Jungles are areas of dense forestation, typically in tropical locations, and both North and South America have several regions that fall broadly within this definition. In the southern continent, there are genuine, tropical jungles, such as the El Petén Forest in Guatemala, the Monteverde Reserve in Costa Rica and the Lacondon Jungle, which stretches from Guatemala to Mexico. In North America, there are many places of such dense growth that, even though they aren’t in tropical areas, they are, to all intents and purposes, jungles.
The ‘jungles’ of Alaska consist of two types of growth, boreal forests and coastal rainforests, with the former being a patchwork of pines, aspens and birch groves, interspersed with lakes, rivers and marshland and the latter consisting of Sitka spruce, Alaska cedar and some varieties of hemlock. Because of complicated issues of land ownership in Alaska, it’s important to check before you enter an area whether it is under federal, municipal or state ownership or, indeed, whether it is a Native American reservation. Access is determined by which kind of ownership it falls under, but there are many areas where visitors can camp, trek or enjoy the diverse wildlife; fishing is a very popular activity in the forests, where you can catch salmon, halibut and bass. There are bear-viewing stations where you can safely watch Kodiak brown bears or Alaskan grizzlies, which are quite abundant in some parts of Alaska.
Further down the west coast, in Washington State, is the large, temperate Hoh Rainforest, which is effectively undeveloped as it is protected by law from commercial exploitation. There are a number of managed activities available here, including kayaking, rafting and biking, as well as ranger-led hiking, which allows you to see such fascinating animals as the Roosevelt elk, cougars and racoons. Because of the logging that has taken place here, there are plenty of good roads in amongst the enormous trees, which can grow to more than 90 metres in height and can have a diameter of more than four metres. Like much of the country, Hoh is easily accessible by car, but would be virtually impossible to enjoy by any other means. With easily available car hire, America remains one of the best destinations for driving holidays, since many of its cities and tourist attractions have developed around its road system. If you are travelling with fans of the Twilight novels, by Stephenie Meyer, they will be thrilled to discover that the logging town, Forks, actually exists and is located just to the north of the rainforest.
There are several state or national forests in California, including Tahoe, Eldorado and San Bernardino. Spread across the San Bernardino Mountains, this manzanita and oak forest has more visitors each year than Yellowstone National Park and attracts hikers, naturalists and thrill-seekers alike as, in addition to its diverse flora and fauna, it offers skiing and snowboarding in two resorts, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, near the town of Big Bear. The vast national forest is of particular interest to conservationists because of the diversity of the animal species, including some which are endangered, such as the yellow-legged frog and the Peninsular bighorn sheep. It is home to no fewer than five separate wildernesses: Santa Rosa, San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, Sheep Mountain and Cucamunga.
Whilst Broadway, Las Vegas and the Walt Disney resorts are undeniably amazing attractions, with a little bit of investigation and a reliable vehicle, it can prove to be a very rewarding experience investigating America’s jungles.