Forest tourism has been a popular activity for decades, as people seek out beautiful and unique landscapes across the globe. Whether its for a world-class hike or to take breathtaking photographs, we are drawn to these thickets of towering trees and diverse wildlife. The peaceful quiet and the absence of most of civilization’s marks allows us moments in time we never forget. Below are some of the world’s most stunning, unforgettable forests. Where would you go first?
Crooked Forest, Poland
The Crooked Forest is exactly what it sounds like: a small forest of bent pine trees, located in western Poland. The trees were planted around 1930, when Germany controlled Poland, and grew with their bent shapes at roughly 90 degree angles. Some guess it was a deliberate modification by humans, though no one can say how or why this would be done. The trees grew normally for 7-10 years before whatever method or event caused them to start growing crookedly.
Aokigahara (Sea of Trees), Japan
The Sea of Trees or Aokigahara forest resides northwest of Mount Fuji in Japan. It is a dark, dense forest with hidden caves and a curious absence of most wildlife. You might recognize Aokigahara for its grisly reputation as “the Suicide Forest”. In 1998, 73 dead bodies were found in the forest, with many of them appearing to be suicides. In 2002, 78; in 2004, 108; and in 2010, 54. The forest’s fame has become such a concern that watchmen have been hired to do sweeps of the forest in an attempt to prevent further suicides.
The Red Forest, Ukraine
The Red Forest, originally the Worm Wood Forest, is located within the 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) area affected the Chernobyl nuclear incident in 1986 in Ukraine. As a result of the radiation, the forest turned a ginger-brown color, earning its current name. Most of the forest was bulldozed and buried under carpet in order to partially replant the area. Bits of civilization from abandoned towns are still there, like the old bumper car pictured above.
Luntai Huyang Poplar Forest, China
Luntai Huyang Forest is the largest, densest, and best preserved population of diversiform-leaved poplars in the world. The name of this tree means “the most beautiful tree” in the Uygur language, one of China’s many ethnic minorities. It has a remarkable ability to withstand drought, sand, and harsh winds, ironic considering the forest’s proximity to expanses of desert.
Redwood National and State Parks, California
The Redwood National and State Parks in California consist of Redwood National Park, the Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith State Park, and Prairie Creek State Park. Redwood trees are one of the tallest tree species on Earth, able to reach up to 397 feet (115.5 m) high. A number of threatened animal species reside in the parks. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
This park is part of the larger Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is one of the most diverse ecosystems in East Africa. It contains a wide range of both plant and animal species, including a notable population of mountain gorillas. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Located on the Olympic peninsula of Washington State, the Olympic National Park was preserved by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1938, and has since been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Hoh and the Quileute tribes reside here. The park contains a diverse range of features, including old-growth, glacial mountains, and temperate rain forest.
Black Forest, Germany
This thickly-wooded forest includes moutains, rivers, and Mummelsee lake. There are also a couple museums, such as the Black Forest Open Air Museum which features reconstructions of the 16th-17th century life of the local population at that time. This is reportedly the setting of many of the Grimm brother’s fairytales as well, giving it an extra whimsical appeal.
Maolan National Nature Reserve, China
The Maolan National Nature Reserve is a rare forest due to its Central Asian tropical karst features, which offers an exciting ecosystem much-valued by the scientific community. Karst topography is a rare landscape, and most areas with this feature are barren, making Maolan a true treasure for scientific research. The area has plenty of lush vegetation, mineral-rich rocks and soil, and underground caves.
Devil’s Tramping Ground, NC, USA
Not so much the forest itself as a specific area of it, Devil’s Tramping Ground is the name given to a spot in a North Carolina forest that is swathed in legend. The area, as pictured above, is a circular patch of land which is mostly devoid of plant life. Local lore holds that this is a spot where the devil stomps around in a circle, plotting the destruction of mankind. Scientists from North Carolina’s DOA took soil samples from the spot and tested them, finding the soil to be too sterile and acidic to support plant life, but many still believe the myth.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
This large reserve in Costa Rica stretches over 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres) and contains a highly diverse ecosystem with 2,500 plant species, 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects species. “Cloud forest” refers to a category of tropical or subtropical forest which has consistent or frequent low-level cloud coverage.
Sagano Bamboo Forest, Japan
Forests aren’t only for trees. This stunning bamboo forest in the Arashiyama district of Japan contains more than a dozen varieties of bamboo, growing to enormous heights and blanketing the area. Some of the plants are up to 100 feet tall!
Yellowwood State Forest, IN, USA
The Yellowwood State Forest gets its name from the yellowwood tree..Besides its beautiful landscape, the forest is known for one other thing: the presence of large boulders in the branches of three individual trees. Each boulder has an estimated weight of 400 lbs. (180 kg) and is wedged at the base of each tree’s branches. Nobody knows how or why these boulders got there, and theories range from tornadoes or floods to UFOs.
Ancient Wuda Forest, China
The Wuda Forest in northern China was buried under thick volcanic ash from a volcanic eruption 298 million years ago, preserving the forest but hiding it completely. In 2012, scientists finished reconstructing the ancient forest, which stretches 20 sq. kilometers (12.4 miles). Many of the trees were knocked down in the volcanic blast, of course, but the forest was considered an amazing site as a number of long-extinct plant species were unearthed and identified.
The Ardennes forest was the site of several of Europe’s most famous battles in the last century: the Battle of the Ardennes in 1914, the Battle of France in 1940, and the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. It is a densely forested and often foggy area. The fog can be so great that in the Battle of the Ardennes, French and German troops bumped into each other due to the fog. Besides its historical significance, Ardennes is also rich in minerals and wildlife.
Featured photo credit: Olympic National Park, Washington/Michael Hanson via photography.nationalgeographic.com