The loss of small, seasonal wetlands is a major concern for a variety of state, local, and federal organizations in the northeastern U.S. Identifying and estimating the number of vernal pools within a given region is critical to developing long-term conservation and management strategies for these unique habitats and their faunal communities. We use three probabilistic sampling methods (simple random sampling, adaptive cluster sampling, and the dual frame method) to estimate the number of vernal pools on protected, forested lands. Overall, these methods yielded similar values of vernal pool abundance for each study area, and suggest that photographic interpretation alone may grossly underestimate the number of vernal pools in forested habitats. We compare the relative efficiency of each method and discuss ways of improving precision. Acknowledging that the objectives of a study or monitoring program ultimately determine which sampling designs are most appropriate, we recommend that some type of probabilistic sampling method be applied. We view the dual-frame method as an especially useful way of combining incomplete remote sensing methods, such as aerial photograph interpretation, with a probabilistic sample of the entire area of interest to provide more robust estimates of the number of vernal pools and a more representative sample of existing vernal pool habitats.