The Boreal Forest or Taiga is considered the world's largest land biome and is massive. In North America, it stretches over most of inland Canada, much of Alaska, and comes down into parts of the northern contiguous United States. In Europe and Asia, it covers much of Siberia, European Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, northern Japan, and even a bit of the Scottish Highlands.

Visiting this zone in winter and then summer reveals completely different worlds. The vast expanses of the boreal forests are an adventurer's playground with seemingly unless miles of untamed wilderness. This is a zone that can be explored in summer and winter on three different continents.


What To Know About The Boreal Forests or Taiga

Note that the use of the term "taiga" varies regionally. In some places, it refers only to the sub-Arctic northern regions of the Boreal Forest and in other places, it is the term used instead of the term "boreal forest". For the purposes of this article, we will use the terms interchangeably.

From a biological perspective, these forests are those growing where freezing temperatures occur for 6 to 8 months in the year. Also, the trees need to be able to reach a minimum height of 5 meters (15 feet) and have a canopy cover of 10%.

The boreal forest is mostly made up of coniferous forests of spruces, pines, and larches. The make-up of the forests varies regionally.

  • North America: Mostly Spruce
  • Nordic Countries: Mix of Spruce, Pines, and Birch
  • Russia: Spruces, Pines, and Larches (Varies Over This Vast Region)
  • Eastern Siberia: Larch Forest

In this zone, summers are short while winters are cold with long nights (there can be 20-24 hours of sunlight a day in the summer depending on the latitude). The winter is a different and frozen world - a harsh environment with a lot of snow.

Related: Visiting Nordkapp: The Frozen Northernmost Point Of Norway Deep In The Arctic

Range and Age Of the Boreal Forests

While the taiga or boreal forests may seem like they have been around for a long time, they haven't. During the last Ice Age, much of the land that is now forest was ice sheets or ice age mammoth steppe. North America was under the Laurentide Ice Sheet, while Scandinavia was under another massive ice sheet.

The taiga has only been around for the last 12,000 years or so (since the beginning of the Holocene epoch). Today in total the boreal belt of forests makes up around 30% of all the world's forested area.

  • Countries: Around 8 - Canada, China, Finland, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States
  • Age: Around 12,000 (Since the Holocene)
  • Previously: Much of The Land That Is Now Taiga Was Ice Sheet and Mammoth Steppe

Related: How To Plan A Trip To Canada's Yukon Territory Before It Gets Too Cold

What To Do In The Boreal Forests

In the winter, the Boreal Forests look majestic as they are blanketed in snow. These zones are mind-bendingly vast and sparsely inhabited. They are an outdoor paradise for those wishing to explore.

Activities in the winter include watching the northern lights, cross-country skiing, and dog sledding. Other activities include trekking, biking, snowshoeing, and relaxing in a tucked-away cabin. There is no one place to see it, but the best way to see it anywhere is to get into it up close and personal.

  • Winter Activities: Cross Country Skiing, Dog Sledding, Snowshoeing, Watching The Northern Lights

Depending on the region, in the Taiga one can expect to see a range of wildlife such as lynxes, voles, American sables, mink, roe deer, fox, otters, weasels, wolves, and European hedgehogs.

For those in the United States, one of the best places to see the Northern Lights and to go dog-sledding is from Whitehorse in Canada's Yukon Territory. They have a wide range of dog sledding tours in that far-flung settlement. Otherwise, one of the best regions for seeing the Northern Lights is in northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Alternatively, if one would like to visit the United States' Boreal Forests, then explore the Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

Accommodation In The Boreal Forests

There is always a great choice of cabin-style accommodation in the boreal regions. But for those wanting to take it up a notch or two, there are some pretty original accommodation options in Scandinavian countries - think glass, igloos, arctic tree houses, ice hotels, and more.

Sleeping in a treehouse is fun, but Harads in Sweden offers an experience quite unlike any other in the world. They have even huts called the Bird's Nest, the UFO, the Mirrorcube, the Cabin, the 7th Room, the Dragonfly, and the Blue Cone (they are also in those shapes).