George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
White Rocks on Little Sluice Mountain in George Washington National Forest.
Location of George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
LocationUnited States
Coordinates38°30′0″N 79°0′0″W / 38.50000°N 79.00000°W / 38.50000; -79.00000
Area1,790,933 acres (7,247.65 km2)
WebsiteGeorge Washington and Jefferson National Forests
A split rail fence at the entrance to Sherando Lake

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests is an administrative entity combining two U.S. National Forests into one of the largest areas of public land in the Eastern United States. The forests cover 1.8 million acres (2,800 sq mi) of land in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Approximately 1 million acres (1,600 sq mi) of the forest are remote and undeveloped and 139,461 acres (218 sq mi)[2] have been designated as wilderness areas, which prohibits future development.


George Washington National Forest was established on May 16, 1918, as the Shenandoah National Forest. The forest was renamed after the first President on June 28, 1932. Natural Bridge National Forest was added on July 22, 1933.[3]

Jefferson National Forest was formed on April 21, 1936, by combining portions of the Unaka and George Washington National Forests with other land.[3] In 1995, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests were administratively combined.[1] The border between the two forests roughly follows the James River. The combined forest is administered from its headquarters in Roanoke, Virginia.[1]

Notable features

Flora and fauna

Main article: Appalachian-Blue Ridge forests

The Forests' vast and mountainous terrain harbors a great variety of plant life—over 50 species of trees and over 2,000 species of shrubs and herbaceous plants.[5]

The Forests contain some 230,000 acres (930 km2) of old growth forests, representing all of the major forest communities found within them.[6][7] Locations of old growth include Peters Mountain, Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area, Rich Hole Wilderness, Flannery Ridge, Pick Breeches Ridge, and Laurel Fork Gorge, Pickem Mountain, and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.[8] The Ramsey's Draft and Kimberling Creek Wildernesses in particular are mostly old-growth.[8][9][10]

The black bear is relatively common, enough so that there is a short hunting season to prevent overpopulation. White-tailed deer, bobcat, bald eagles, weasel, otter, and marten are also known to inhabit the Forests.


The forests are popular hiking, mountain biking, and hunting destinations. The Appalachian Trail extends for 330 miles (530 km) from the southern end of Shenandoah National Park through the forest and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The forest is within a two-hour drive for over ten million people and thus receives large numbers of visitors, especially in the region closest to Shenandoah National Park.

The George Washington National Forest is a popular destination for trail runners. It is the location for several Ultramarathons, including the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 miler, the Old Dominion 100 miler, and the Old Dominion Memorial 100 miler.[11]

George Washington Forest is also the venue for Nature Camp, a natural science education-oriented summer camp for youth.[12] The camp is located on national forest land near the town of Vesuvius, Virginia. It has operated at this location since the summer of 1953.[13]


Jefferson National Forest is located in 23 separate counties, more than any other National Forest except Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri, which lies in 29 counties. Botetourt, Monroe, and Rockbridge counties, at the dividing line between the two forests, include parts of both forests. Thirdly, note that the state of Kentucky actually has very little area, with its two counties bringing up the tail end of Jefferson National Forest.

George Washington National Forest Jefferson National Forest
Total area of 1,064,176 acres (4,307 km2).[14] Total area of 726,757 acres (2,941 km2).
County Area acres Percentage
Alleghany County, Virginia 140,361 13.19%
Amherst County, Virginia 57,236 5.38%
Augusta County, Virginia 193,011 18.14%
Bath County, Virginia 173,379 16.29%
Botetourt County, Virginia 13,411 1.26%
Frederick County, Virginia 5,054 0.47%
Hampshire County, West Virginia 3,402 0.32%
Hardy County, West Virginia 51,629 4.85%
Highland County, Virginia 59,283 5.57%
Monroe County, West Virginia 576 0.05%
Nelson County, Virginia 20,015 1.88%
Page County, Virginia 27,852 2.62%
Pendleton County, West Virginia 50,757 4.77%
Rockbridge County, Virginia 46,794 4.40%
Rockingham County, Virginia 140,330 13.19%
Shenandoah County, Virginia 75,349 7.08%
Warren County, Virginia 5,737 0.54%
County Area acres Percentage
Bedford County, Virginia 20,757 2.86%
Bland County, Virginia 76,556 10.53%
Botetourt County, Virginia 69,038 9.50%
Carroll County, Virginia 7,145 0.98%
Craig County, Virginia 117,336 16.15%
Dickenson County, Virginia 8,836 1.22%
Giles County, Virginia 64,656 8.90%
Grayson County, Virginia 33,339 4.59%
Lee County, Virginia 11,268 1.55%
Letcher County, Kentucky 751 0.10%
Monroe County, West Virginia 19,187 2.64%
Montgomery County, Virginia 19,454 2.68%
Pike County, Kentucky 127 0.02%
Pulaski County, Virginia 19,239 2.65%
Roanoke County, Virginia 3,290 0.45%
Rockbridge County, Virginia 18,426 2.54%
Russell County, Virginia N/A N/A
Scott County, Virginia 34,093 4.69%
Smyth County, Virginia 75,259 10.36%
Tazewell County, Virginia 10,340 1.42%
Washington County, Virginia 22,514 3.10%
Wise County, Virginia 36,732 5.05%
Wythe County, Virginia 58,414 8.04%

Ranger district offices

Ranger offices are the Forest Service's public service offices. Maps and other information about the forests can be obtained at these locations. These offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Supervisor's Office in Roanoke is not located in the forest and is primarily an administrative location.[15]

District offices are listed from north to south. Counties are in Virginia unless otherwise indicated.

District Office Location Counties served
Lee Ranger District Edinburg, Virginia Frederick, Hampshire (WV), Hardy (WV), Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Warren
North River Ranger District Harrisonburg, Virginia Augusta, Highland, Pendleton (WV), Rockingham
Warm Springs Ranger District Hot Springs, Virginia Bath, Highland
James River Ranger District Covington, Virginia Alleghany
Glenwood-Pedlar Ranger District Natural Bridge Station, Virginia Amherst, Augusta, Bedford, Botetourt, Nelson, and Rockbridge
Eastern Divide Ranger District Blacksburg, Virginia Bland, Botetourt, Craig, Giles, Monroe (WV), Montgomery, Pulaski, Roanoke, Smyth, Tazewell, Wythe
Clinch Ranger District Norton, Virginia Dickenson, Lee, Letcher (KY), Pike (KY), Scott, Wise
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Marion, Virginia Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington, Wythe

Wilderness areas

There are 139,461 acres (564 km2)[2] of federally designated wilderness areas in the two forests under the United States National Wilderness Preservation System. All are in the state of Virginia, except as indicated. The largest of these is the Mountain Lake Wilderness, at 16,511 acres (67 km2). There are 17 wildernesses in Jefferson National Forest, second only to Tongass National Forest, which has 19.

George Washington National Forest

Jefferson National Forest

Wilderness Society's “Mountain Treasures” in the Jefferson Forest

In 1999 the Wilderness Society conducted a review of lands in the Jefferson National Forest to look for large, intact areas that satisfy a need for backcountry recreation, ecological study, biodiversity, and the preservation of cultural history from early America. The report found 67 such areas and identified them as “Mountain Treasures”.[16] In 2012 The New River Group of the Sierra Club commissioned a study to review the status of these areas. Some of the areas had been converted into Wilderness Areas, while others had not received any special protection.[17] Areas in close proximity were grouped with nearby wilderness areas into eleven clusters. The clusters, from north to south, are:


The first camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps NF-1, Camp Roosevelt,[18] was established in the George Washington National Forest near Luray, Virginia. It is now the site of the Camp Roosevelt Recreation Area.[19]

Mountain Valley Pipeline protests

In 2018–2019, protests occurred near Peters Mountain to block the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The 303-mile pipeline would transport natural gas through the Jefferson National Forest and cross the Appalachian Trail.[20][21]

2023 crash

In 2023 a small plane carrying four people strayed into restricted Washington, D.C., airspace. Because of this, a number of F16 jets were sent to intercept the aircraft. The pilots of the jets noticed that the aircraft pilot was passed out. The plane eventually crashed landed in the park. There were no survivors.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Forest Facts". George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Archived from the original on 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  2. ^ a b " search page". Archived from the original on 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
  3. ^ a b Davis, Richard C. (2005-09-29). "The National Forests of the United States" (PDF). The Forest History Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  4. ^ Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (2014). "Roaring Run Furnace". Virginia Tourism Corporation.
  5. ^ "George Washington & Jefferson National Forest Trees & Shrubs". George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Archived from the original on 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
  6. ^ George Washington National Forest 1993 Revised Forest Plan. United States Forest Service. 1993.
  7. ^ Jefferson National Forest 2004 Revised Forest Plan. United States Forest Service. 2004.
  8. ^ a b Mary Byrd Davis (23 January 2008). "Old Growth in the East: A Survey. Virginia" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  9. ^ Jefferson National Forest South Half. Old Growth Inventory Map (PDF). United States Forest Service, Southern Region. 1997.
  10. ^ Jefferson National Forest South Half. Wilderness, Roadless, and Wild & Scenic Rivers Map (PDF). United States Forest Service, Southern Region. 1997.
  11. ^ Run100s ("Run Hundreds") – A Not-For-Profit UltraRunning Corporation
  12. ^ Nature Camp
  13. ^ History of Nature Camp
  14. ^ "Table 6 - NFS Acreage by State, Congressional District and County" (PDF). Land Areas Report. US Forest Service. 18 October 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  15. ^ "Districts". United States Forest Service. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  16. ^ Virginia's Mountain Treasures, report issued by The Wilderness Society, May, 1999
  17. ^ Bamford, Sherman (February 2013). A Review of the Virginia Mountain Treasures of the Jefferson National Forest. Blacksburg, Virginia: Sierra Club, OCLC: 893635467.
  18. ^ "Camp Roosevelt". Archived from the original on January 27, 2012.
  19. ^ George Washington 26 Jefferson National Forest – Camp Roosevelt Recreation Area. Retrieved on 2013-08-09.
  20. ^ Miles, Kathryn (2018-04-25). "The Forest Service Is Arresting Protesters Along the AT". Outside Online. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  21. ^ "Why a Virginia Tech professor locked herself to pipeline construction equipment". Yale Climate Connections. 2019-12-03. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  22. ^ "Pilot of plane that crashed in Virginia was slumped over in cockpit - reports". BBC News. 2023-06-05. Retrieved 2023-06-13.


  • Hall, William L. (July 1914). "To Remake The Appalachians: A New Order In The Mountains That is Founded On Forestry – What The Government's Appalachian Forests Mean To The People In The Mountains And To The Millions Who Want Recreation". The World's Work: A History of Our Time. XLIV (2). Doubleday, Page & Co.: 321–338. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  • Jefferson National Forest: An Appalachian Environmental History. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Pr., 2011.
  • Prehistoric Southwest Virginia: Aboriginal Occupation, Land Use, and Environmental Worldview, Smithfield Review 5 (April 2000): 125–151.
  • Turnpike Tourism in Western Virginia, Virginia Cavalcade 48:1 (Winter 1998): 14–23.
  • The Potts Valley Branch Railroad and Tri-State Incline Lumber Operation in West Virginia and Virginia, 1892–1932, West Virginia History 54 (1995): 42–58.
  • The Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and the Rise of Public Involvement in Forest Service Planning, Environmental History Review 28 (Summer 1994): 41–65.
  • An Appalachian Forest: Creation of the Jefferson National Forest and its effects on the local community, Forest and Conservation History 37:4 (October 1993): 169–178.
  • The Great Anti-Fire Campaign, American Forests, 99:5&6 (May/June 1993): 33–35, 58.
  • Green Cove Station: An Appalachian train depot and its community, Virginia Cavalcade, 42:2 (Autumn 1992): 52–61.
  • Fisheries and Wildlife Management: part of the history of the Jefferson National Forest, Virginia Forests, 48:2 (Summer 1992): 6–8.