As part of the National Forest System, the Rocky Mountain Region enjoys a proud heritage in the Forest Service. The Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming and the White River National Forest in Colorado are among the first National Forests Congress created from the original Forest Reserves. The Region, headquartered in Golden, Colorado, comprises 17 national forests and 7 national grasslands.
The US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region has formally identified four overarching themes as emphasis areas on which to focus strategic long-term efforts to preserve their special values: Forest and Grassland Health, Recreation, Water and Public Service. Forests and Grasslands continue to hold in trust America's resources- timber, wildlife, water, range, recreation - to ensure their availability today and tomorrow.
Forests and Grasslands by State
The forest is among the top three most-visited national forests in the United States. Located in north central Colorado, the forests and grassland encompasses 1.5 million acres and extends north to the Wyoming border, south of Interstate 70 to Mount Evans, west across the Continental Divide to the Williams Fork area and includes short grass prairie.
Comprised of over 3 million acres, the forest is the largest administrative unit in the Rocky Mountain Region and hosts a variety of forested and non-forested riparian areas, wetlands, and a wide range of other ecological settings from alpine tundra to sage-grass prairie.
This national forest ranks third highest in recreation visits. The area is noted for the majority of fourteen thousand foot peaks in Colorado and stretching from Colorado’s Front Range to the wide-open grasslands of western Kansas. The Comanche Ranger District lays claim to the internationally known dinosaur trackway at Picket Wire Canyon and continues to excite researchers and visitors alike with new discoveries.
The 1.82 million acre Rio Grande National Forest is located in south-central Colorado and is composed of a myriad of ecosystems ranging from high elevation desert at 7600 feet above sea level to rocky crags at over 14,300 feet in the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The Rio Grande River, the third longest in the United States, begins its 1900-mile trek to the ocean on the RioGrande National Forest.
The San Juan National Forest includes approximately 1.8 million acres of federal lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service in Southwestern Colorado. The scenery ranges from high desert mesas and canyons to high alpine peaks and meadows. The area features the Alpine Loop National Back Country Byway a part of the National Scenic Byway system -- a selection of the country’s most scenic roads.
Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest is the top recreation Forest in the nation. Home to world-renowned ski resorts and the birthplace of Wilderness, the White River has something to offer every outdoor enthusiast.
There is an unusual combination of the native ponderosa pine forest of the Nebraska and Samuel R. McKelvie National Forests and mixed grass prairies on the Buffalo Gap, Fort Pierre, and Oglala National Grasslands. Hand-planted forests within the Nebraska Sandhills with their combined grassland and forest are unique to the National Forest System. The Buffalo Gap National Grassland is also home to over 300 black-footed ferrets, the most endangered mammal in North America.
The Black Hills are in western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming, covering an area 125 miles long and 65 miles wide. The forest offers highly accessible recreation for all ages with easy hiking, horseback riding, driving for pleasure, and riding off-highway vehicles (OHVs) on moderate terrain, as well as outstanding rock climbing opportunities.
Located in north-central Wyoming, the Bighorn Mountains are a sister range of the Rocky Mountains. Located halfway between Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park, this region in Wyoming provides a diverse landscape - from lush grasslands to alpine meadows, from lakes to glacially-carved valleys, from rolling hills to sheer mountain walls. The Bighorn River, flowing along the west side of the forest, was first named by American Indians due to the great herds of bighorn sheep at its mouth.
The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland cover nearly 2.9 million acres from north central Colorado to central and northeastern Wyoming. From mountain ranges to grasslands and crystal clear streams, the national forests and national grassland provide abundant and unique opportunities for visitors.
The Shoshone National Forest is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the remaining relatively intact ecosystems in North America. Large expanses of primitive wilderness and back country characterize the Shoshone. It consists of some 2.4 million acres of varied terrain ranging from sagebrush flats to rugged mountains. The higher mountains are snow-clad most of the year. Immense areas of exposed rock are interspersed with meadows and forests.