan area of Los Angeles.

15. Tahoe

This forest has a size of 1361 square miles having been established in 1905. Also lying in the Sierra Nevada, this forest has several resources that have made it popular among nature lovers. The water resources within supply water to the nearby towns.

14. Los Padres

This forest spans an area of 2,970 square miles and was established in 1898. Mostly, it includes parts of the Californian coast and parts of central California. About 88% of this coverage is owned by the public while the rest is privately owned. Maximum heights in the forest reach up to 8,847 feet.

13. Mendocino

Established in 1908, Mendocino is unique in that it’s the only Californian National Forest without a paved highway. Mendocino has a size of 1427 square miles and stretches into six counties. The forest has a genetic research center that deals with saving endangered species.

12. Stanislaus

This forest spans across four counties in the Sierra Nevada and has a size of 1403 square miles. Having been formed in 1897, this is one of the most ancient US National Forests. Within it, there are over 800 miles of streams and rivers including the Stanislaus River.

11. Lassen

Located in northeastern California, this forest covers 1700 square miles and encloses the Lassen Volcanic National Park. Named after pioneer Peter Lassen and established in 1905, this forest has a lava tube that is 0.3 miles long that is open to visitors. Some extremely rare species of wolves live in the forest.

10. Eldorado

Also lying in the mountain range of Sierra Nevada, this forest was established in 1910 and has an approximate area of a relatively modest 932 square miles. Over 297 water bodies including 611 miles of fishable rivers and streams and within.

9. Modoc

Having been formed in 1904, the Modoc National Forest has a size of 2625 square miles. Maximum altitudes hit a massive 7,921 feet at the Medicine Lake Volcano within the forest. A huge part of the forest is covered with solid lava that flowed eons ago.

8. Plumas

Plumas National Forest was created in 1905 and spans an area of 1859 square miles. Of the total area, 196 square miles is an old-growth forest. The biggest portion of it lies in Plumas County with bits of it extending to parts of a few other counties.

7. Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

A relatively young forest, this forest was formed in 1973 and has an equally relatively small size of about 235 square miles. The name of this National Forest is unique as it was chosen to reflect the uniqueness and value of the ecosystem that is found within Lake Tahoe.

6. Six Rivers

Six Rivers National Forest was created in 1947 and has a size of 1496 square miles. The forest lies in the northwest of California and contains a vast variety of plant and animal species. Within the forest which lies in four counties, there are 366 miles of streams.

5. Klamath

The Klamath National Forest has a size of 2,715 square miles and lies in the northern parts of California in the Klamath Mountains. After its establishment in 1905, this forest has become crucial in protecting the rare Siskiyou mariposa lily which is only found in the forest.

4. Shasta-Trinity

This forest is the largest forest among forests exclusive to California with a size of 3452 square miles. Having been formed in 1905, this massive forest has 6,278 miles of streams and elevations of up to 14,179 feet. Trails add up to a total of 460 miles.

3. Humboldt-Toiyabe

Outside of Alaska, this is the largest forest with a colossal span of 9829 square miles. The forest was established in 1906 and is shared between California and Nevada. The forest settles in six Californian counties and 13 counties in Nevada. In California, about 11% is in eastern California with larger portions in the Sierra Nevada.

2. Inyo

Lying on the eastern region of Sierra Nevada, the Inyo National Forest has a huge approximate size of 2973 square miles. The forest was formed in 1907 and has elevations that reach up to a maximum of 14,505 feet. This elevation makes it the highest in the US among regions outside Alaska.

1. Rogue River-Siskiyou

Shared between California and Oregon, this forest has a size of 2685 square miles after establishment in 1893. The forest’s range is from the Siskiyou Mountains to the Cascade Range. 75% of the forest water is drained by the Rogue River. A pine tree measuring 268 feet in the forest may very well be the tallest in the world.


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