Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

You'll find common questions on these topics and the answers on this page:

 

Camping

What do I need to know about camping on the Forest?

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest offers many different types of camping experiences, including those termed “developed” and “dispersed.”  Campgrounds are called developed when they have at least a few amenities (e.g. parking areas, entrance signs, picnic tables, grills, trash receptacles and vault toilets).  More highly developed sites may also include showers, electricity, flush toilets, sewer, and water.  For those who prefer solitude and privacy, undeveloped or “dispersed” camping is allowed in most places within the forest boundary. Dispersed camping is more primitive than in developed campgrounds, with few or no facilities. You will need to Pack-it-in and Pack-it-Out.

To ensure your safety and enjoyment, certain rules, regulations and orders are enforced within Forest boundaries.  There are general rules which apply to National Forest land, in addition to more stringent rules which apply to developed recreation sites.

Below you will find a list of such rules:  

Developed camping—Developed campgrounds provide a safe, monitored area for recreating among other users.  Please follow these basic rules:

  • camping in a developed campground shall be limited to a period of not to exceed 14 days
  • a new campsite may not be re-established within 1 mile of the vacated campsite for a period of 7 days
  • at least one person must occupy a camping area during the first night after camping equipment has been set up, unless permission has otherwise been granted by the Forest Ranger
  • entering  or remaining in a campground between the hours of 10pm and 6am is prohibited except for the persons already occupying the campsite
  • a site shall not be occupied by a group of more than five people (no more than 10 for double sites) or those other than immediate family
  • group sites are also available for larger parties as posted
  • parking or leaving a vehicle in violation of posted signs is prohibited
  • do not leave more than two motorized vehicles (i.e. passenger vehicles and motor homes) per single campsite
  • no public nudity
  • no possessing or operating a motorboat powered by internal combustion engines on lakes where prohibited
  • no launching, storing or leaving a boat or raft on or near lakes where it is posted as prohibited
  • no operating motorboats in designated swimming areas
  • no food or drink on developed beach areas
  • no swimming in areas where it is prohibited

Dispersed (primitive) camping—Dispersed camping is available in multiple locations throughout the forest, and is intended to provide a rustic, less manicured and natural experience.  Whether you decide to camp within a Congressionally-designated Wilderness or the general forest area, we ask that you follow the principles of Leave No Trace.  By leaving no trace you are reducing your impact to the natural environment and preserving the quality of experience for future visitors.  Basic Leave No Trace principles include the following:

  • Secure all food and keep safe from bears.
  • Do not feed wild animals.
  • Do not leave campfires unattended.
  • Be sure to completely put out any campfire before leaving your site unattended.

Please click here to view details of all Leave No Trace principles and suggestions for safety when camping.

In addition to these general rules, Regional Foresters and Forest Supervisors may issue orders which close or restrict use of certain areas when the need arises.  The purpose of these types of closures would be to protect human life and to prevent damage to natural resources.  Copies of these orders can be found in any Forest Service office.  Many times they are posted on the information board at a recreation site, as well.

How long can I camp?

Generally, camping on national forest lands is limited to a period of 14 days.  However, some sites are managed under special permit issued by the Forest Service to private companies called concessionaires.  Concessionaires may offer extended stays for camping. Currently, areas operated by Chattahoochee Management, Inc. (CMI) offer extended stays not to exceed 21 days.  For a list of areas operated by CMI, visit their website.

How many people are allowed to camp per site?

A single campsite shall not be occupied by groups of more than five people, or by those other than immediate family. For example, a group of up to 5 friends can use one, single campsite. A family with more than 5 people can use one, single campsite. In all cases, whether friends or family, no more than 2 vehicles can park at a single site and all tents must be pitched on the designated tent pad. 

Double sites shall not be occupied by more than ten people, or immediate family. Group sites vary according to the size and location of the specific campground. Details about our group sites can be found on the Group Camping page of our website.

If you have any questions about campsite limitations or just need more information, please call the appropriate Forest Service District Office well in advance of your visit.

When do campgrounds close?

Generally, most campsites will close completely before winter weather sets in, and will reopen in spring when the freezing weather has past.  It is best to check with the individual district offices or the Recreation Summary Pages (can be found under the right-hand column titled “Related Links” on our website’s Recreation home page) to be certain. Dispersed campsites are generally open year round unless a closure is in place. These kinds of closures are generally posted on our website under “Alerts and Notices.”  However, visitors are encouraged to call the district office and inform them of your plans to camp in a specific area, which will ensure up-to-date safety information for the campers and guarantee that local rangers are aware of your presence in case of an emergency.

Do you have addresses for the campgrounds so I can put it in my GPS?

While our campgrounds do not have physical addresses,  the latitude and longitude coordinates for many areas are available by visiting the individual recreation area pages on our website (most GPS systems have an option to insert “degrees” or “coordinates’ instead of an address).

Is there a guide book or periodical describing and showing all the places to camp on the forest? Hike?

There is no single publication identifying all the recreation areas within the National Forest at this time.  However, a thorough summary of recreation opportunities by district can be downloaded for print and are found in the right hand column, under “related links” on the Recreation landing page of our website.  These summaries provide the following information for developed recreation sites:  season dates, facilities and amenities, fee schedule, passes accepted and reservation policy.

 

Trails

Where can I get detailed information on day-hiking on the forest?

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest has a Trail Guide (Trails of the Chattahoochee National Forest) that can be purchased at your local district office or online at The Cradle of Forestry's website for $4. We also encourage you to contact your local district office for the most up-to-date trails information.

Where are the easiest hikes on the Forest located?

Generally, the majority of closed forest service roads can be ideal for a short, non-strenuous and gratifying hike.  Flora, fauna, and fantastic views are often found along these roads.  Contact your local district for recommendations and to check on important hunting dates for safety.

Specifically, we recommend the following trails for a short, leisurely hike:

  • The Lion’s Eye Trail - Chattooga River District; located at Anna Ruby Falls, is a short, paved trail easily accessed from the parking lot.
  • The Lake Blue Ridge Trail - Blue Ridge District; a paved loop offering great views of the lake
  • The Lake Chatuge Trail - Blue Ridge District; a paved loop offering great views of the lake
  • The Lakeshore Trail - Blue Ridge District; a 0.5-mile loop trail through the woods around Dockery Lake.
  • The Helton Creek Falls Trail - Blue Ridge District; This short 0.2-mile trail leads to the observation deck.
  • Lake Conasauga loop trail - Conasauga District; 1.2 mile loop trail around lake

What can I expect when hiking through the wilderness?

Trails in the wilderness are managed to be part of the natural environment and not an intrusion upon it, hence more challenging and more difficult to navigate. Very few facilities are provided, including structures such as signs or bridges. Although trail markers help guide hikers on trails, they are less frequent within wildernesses.  It is highly encouraged that visitors possess a valid topographical map and compass, and know how to use both well. An excellent source for information on wilderness areas is Wilderness.net NOTE: Check this link, where printable maps and information on policies, stewardship and safety can be found.

Where can I ride my ATV/OHV?

The operation of motorized vehicles such as motorcycles, ATVs or unlicensed OHV’s is restricted to designated trails only on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Unless the trail is specifically designated for full-size vehicles, use of trails is restricted to vehicles less than 50 inches in width. Please visit the OHV Riding and Camping page for a list of motorized trails and additional information regarding specific sites.

 

Wilderness

What is wilderness?

The Wilderness Act of 1964 states: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wilderness areas have been designated so by an act of congress, and are federally protected in order to maintain and allow ecological and biological processes to progress naturally with little to no human influence or intervention. They are managed with a focus on protecting and preserving the natural environment, processes and heritage properties from human influence. They offer outstanding opportunities to experience solitude or a primitive and unconfined style of recreation.  Please visit Wilderness.net for more information, including a list and maps of all the wildernesses in Georgia. You can also visit the wilderness page on this website.

What do I need to know about camping in the wilderness?

Primitive camping is permitted in wildernesses, however camping alongside streams and in heavily vegetated areas is discouraged.  Depending on the specific wilderness, markers are often placed in the form of a single steel post or rod in areas selected by wilderness rangers as safe for camping (meaning limited damage to the natural environment would be incurred by human presence).

Wilderness visitors are encouraged to “pack-it-in and pack-it-out” and to “leave no trace.”  Signs are very limited, so visitors are encouraged to be skilled in the outdoors, self-reliant, and well-prepared.  Search and rescue or recovery is not readily available.  Travel and recreation within wilderness is strictly non-motorized. 

Visitor controls and specific rules pertaining to individual wildernesses such as permitting, restrictions in party size, closures to camping, or similar measures necessary to preserve and protect wilderness values may be enforced, so check with your local District office before attempting your trip to be sure you are aware of the rules.  Rules are strictly enforced and punished by law.

 

Reservations and Rentals

How do I reserve a campsite or cabin?

Most developed campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  However, some group sites and camping loops can be reserved through the National Recreation Reservation System (NRRS) by going to Recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777. The following areas are available by reservation on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest:

Camping:

  • Lake Winfield Scott—Blue Ridge RD
  • Morganton Point—Blue Ridge RD
  • Willis Knob Horse Camp—Chattooga-River RD


Group Camping:

  • Lake Winfield Scott—Blue Ridge RD
  • Nancytown Group Campground—Chattooga-River
  • Willis Knob Horse Camp—Chattooga-River RD


Cabins:

  • Lake Winfield Scott—Blue Ridge RD


Picnic Shelters:

  • Lake Winfield Scott (small) —Blue Ridge RD
  • Lake Winfield Scott (large) —Blue Ridge RD
Pocket Picnic Shelter—Conasauga RD

 

Can I rent a boat, canoe or kayak on the forest?

The Forest Service does not provide rental equipment for boating and/or other water activities.  However, there are many opportunities for rentals and guides from private businesses in the surrounding areas.

 

Maps

Where can I get maps of the forest?

Maps can be obtained at any Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest office or by ordering/downloading online from our website. Some of the maps we offer include the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forest Maps ($10), the free Online Forest Visitor Map, the free Motor Vehicle Use Map and the USGS Topographical Maps ($8). Order maps online from:

Are there maps showing where wildernesses are located on the forest?

Maps of the Cohutta and Big Frog Wildernesses can be purchased at the district offices for a small fee or by purchasing directly through our partner organization’s online gift shop at the Cradle of Forestry. In addition, maps and satellite images of all wildernesses can be downloaded and printed free of charge at Wilderness.net.

 

Hunting and Fishing

Do I need a fishing license, and where do I purchase one?

Anyone age 16 and older must have a current Georgia fishing license in their possession while fishing in freshwater or saltwater in Georgia. To fish in designated trout waters and to fish for or to possess trout, all resident anglers between the ages of 16 and 64 must have a current Georgia fishing and trout license.  A Fishing License is the only requirement to fish on WMAs in general except a Trout License is also required to fish designated trout waters on a WMA. A Fishing License and a WMA License is required to fish on Waters Creek Trophy Trout Stream on the Chestatee WMA.  Licenses may be purchased at an authorized license vendor or by going online to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website.

What is a Wildlife Management Area (WMA)?

Georgia has more than 90 wildlife management areas (WMA) throughout the state, and there's one within an hour's drive of every Georgian. Through the WMA system, hunters have access to nearly one million acres of hunting land for the price of one WMA stamp. WMAs can be located on state or federal public land. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests have __ designated WMAs. While the Forest Service owns the land, the GA Dept. of Natural Resources and Wildlife Resources Div. (WRD) are charged with managing, protecting and encouraging the conservation of all wildlife, including game and non-game animals and fish on these lands. Special laws, rules and regulations govern hunting activities on WMAs. Please visit the www.gohuntgeorgia.com website for specific details regarding hunting within a WMA.

Do I need to possess a permit or license in order to hunt on the national forest?

Yes, a hunting license is required to hunt on the Chattahoochee or Oconee National Forests. Depending upon the area and game you wish to hunt, additional licenses, stamps or permits may also be required. For the current year Georgia Hunting Regulations Guide, please visit gohuntgeorgia.com or the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website.

 

Passes and Permits

How can I get a burn permit?

The Forest Service does not issue burn permits. Burn permits can be obtained from the Georgia Forestry Commission online at www.gfc.state.ga.us/OnlinePermits/ or call 1-877-OK2-BURN (1-877-652-2876).

Do I need a permit to cut down a tree?

Firewood permits can be issued for dead and downed trees, only. Permits can be obtained by contacting your local Forest Service District Office. Depending upon the amount, location and district, permits usually range from $5 to $20. The cutting down of any live tree on Forest Service property is prohibited by the National Forest Service unless exclusively allowed and identified by a specific Ranger District.

Do I need a permit to collect pine straw?

A permit is required for collection of pine straw and most other forest products. Pine straw may be collected in designated areas only and is approved on a case by case basis. Permits cost $20.00 for a maximum of one ton of pine straw. Permits can be obtained by contacting your local Forest Service District Office.

Do I need a permit to collect ginseng?

Ginseng collection is allowed with an approved permit issued by the Forest Service. Permits can only be obtained during the fall season from Blue Ridge RD or Conasauga RD. Get specific information on permits and fees here, or contact one of the district offices.

Where can I purchase an America the Beautiful Pass?

The America the Beautiful Pass, also known as the Interagency Recreation Pass, may be purchased at any Forest Service Office or on line at www.fs.fed.us/passespermits/rec-fee.shtml. The Access Pass (for persons with disabilities, valid for a lifetime) is free, the Senior Pass is (also valid for a lifetime) is $10 and the Annual Pass (valid for one year from the date of purchase) is $80. The terms for each differ, but generally the Senior and Access passes entitle the pass holder to a 50% discount on many expanded amenity fees, such as camping and day-use fees. On the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest the Interagency Annual pass is valid only at the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center and will allow pass holder admission free of charge.

Please visit the national Forest Service page on passes and permits for more detailed information on passes.

 

Volunteering

How do I get involved with volunteering on the forest?

Volunteering is a great way to get involved and learn about the natural environment and its processes. Volunteers are also eligible to earn a Forest Annual Pass or Permit by performing 20 hours of volunteer work in coordination with the Forest Service. Just be sure to contact your district office before you start to put in your volunteer time. For information on volunteer opportunities available within each district, see our volunteer information page.

 

Firearms

What are the rules on carrying firearms on the forest?

Where can I shoot a gun on the forest?

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest provides shooting ranges on all four of its districts.

Although target shooting is allowed on other areas throughout the forest, please visit our page on Firearm rules and safety.

 

Miscellaneous

Where can I get information on rafting and kayaking on the National Forest? Are their guides available?

There are many great opportunities for white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. There are currently three companies licensed by the forest to lead tours and guided trips on the Chattooga River. Here's some important information regarding these kinds of water activities, such as contact information, prices and safety rules.

Where is the closest waterfall? How do I get there?

There are many waterfalls throughout the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. A few of significance include the following:

Where can I canoe/kayak/raft on the forest?

Non-motorized boating on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is not restricted to any specific area, however, it is important to know that according to state law, fishing, camping and entering onto private land is illegal without landowner permission, as is fishing from the river in a boat, tube, or any other floating device where both sides of the river are privately owned. Visit our Water Activities page for more information.

Where can I use a metal detector on the forest?

Metal detectors may be used for recreational purposes (hunting for lost jewelry, coins, etc.) on Forest Service land in areas that do not contain or would not reasonably be expected to contain archaeological resources. Normally, developed campgrounds, swimming beaches, and other developed recreation sites are open to recreational metal detecting unless there are archaeological or historical resources present. Archaeological remains and artifacts on public land are protected by law from both removal and damage. If you discover such remains or artifacts, leave them undisturbed and notify a Forest Service office.

Is gold panning, rockhounding, and fossil collecting allowed on the National Forest?

Yes, however there are strict rules and limitations which you must follow.

Recreational panning for gold in most stream beds is allowed. Special permission, permits, or fees are not required as long as significant stream disturbance does not occur and when only a small hand shovel or trowel and a pan are used. In-stream sluices and suction dredges are NOT allowed.

Recreational rockhounding may take place at areas where minerals are loose and free on the surface. Special permission, permits, or fees are not required to take a handful of rock, mineral, or petrified wood specimens from the surface of National Forest lands for personal use. You can collect a specimen if you can see all or part of it exposed on the surface of the ground. You can remove up to 6 inches of soil immediately around the specimen you are collecting. Do not dig so much as to cause significant surface disturbance that leads to damage of natural resources. You may collect reasonable amounts of specimens. Generally, a reasonable amount is up to 10 pounds. You can only collect specimens for personal use and non-commercial gain. No mechanical equipment may be used.

Fossil collecting for commercial purposes is not allowed. However, you can take a few fossil rocks home, provided:

  • you are not in a designated Wilderness area
  • you are collecting for non-commercial purposes (such as hobby, recreational, or educational purposes)
  • you do not create significant ground disturbance, and
  • you are not using any mechanized equipment

Please visit the Rocks and Minerals page for detailed information before planning your trip.

Does the forest have a golf course?

Sorry, there are no golf courses in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. But there are many golf courses located throughout the Piedmont and North Georgia Mountains.