Difference between National Park and National Forest

National Parks and National Forests are there to protect wildlife and both of them fall under the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Despite of the similarity in their purpose, there are some clear differences between the two, when we look at their categories and characteristics.

A deep look inside the purpose of both the national forests and national parks, will allow you to observe that they were formed in different eras and have got some major differences as well. They fall in separate categories of the IUCN too, which clearly shows they cannot be considered in the same context.

Looking at some of the main differences, one has to consider how IUCN rates these two facilities. They have actually made various categories and divided such parks as per their priorities. The national parks come under the Category-II, but they are not on top of the table in terms of priority.

Strict Nature Reserve (Category-Ia) and Wilderness Area (Category-Ib) are the top two respectively in Category-II and then they are followed by the national parks in number three.

Compared to national parks, the national forests fall under a different category altogether – under the Category-VI, which was made after 1969.

It is also important to note that these two facilities are different, when it comes to region. The national forests are only found in the United States of America and they don’t exist anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, the national parks have got more significance, as they are found all over the world including the US – the national forests were declared quite a long time ago in the country whereas the parks were declared later in the 20th century.

You are not allowed to visit the national parks without special permission. Therefore, there is very little human interference in such facilities. On the other hand, there is a lot more human presence in national forests, which can be visited by people without any special permission.

Furthermore, the national forests can be used for harvesting resources, but that is not the case with the parks.


  • 1

    National forest

    Only found in the US, these forests were declared according to the Land Revision Act of 1891 in order to preserve wildlife.

    Image Courtesy: fs.usda.gov

  • 2

    National park

    National park was introduced in 1969 and serves the same purpose as that of a national forest, but there is no human interference in such parks.

    Image Courtesy: thegoat.backcountry.com

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