Dispersed Camping Guidelines

Camp Responsibly

The forest belongs to everyone...however, there are some firm guidelines we must all follow out of respect for everyone who owns the Forest, human and animal.

Dispersed Camping Guidelines

You may camp most anywhere on the Coconino National Forest (unless otherwise posted) according to the following guidelines:

  • There is a 14-DAY PER MONTH STAY LIMIT (14 days in a 30-day period - Forest Order #03-04-00-22-28 on the Coconino National Forest). Please note that there are some exceptions where the limit is less than fourteen days. Using national forest land for residency for any amount of time is illegal. 
  • Groups camping together that number 25 or more people are required to have toilet facilities (port-a-johns) on site.
  • A Special Use Permit is required for groups larger than 75 people, or for any size group which charges a fee to attend an event. Check out our Events/Commercial Permits page.
  • No camping or campfires on the forest within city limits.
  • Do not camp on private property unless you have the owner's permission.
  • No camping within a one-fourth mile of a wildlife watering tank/hole. (Arizona Revised Statutes § 17-308: "It is unlawful for a person to camp within one-fourth mile of a natural water hole containing water or a man-made watering facility containing water in such a place that wildlife or domestic stock will be denied access to the only reasonably available water.")
  • Please do not camp in or drive through open meadowland due to the scarring effect it causes.
  • Down and dead firewood may be gathered around your camping area for use at your campsite but it is illegal to load wood in a vehicle to take out of the Forest without a special permit. You may not cut standing trees, nor can you cut limbs off of standing trees.
  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Be sure to check if you are in an area with campfire restrictions, which will be listed on Alerts & Notices and Forest Orders.
    • Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
    • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
    • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
    • Make sure to bring at least 6 gallons of water (preferably 10 gallons) and a shovel to completely extinguish your campfire.
    • Burn all wood and coals to ash. Extinguish campfires completely by generously dousing with water and stirring with a shovel - view video.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. It is illegal to do so--even for a short amount of time. Most wildland fires are caused by human activity, including campfires that were abandoned without being properly extinguished. You could be held liable for any firefighting/restoration costs that result from your abandoned or unattended campfire. Make certain your campfire is dead outwet and cold to the touch, before leaving your campsite. Read more tips for putting your campfire safety.
  • When dispersed camping (or "car camping") on the National Forest, refer to the designated camping corridors shown on the Motor Vehicle Use Map. In these designated corridors, visitors may drive their vehicles up to 300 feet from the road to car camp (here's a sample of what those designated areas look like on the map). Also, visitors may park alongside any designated road's edge and walk to their campsite anywhere on National Forest System lands, except where specifically prohibited as indicated in closure orders. When parking along a designated road, drivers must pull off the travelled portion of the roadway to permit the safe passage of traffic. These rules only affect motor vehicle use. Forest visitors can always hike to campsites at farther distances from the roads.
  • Always use the pack-in/pack-out method for the disposal of litter to keep your Forest clean.
  • Please use a digging tool to bury all human and pet waste at least 6 to 7 inches deep.
  • Pets are welcome in most areas but must be kept leashed at all times.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics.
  • Dispose of all garbage, including any paper, can, sewage, waste water or material, or rubbish either by removal the site or area, or by depositing it into receptacles or at places provided for such purposes. Failure to do so can result in a fine.

Specific Sites and Some Exceptions

In addition to the Dispersed Camping Guidelines above, there are several sites designated and set aside as Dispersed Camping sites. Some of them are listed here along with some exceptions: Dispersed Specific Sites.

Additional Resources