Many people enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed areas and other campers. Dispersed camping requires extra responsibilities and skills.
- Keep a pack-in pack-out camp. Amenities like water, restrooms or trash cans are not provided.
- There are no fees or permit required for dispersed camping in small groups. Group size is limited to no more than 10 people in a designated Wilderness.
- Camping stay is limited to 21 consecutive days.
- Please camp at least 200 feet from any stream or other water source.
- Contact the local District Office to see if any restrictions are in place.
- Use a good map to ensure you are not on private land.
- Be bear aware: keep a clean camp and keep food out of reach of bears.
Where Can I Disperse Camp?
You may disperse camp on Forest Service lands that do not have closures or restrictions. Dispersed camping is not allowed in developed recreation areas like campgrounds, picnic areas, or trailheads. Drive on existing roads and, when car-camping, keep your campsite within 150 feet of a road.
If you can, pick a site that has been used before to minimize your impact in the forest. If there is no existing campsite where you are going, then follow Leave No Trace guidelines:
- Camp on bare soil, if possible, to avoid damaging plants.
- Do not camp within 200 feet of any water source.
- Avoid camping in the middle of a clearing or meadow; keep your campsite less visible so that other visitors can enjoy the views.
- Do not try to level or dig trenches in the ground at your campsite. Pick a tent site that is already level with good drainage.
Can I have a campfire?
Campfires are allowed when you are dispersed camping unless there are fire restrictions in effect due to high fire danger conditions.
Tips for Safe, Low Impact Campfires
- Use existing fire rings if they exist.
- Clean an area and make a ring of rocks two feet in diameter.
- Collect only dead wood that is on the ground. Do not bring firewood with you. The emerald ash borer is an invasive species often transported inside firewood. Help us stop the spread of invasive pests by leaving firewood at home.
- Before you leave your campfire make sure is it completely out. You should be able to put your whole hand into the ashes without being burned. It should be cool to the touch. Many forest fires are caused by abandoned campfires that were not completely out.
- Wood permits are not needed to collect small amounts of wood for your campfire.
Water and Toileting
Water gets contaminated by visitors who do not take care of their human waste or their garbage and food properly.
Going to the Bathroom in the Woods
Dispersed camping means no restrooms and extra care must be taken to dispose of human waste. To dispose of feces, dig a hole six inches deep at least 200 feet away from any water source. When you are done, fill the hole with the dirt you dug up and take your toilet paper with you to dispose of in a proper waste container. Never defecate or leave toilet paper on top of the ground. It could easily contaminate the local water source.
Treating Your Water
Natural water sources may be contaminated with invisible micro-organisms, like Giardia, that can make people very ill. Water can be contaminated by wild animals or by improper toileting. The only way to ensure that water from natural sources is safe is to treat is by boiling, using water purification tablets or a water purification filter.