Rules and Regulations

Welcome to your National Forests! As a visitor to the National Forests, you are asked to follow certain rules designed to protect the Forests and the natural environment, to ensure the health and safety of visitors, and to promote pleasant and rewarding outdoor recreation experience for all visitors. Forest Officers are empowered to enforce the Federal Regulations. The rules listed below are based on these regulations. Please take time to read and understand them.

Regional Forester and/or Forest Supervisor orders may be issued that close or restrict the use of certain areas if the need arises. Such orders will be posted so that visitors to the National Forest can be familiar with them. Copies of the orders are also available in the offices of Forest Supervisors and District Rangers.

Information on all permit requirements is available from Forest Services Offices. If you  have any questions or need help, please contact your nearest Forest Officer or visit the nearest Forest Service Office.

Please remember to be careful! You are primarily responsible for your own safety. Look out for natural hazards and dangers when you are in the forest. If you hike off trails or swim or dive in streams or lakes, you do so at YOUR OWN RISK.

Cherokee National Forest Rules

Rules and regulations pertaining to national forest land are posted on bulletin boards in developed recreation sites. Information is also available at each Ranger District office. Following are some of the rules and regulations for the Cherokee NF.


  • There are over 30 developed campgrounds scattered throughout the Cherokee NF. Most campsites are on a first-served basis. Campsites must be occupied the first night and once every 24 hours there after - maximum length of stay is 14 days.
  • Camping is limited to 5 people per single site and 10 people per double site in developed campgrounds. A maximum of two (2) vehicles per campsite is allowed.
  • Alcohol is prohibited in several recreation areas. See information bulletin boards in developed sites.
  • Dispersed camping outside of developed campgrounds is permitted at no charge. Camping in this manner is limited to 14 days and the site must be occupied once every 24 hours.


  • Throw all garbage and litter in containers provided for this Pack it In - Pack it Out!purpose, or take it with you.
  • Garbage containers, when provided, are reserved for the use of visitors to the National Forest, not visitors to or owners of private lands or lands under permit.
  • Wash food and personal items away from drinking water supplies. Use faucets only for drawing water.
  • Prevent pollution - keep garbage, litter, and foreign substances out of lakes, streams, and other water.
  • Use toilets properly. Do not throw garbage, litter, fish cleanings, or other foreign substances in toilets and plumbing fixtures.

Operation of Vehicles

  • Obey all traffic signs. State traffic laws apply to National Forest unless otherwise specified. License tags, insurance and DUI violations are strictly enforced.
  • When operating vehicles of any kind, do not damage the land or vegetation or disturb the wildlife. Avoid riding or driving on unpaved roads or trails when they are wet or muddy.
  • Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, use cars, motorbikes, motorcycles, or other motor vehicles only for entering or leaving, unless areas or trails are specifically marked for them.
  • Do not block, restrict, or interfere with the use of roads or trails, especially gated roads.


  • Do not carve, chop, cut, or damage any live trees.
  • Preserve and protect your National Forests. Leave natural areas the way you find them.
  • Enter buildings, structures, or enclosed areas in National Forest only when they are expressly opened to the public.
  • Indian sites, old cabins, and other structures, along with objects and artifacts associated with them, have historic or archeological value. Do not damage or remove any such historic or archeological resource or other property of the United States.

Fish and Wildlife

  • The Cherokee NF is managed cooperatively by the Forest Service and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). State law applies to activities within the national forests.
  • You can obtain a license and regulation guide at most retail stores.
  • Hunting and Fishing seasons, regulations and bag limits are set by TWRA.

Fee Areas

  • You must pay a fee to use certain developed sites and facilities. Such areas are clearly signed or posted as requiring a fee.
  • Where fees are required, you must pay before using the site, facility, equipment, or service furnished.

Public Behavior

  • No fighting or boisterous behavior.
  • Keep noise at a reasonable level. Please be considerate of fellow visitors. Threatening, intimidating, or interfering with any forest employee is a federal offense.

Firearms For Hunting

  • Use, possession or transportation of firearms, bow & arrows and other arms and ammunition is prohibited, except during designated hunting seasons for the Cherokee WMA.
  • While possessing a firearm for the purpose of hunting, you must have a valid hunting license and appropriate permits in your possession for the species you intend to hunt.
  • The firearm possessed must be the type legal for hunting the species that are in season at the time of your national forest visit.
  • Firearms must be unloaded during transport. 
  • While camping firearms must remain in camp except during legal hunting hours.
  • Target practicing is not permitted in the general forest area, and is legal only at designated shooting ranges.
  • National Forest shooting ranges are located at various locations throughout the Forest.

Handgun Carry Permits

May persons possessing handgun carry permits possess their handguns whilein the Cherokee National Forest? YES - Recent State legislative changes provide that individuals who possess a carry permit may possess their handgun while on Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) wildlife management areas, public hunting areas, or refuges open to hunter access. Because the Cherokee National Forest is managed under an agreement with the Forest Service, USDA and TWRA as a Wildlife Management Area this legislative change applies to the Cherokee National Forest. The handgun may not be used for taking game unless specifically permitted by TWRA regulation. For more information regarding this legislative change and related TWRA information please contact the TWRA at 1-800-332-0900 or visit the web site.


  • Approximately 50% of all roads (750 miles) in the Cherokee NF are open to public vehicular use.
  • Roads with gates on them have been closed for resource protection seasons. Many gated roads have been established as linear wildlife openings to provide habitat for various species. Gated roads are closed to public vehicular use. However, unless signed otherwise they are open to foot, bicycle and horse travel. Hunters frequently use gated roads to access more remote areas.

Off-highway Vehicles

  • OHV use on all open roads under Forest Service jurisdiction is limited to vehicles and operators that are in compliance with motor vehicle laws of the State of Tennessee.
  • Unlicensed OHVs are restricted to routes (roads and trails) specifically designated as open to such vehicles.


  • All pets must be confined to a leash, cage or in a vehicle.
  • Dogs must remain on a leash not to exceed six feet, unless being used for hunting during a designated hunting season where the use of dogs is legal.
  • Check the Tennessee Hunting & Trapping Guide or contact the TWRA (link to TWRA website) for information regarding the use of hunting dogs on WMA lands.
  • Pets are allowed in all areas except where posted otherwise (swimming areas, beaches, etc.)


  • Permits are required for cutting personal use firewood.
  • Contact the nearest Ranger District office for more information.
  • Gathering small amounts of dead and down wood for campfire use does not require a permit as long as the wood is used on site in the Cherokee NF.


  • In developed recreation sites fires are allowed in fire rings and grills that are provided.
  • Small campfires are allowed outside of developed sites without a permit. However, caution should be used at all times.
  • Check with the nearest Ranger District office for current weather and fire hazard conditions.
  • Obey restrictions on fires. Fires may be limited or prohibited at certain times.
  • Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, build fires only in fire rings, stoves, grills, or fireplaces provided for that purpose.
  • Be sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING FIRES UNDER CONTROL.