Frequently Asked Questions

Can I camp anywhere I want to on National Forests?

You can generally camp anywhere on National Forests, unless the area is posted otherwise. If you need your vehicle to camp, there may be some restrictions on where you can go. You may not drive or camp where you will cause resource damage, such as making vehicle ruts off roadways or damaging trees or streams. We recommend that you camp at least 150 feet from all lakes and streams. The distance you may pull your vehicle off an established roadway will vary, depending on the travel management policies of each forest. Generally, you may not drive more than 300 feet off a roadway to park, but this distance may be less in some areas. Please contact the local office near where you want to go.

Do I need to make a reservation to camp on National Forests in California?

Many campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You would contact Recreation.gov for any Forest Service campground reservation. Call the toll-free number 1-877-444-6777, or visit the website at www.ReserveUSA.gov for prices and availability. You need to make reservations at least five days in advance. It is possible to reserve individual sites 240 days in advance and group sites 360 days in advance.

For those who prefer solitude and privacy, dispersed or backcountry camping may be allowed within the forest boundary. Contact the local Forest office for restrictions that may apply.

Do you have a list of campgrounds we can reserve?

You should contact the Forest Service office in the area you plan to camp for current information. Many campgrounds on California's National Forests may be reserved for your convenience. Recreation.gov, a one-stop reservation service for the US Forest Service outdoor recreation facilities and activities, provides a list of reservable campgrounds, locations and amenities available. You may reserve a campsite online, or call the toll-free number at 1-877-444-6777.

How do I make reservation to stay in Forest Service cabins or lookout towers?

Forest Service lodging sources include unique Cabin and Lookout Tower rentals. There is a list of locations that offer cabin and lookout tower rentals at www.fs.fed.us/recreation/reservations/. To make a reservation, you must contact directly the location where you wish to stay.

Can I bring my dog to the Forest? Can I have my dog off leash?

In many Wilderness Areas, developed campgrounds, picnic areas and day use areas, dogs are required to be on a leash. Most other areas of within the National Forests do not require your dog to be on a leash, but they should be under your control at all times. We recommend that you keep your dog on a leash when you are around other forest users, other dogs, or are in bear country.

Dogs are NOT allowed to chase game animals.

Where can I ride and/or camp with my horse on National Forests?

Horses are allowed anywhere on National Forests unless posted otherwise. You do not have to ride your horse only on established trails and roads; you can ride anywhere. You may take horses into Wilderness areas; however, certain trails and trailheads may not be well-suited to horse use. Please do not tie horses to trees for long periods; use hobbles or high-lines instead. Avoid wet, muddy trails to minimize damage from horse hoofs.

Horses are NOT allowed in developed campgrounds, unless they are specifically established for equestrian use.

Where can I drive my Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV)? Are there maps available of the trails?

In most areas of National Forest, you need to stay on roads and trails that are open to motorized travel. You may not take your ATV behind a closed gate, or travel OFF the road or trail (cross-country), unless the area is specifically designated for that use. Motorized vehicles are not allowed in any Wilderness Area. You should contact the local Forest office for more details and maps to help you learn where you may ride.

Where can I get information on hunting?

Hunting seasons, bag limits, and licenses are handled by each state's game and fish agency. In California, that is the California Department of Fish and Game. For information, visit their website at www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/hunting/ or call 916-227-2245.

What are special-use authorizations?

A special-use authorization is a legal document such as a permit, lease, or easement, which allows occupancy, use, rights, or privileges of National Forest system land. The authorization is granted for a specific use of the land for a specific period of time. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management maintain a website on special use implementation at www.fs.fed.us/recreation/specialuses/.

Can I collect rocks, pinecones, pine boughs, logs, mushrooms, etc., from the forest?

You must have a permit to remove any minerals or wood products from the National Forest. To obtain one of these permits, check with your nearest National Forest Service office.

Do I need a Wilderness permit?

A Wilderness Visitor's Permit is required for overnight visits in designated wilderness areas. Only one permit is required for trips which are continuous and pass through more than one Wilderness. One permit is required per trip per group. Your permit doubles as a campfire permit while in the Wilderness. You may obtain a wilderness permit at the local Ranger station or the Supervisor's Office. It's a good idea to call for current conditions.

If I have an emergency on the National Forest, who should I contact?

If you have an emergency on the National Forest, the best thing to do is call 911 and they will dispatch the nearest help.

What is a closure?

A closure is a restriction upon certain activities or public use of a defined area on the Forest. For example, closures might be implemented to help prevent human-caused fires, protect human life, or protect property. Vehicles may be restricted on certain roads when they are wet. The purpose of this type of closure would be to prevent damage to the road itself and subsequent damage to soils or streams from water or mud draining off the damaged road.

What are fire restrictions and what do they mean to you?

FIRE RESTRICTIONS are issued by the Forest Supervisor after coordinating with District Rangers and Fire Management Officers on local conditions. Conditions that could warrant the issuance of fire restrictions include but are not limited to: high temperatures, low humidities, low fuel moistures within forest fuels, and an increase in the number of fire starts.

When in effect, fire restrictions mean campfires, stove fires and smoking are not permitted in the restricted area. Charcoal, wood and coal stoves outside of dwellings are classified as campfires. Campfires do not include any cooking or heating device using kerosene or gasoline. Smoking is permitted in designated forest camp and picnic grounds or while traveling in a vehicle provided an ash tray is used.

Permits authorizing campfires may be issued by designated Forest Officers when local conditions are favorable and/or in some Forest Service developed camp or picnic grounds. It is advised to call ahead to each local district office as restrictions may vary on the forest.

I'm interested in becoming a firefighter. How can I get more information?

To become a wildland firefighter, you must be between the 18 and 35 years old and pass a physical fitness test. The average firefighter is paid $8.00/hour. They sometimes earn time and a half or "hazard duty" pay.

Most agencies hire a fair number of employees on a seasonal basis (generally from May to September). Almost without exception, regardless of the type of work seasonal employees are hired to do, everyone receives basic firefighter training. During seasons where there are a lot of fires, people who have had basic fire training are called upon to help organized fire crews. If you do an outstanding job, regardless of what function you are in, you will be noticed and your chances of getting a "fire job" next season will be greatly increased.

For other fire related questions see the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) FAQ Website at www.nifc.gov/aboutNIFC/about_faq.html.

How can I protect my home from wildland fires?

Use fire resistant building material. The roof and exterior of homes should be constructed of non-combustible or fire resistant materials such as fire resistant roofing materials, tile, slate, sheet iron, aluminum, brick, or stone. Wood siding, cedar shakes, exterior wood paneling, and other highly combustible materials should be treated with fire retardant chemicals.

If a fire does occur near a home in the wildlands, homeowners have the responsibility to create a "defensible space" so that firefighters may safely protect their homes. Examples of defensible space are: cleaning roof surfaces and gutters regularly to avoid accumulation of flammable materials, or Removing portions of any tree extending within 10 feet of the flue opening of any stove or chimney, maintaining a fuel break around all structures, etc.

For other fire related questions see the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) FAQ Website at www.nifc.gov/aboutNIFC/about_faq.html.

What is the wildland fire outlook for the upcoming season?

For information on wildfire forecasts, as well as lots of other information on wildfires, please visit the National Interagency Coordination Center website at http://www.nifc.gov/nicc/index.htm.

Does the Forest Service give away free trees?

The Forest Service no longer gives away free trees. We recommend you check with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for more information/grants, etc.

How do I sell products and services to the Forest Service?

If you sell a product or service, please see the Contracting section of our website.

To bid on contracts throughout the federal government, start at www.fedbizopps.gov (FedBizOpps). Or, to find solicitations specific to the Forest Service at Forest Service: Opportunities.