Rainforests are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Wide varieties of plants, animals, and fungi all flourish in these lush landscapes.
Fortunately, the United States is home to some gorgeous rainforests. It may surprise some people to learn how close they live to them.
We’ve compiled a list of temperate rainforests you can visit without booking a flight or needing a passport. Discover where you can experience them for yourself.
Let’s dive in!
About America’s Rainforests
When you think about rainforests, you might picture a hot, muggy jungle filled with vicious wildlife. But America’s rainforests paint a very different picture.
Temperate rainforests in the US have average temperatures between 39 and 54 degrees with an annual rainfall of at least 55 inches. They’re typically home to coniferous and broadleaf forests covered with mosses and ferns.
Two main stretches of the country harbor the majority of America’s rainforests. The largest runs up the Pacific Coast from Big Sur, California, to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The other is the Appalachian forest which covers parts of Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.
What these two areas have in common is heavy rainfall, moderate temperatures, and an altitude of at least 3,750 feet. While flora and fauna vary significantly between each region, they’re all home to verdant, flourishing forests with rich biodiversity.
#1 Hoh Rainforest
Ferns and epiphytes dominate the understory of old-growth Sitka spruce and conifer forests. The forest floor remains completely shaded, except when one of these giant trees finally falls.
This enchanting area is also home to lots of wildlife. Black bears, Roosevelt elk, and river otters can be seen during the day. Birdwatchers might catch a glimpse of barred owls, American robins, Canadian grey jays, or even an endangered northern spotted owl. While at night, bobcats and mountain lions hunt in the darkness.
The Hoh Rainforest has several established hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult. Additionally, the campground has 72 sites that tend to fill up quickly during the peak season.
Pro Tip: Spend the night at The Best Free Camping Near Olympic National Park.
#2 Chugach National Forest
The Chugach rainforest lies on the southern coast of Alaska between Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula in America’s most northern national forest. Brilliant blue glaciers dot the waters of these misty fiords.
Only 500 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Chugach is technically classified as a sub-polar rainforest. This area gets as much as 300 inches of rain every year. Massive spruce and hemlock trees make up the majority of this forest. In addition, Chugach is home to several designated wetlands.
Roughly the size of New Hampshire, Chugach offers 3,500 miles of coastline, 1,800 miles of streams, and 48,000 acres of lakes. All five species of Pacific salmon can be found here, making it a very attractive fishing spot. Hunting, hiking, and skiing are also popular pastimes. Wildlife lovers may even spot moose, bears, and bald eagles.
Campgrounds in Chugach are typically open from May to September. Several cabins are also available for rent.
#3 Tongass National Forest
Another Alaskan gem, the Tongass National Forest, is the largest American rainforest. In fact, this 16.9 million-acre expanse is home to roughly a third of the world’s remaining old-growth temperate rainforest.
Western red cedar, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce dominate the landscape. In addition, wildlife such as brown bears, black bears, wolves, and moose can be found throughout this rainforest.
Despite its massive footprint, only 5.7 million acres of this forest are protected wilderness. Much of the remaining land has been exploited by logging companies. Fortunately, the 70,000 people living within this forest have made an active effort to protect their land and transition to more sustainable livelihoods.
Nearly a million visitors explore Tongass every year. Canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and fishing are all popular activities. In addition, visitors can watch whales off the coast and see the harbor seals and river otters that dot the shores of Glacier Bay.
#4 Appalachian Rainforest
The Appalachian Rainforest lies at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains. This park is a dreamy, moss-covered expanse of mixed red spruce and Fraser fir forests. Temperatures average between 40 and 60 degrees, and the area receives nearly 80 inches of rain each year.
This forest is home to unparalleled biodiversity. Over 30 species of salamanders and 2,000 fungi species thrive here. Moist, rotting logs make the perfect home for amphibians and mushrooms alike. Black bears, white-tailed deer, groundhogs, and flying squirrels can also be spotted throughout the rainforest.
Hikers and campers from around the world visit this rainforest by way of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. And seven different national forests claim portions of this forest, making it particularly accessible.
Pro Tip: Make sure to keep an eye out for these Most Dangerous Creatures on the Appalachian Trail.
#5 Redwoods National Park
Northern California’s Redwood National Park is possibly the most well-known of America’s temperate rainforests.
Visitors flock here to get a look at the massive, ancient redwood trees. It’s thought that these redwoods once covered up to two million acres of the California coast, but today only 4% remains untouched.
Wildlife is abundant here. Black-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes, and cougars live within this woody wilderness. Beavers and river otters can be spotted near waterways. In addition, seals, sea lions, and countless waterfowl dot the coast.
Scenic drives, misty hiking trails, and miles of Pacific coastline make this park an explorer’s paradise.
Plan a Visit to One of America’s Rainforests
America’s rainforests are some of the most stunning and unexpected forests in the world. They’re hubs of biodiversity, each with its own unique species and habitats.
They also provide exceptional recreation opportunities. Hikers, campers, kayakers, and anglers can all expect an exciting experience in these vibrant ecosystems.
So, if tropical birds and crouching tigers still come to mind when you think of rainforests, it might be time for a trip to one of America’s own temperate rainforests.
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
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