Recreation

Rules & Ethics

Where Can I Go To Camp on the Bighorn National Forest?

Developed Campgrounds

Whether you’re driving a motor home, pulling a trailer, or looking for a place to pitch a tent, one of the forest campgrounds will have a spot just right for you.  A concessionaire operates most campgrounds for the Bighorn National Forest.  Most facilities have drinking water, garbage cans and dumpsters, toilets, fire grates, and tables.  Fees are deposited at campground entrances.  These fees offset operation costs.  Regulations are posted in each campground.  Length of stay is limited to 14 days all year round.  You must move 5 air miles, and not return to that site for 14 days.  A few campgrounds have extended stay sites.  Pets are welcome, but must be on a leash, and under physical control at all times.  Horse camping is allowed at Hunter Campground, Battle Park Trailhead, Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead and Elgin Park Trailhead as well as in dispersed camping areas, but not in the rest of the campgrounds.

Most campgrounds fill on a first-come, first-served basis.  Plan to arrive by early afternoon to secure a site.  Campsites may be difficult to find on weekends.  Many of the campgrounds have sites available for reservation, either by calling 1-877-444-6777, or visiting the reservation site online at www.recreation.gov during the “open season”. Reservations are not available after the end of season, usually around Labor Day.

Depending on the weather, some campgrounds begin to open in mid-May, with most open by Memorial Day.  Shortly after Labor Day, some campgrounds are closed and gated.  In others, services are curtailed, some facilities are closed, water systems turned off, and visitors are asked to pack out their own trash.  There are no fees for camping in the campgrounds once services are stopped.

Dispersed Camping

Camping outside of developed campgrounds is permitted throughout much of the Forest.  You are allowed to drive up to 300 feet off of an open road to set up camp, providing it will not result in damage to the land, is in an area that is not signed otherwise, or if restrictions are in place prohibiting that use.  Horse camping is allowed throughout the Forest, except in developed campgrounds (except for Hunter Campground, Battle Park Trailhead, Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead and Elgin Park Trailhead).  Please pay special attention to the following regulations; they allow everyone an equal chance to enjoy the National Forest:

Overnight camping is prohibited at the following sites and areas on the South End (Buffalo) year round:

  • Roadside areas within ¼ mile of both sides of Forest System Road (FSR) 21 from its junction with Highway 16 to its boundary at Tie Hack Reservoir.
  • Lakeside area within 300 feet of the shoreline (high water mark) of the Tie Hack Reservoir.
  • The area between Highway 16 and the end of Forest System Road (FSR) 470.  Off road travel is not permitted.
  • Roadside areas within ¼ mile of both sides of Forest System Road (FSR) 19 in its entirety from the junction of Highway 16 and the Rock Creek Road (FSR 396) from the junction of FSR 19 to the junction with Soldier Park Road (FSR 394). Please watch for signing.

From June 1 to September 10, certain restrictions apply on the North End (Sheridan):

  • Camping is prohibited within ¼ mile on both sides of Forest System Road (FSR) 26 (Big Goose) from Highway 14 to Sawmill Divide (just east of the junction with FSR 250), FSR 125 (mid-section, Little Horn Meadows), FSR 16 (Black Mountain) from the junction with FSR 223 to the Junction with FSR 26, and FSR 137 (Porcupine Creek)).  Watch for signing.
  • Camping is prohibited within ½ mile on each side of Highways 14, and 14A.
  • Length of stay is limited to 14 days at any given campsite or immediate vicinity from June 1st to September 10.  After 14 days, you must move a minimum of five air miles.  You must not return to the original site for 14 days.

Some additional Regulations and common courtesies: 

  • Parking/Camping is not allowed in front of closed (gated or barricaded) roads.  Please leave enough room for administrative vehicles to pass through the gate or barricade for emergencies or administrative access at all times.
  • Dispose of all garbage, including paper, cans, bottles, sewage, waste water or material, and rubbish either by removal from the area, or by depositing it into a receptacle or at places provided for such purposes.
  • Do not abandon any personal property on the Forest.  This means items such as grills, buckets, utensils, etc. must be packed out with you.
  • Do not leave a fire burning unattended at any time.
  • Prohibits construction, placement, or maintenance of any kind of road, trail, structure, fence, enclosure, communication equipment, or other improvement on National Forest System land or facility without a special-use authorization, contract, or approved operating plan. 
  • Prohibits discharge of a firearm within 150 yards of a residence, building or campsite, developed recreation area or occupied area, or across or on a Forest Service System Road or body of water, or in any manner or place where any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge.  In simple terms, this means don’t shoot within an area 150 yards of campgrounds or campsites, across a lake or creek, across, or while on a road.  
  • All motor vehicles must remain on designated, open routes.  Designated roads will have a number at the beginning of the road.  Motorized trails will have a route number and will be posted as to what uses are allowed.
  • Fire Rings – Use existing fire rings when possible.  If you burn trash, please remove all unburned pieces, aluminum, glass, etc., and pack it home with you.  Always make sure that your fire is “Dead Out” and Cold before you leave.
  • Toilet Etiquette – When nature calls, please ensure that you are at least 200 feet from water.  Many people use the “cat” method, dig a hole 6-8” deep and cover when finished.  Bury toilet paper or burn it back at your campfire.
  • Be a courteous camper – noise from motorized vehicles and generators, loud music and voices carry a long way.  Please show respect for your camping neighbors.
  • Tread Lightly – Limit driving to and from your campsite, particularly if the ground is wet and muddy.  If you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, use the 4-wheel drive mode to help eliminate spinning back tires.
  • Know the regulations for the area in which you are camping.  Visitor Maps are available at any Forest Service Office, Visitor Centers, and local lodges.
  • Maintain and leave a clean campsite – Odors attract bears!!  Never leave food or garbage unattended.  Do not leave food, dirty dishes, empty food containers, or cooking pans and utensils out, or stored in a tent.  Place these items in a closed vehicle, or hang them from a tree when camping in the back country.  Black bear sightings are becoming more common on this Forest.  Your welfare, and the bear’s depend on the ability and willingness of humans to follow these simple safety rules.

Additional information, emergency messages, and help are available at Burgess Junction Visitor Center, Burgess Ranger Station, Woodrock Ranger Station, Big Goose Ranger Station, Porcupine Ranger Station, Shell Falls Visitor Center and Shell Ranger Station on the north end of the Forest, and at Hunter Ranger Station, and Tyrrell Ranger Station on the south end of the Forest, and at any Forest Service Office, located in Sheridan, Buffalo, and Lovell.  Please note that the Visitor Centers are usually closed by the last week of September.