Wilderness Regulations


Wilderness Permits

Whether day-hiking or overnight back-packing, all individuals and/or groups must obtain a wilderness permit. Some of the permits are free, self-issued wilderness visitor use permit at the trailhead. Limited entry permits are required for overnight use and many day use trailheads in the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington Wilderness areas from the Friday before Memorial Day through the last Friday in September. To learn more about our permit system, visit the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit page.

Federal Regulations (36 CFR 261.18) for National Forest Wilderness:

Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is prohibited. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.

Note: Other regulations that also apply to wilderness areas can be found in the 36 CFR sections 261. This also includes drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The Following are Prohibited within all Deschutes National Forest Wildernesses:

  • Groups larger than 12 persons and 12 head of stock. Large groups multiply the impact on the resource and can be disruptive to others.
  • Entering or being in Deschutes National Forest wildernesses without a permit.  Visit our wilderness permits page to find out which permit you need. Information gathered from permits is vital in determining proper management.
  • Building, maintaining, attending, or using a campfire within 100 foot slope distance (37 adult steps) of any permanent lake, stream, spring, pond or system trail. Campfires and wood gathering damage fragile areas.
  • Leaving refuse, debris, trash, litter, food or human/pet waste in an exposed or unsanitary condition.
  • Hitching, tethering, picketing, or securing any pack or saddle stock within 200 feet slope distance of any permanent lake, stream, spring, pond, shelter or system trail. 
  • Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport including: chainsaws, bicycles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, hang gliders, aircraft, motorboats, wagons, game carts, baby strollers, wheelbarrows and other non-primitive tools and wheeled vehicles (wheelchairs excluded). 
  • Camping or being within areas posted as closed for rehabilitation. These areas have been restored to permit natural conditions to return.
  • Cutting or damaging any timber, tree, vegetation, unique plant species or other forest product except as authorized. 
  • Storing or caching equipment, personal property or supplies within Wilderness for more than 48 hours.  Geo-caches are prohibited in wilderness.
  • Gathering a of forest products, for example mushrooms and berries, except for personal on-site use. 
  • Commercial use and/or services within wilderness except by special use permit.
  • High-use area regulations:
    • Campfires are prohibited in many high-use, sub-alpine and alpine areas.
    • Some high-use areas require limited entry permits
    • Use of designated campsites is required in some high-use areas (Mt. Jefferson Wilderness) (Three Sisters Wilderness).

Special Area Regulations

  • Special Area Regulations apply for the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters areas.  Visit the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit page to learn more.

  • Campfires are prohibited about 5,700 ft. in Wilderness within the Deschutes National Forest with the exception of the Diamond Peak Wilderness where campfires are prohibited about 6,000 ft.

Check with the local Ranger District office for further information and detailed maps.

Three Sisters Wilderness ~ Special Restrictions

  • A Limited Entry Area Permit is required for the Obsidian area
  • Campfire and/or camping restrictions apply around some lakes within Three Sisters Wilderness. View maps of areas where restrictions apply: Camp ChambersGreen LakesMatthieu Lakes, Golden LakeMoraine Lake, and Sisters Mirror
  • Dogs must be on a leash and in physical control at all times (July 15 through September 15) within 1/8th mile of trails leading to, and within, the management areas known as South Sister, Moraine Lake, Green Lakes, Soda Creek, Todd Lake Basin, Crater Ditch. View map.

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness ~ Special Restrictions

  • The Pamelia Lake area requires a limited entry permit 
  • Marion Lake Area ~ Management & Campfire Fire Ban 
  • General camping and recreation restrictions can be found here.
  • There is an area closure in Mt. Jefferson due to wildfires (7/17/2014). View the Fire Closures Page for more information.

Questions? Contact any Deschutes or Willamette National Forest office for more information about special wilderness restrictions.

Weed-Free Feed 

As part of a larger effort to reduce invasive species on national forest lands, weed-free feed is required in the 17 national forests and the Crooked River National Grasslands of the Pacific Northwest. Weed-Free Feed Requirements.

Fireworks and Firearms on National Forest Lands

1. Possession and/or Use of fireworks or other explosives are prohibited on National Forest lands at all times.

2. Regulations prohibit discharging a firearm or any weapon capable of injuring others:

  • In or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area 
  • Across or on roads, system trails, bodies of water, or where people or property are exposed to injury or damage, 
  • Into a cave, 
  • Into areas that cause any type of resource damage. Please do not shoot trees, rocks, stumps, or non-game animals. 

Violation of these and other laws, rules and regulations which apply to designated Wilderness are punishable by a fine or imprisonment. (16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C. 3559 and 3571).