Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed throughout most of the Hoosier National Forest.  Dispersed camping is acceptable on National Forest System lands away from developed campgrounds, nearly anywhere your camping equipment and/or vehicle does not block developed trails or road rights-of-way. It is not necessary to check in with the Forest Service when you camp overnight.

Where dispersed camping is NOT allowed:

  • within campgrounds
  • along roads, parking areas, or day use areas within developed recreation areas
  • at day use trailheads or parking areas, including boat launches
  • within Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest (Orange County)
  • within the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower site (Monroe County adjacent to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness)
  • within Hemlock Cliffs area (Crawford County)

All dispersed camp sites must be at least 300 feet away from trailheads and at least 100 feet from trails and waterfronts. 

Roadside Camping

Roadside dispersed camping should be done at established sites if any are provided, but must stay within 125 feet of the road. We do not have maps for where these sites are located, but if you drive most Forest roads you are likely to see them in the more popular areas of the Forest. Roadside camping is not allowed within campgrounds. 


Please pay close attention to parking locations for your dispersed camping trip. Ensure your vehicle is parked legally on public land. For example, parking is prohibited on Tower Ridge Road (Monroe County adjacent to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness) except at designated trailheads.

If you ensure you are on public land and there are no signs saying no parking, vehicles can be parked within one vehicle length or within a specified distance up to 30 feet from the edge of a designated road.

Permits and Restrictions

There is no charge for dispersed camping, however the following restrictions are required: 

  • Stays are limited to 14-days
  • Personal property must not be left unattended overnight
  • Group size is limited to 10 people in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness. In other parts of the Forest, groups larger than 75 people require a permit.
  • Firewood restrictions apply throughout the Forest. 

Please check for current restrictions such as fire bans before heading out to camp.

Dispersed Camping Best Practices

Practice Leave No Trace Principles:

  • Bring enough water for the duration of your stay.
  • Leave a clean campsite by packing out all refuse. No garbage service is provided and leaving your trash is illegal and can result in steep penalties.
  • Go at least 200 feet from water sources and campsites for personal hygiene needs and bury human waste.

See a full list of rules and regulations on Hoosier National Forest for more questions and information.  

Dispersed Camping Areas

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Related Links