ROLLA, Mo. — July is national picnic month and national park and recreation month. To celebrate both, the Mark Twain National Forest office encourages Missourians to check out the state’s forest service land.

Portions of the Ozark Trail wind through the Mark Twain National Forest.

“I think just getting outside that’s the whole key to this theme,” said USDA Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Cody Norris. “For national park and recreation month, they’re trying to recognize the importance of parks and rec and establishing some familiarity with the public at how important it is to maintaining quality of life, the contributions it has to the physical, economic and environmental well-being of the communities.”

Norris, who works for the USDA Forest Service at Mark Twain National Forest, explained that the United States has more than 150,000 miles of trails for biking, hiking, equestrian and motorized vehicles. Missouri is home to one national forest, countless hiking trails and various state and federal managed lands.

“I really encourage people to get outside and use their public lands for national picnic month in the same spirit as national park and recreation month,” Norris said. “You’re blessed with 1.5 million acres of forest service land in Missouri. Probably in this listening area, the Cedar Creek unit of the Mark Twain National Forest is going to be the closest place for some of the listeners.”

Cedar Creek Trail is located in the northern portion of the Houston, Rolla and Cedar Creek Ranger District. The trail is comprised of four main sections, spanning across 36 miles of oak hickory forests and tall grass prairie lands.

When gearing up to celebrate either awareness this July, Norris recommended people look into the forest service’s phone application: Mark Twain National Forest. This app allows users to find picnic, camp and water play areas at the forest prior to or during their visit.

“I think with national picnic month it’s just a great chance for people to start, especially folks who wouldn’t call themselves outdoorsy, just start with a picnic,” Norris said. “You know it’s a great way to get outside. You can do it in your backyard. You can then move to the local parks. And once you’re kind of used to what all it takes to get out on a weekend and do a little outdoor picnic, go a little further and explore the closest natural areas or come to the Mark Twain National Forest.”

Norris said individuals can scope out Missouri’s natural areas via the Missouri State Park website and they can also visit the USDA Forest Service’s website for more information on the Mark Twain National Forest.

“There are just a lot of unique things across the nation that the forest service has to offer,” Norris said. “And a lot of those things are in Missouri as well.”