Wilderness Management

The following table shows Green Mountain National Forest Wilderness Areas, their acreage and links to Recreation Opportunity Guides (ROGs) for the area.

Wilderness Area


Recreation Opportunity Guide

Big Branch Wilderness


Big Branch Wilderness
Griffith Lake/Baker Peak via Lake Trail
Old Job South Loop Backpacking Guide

Breadloaf Wilderness


Breadloaf Wilderness
Burnt Hill Trail
Clark Brook Trail
Cooley Glen-Emily Proctor
Silent Cliff
Skylight Pond Trail

Bristol Cliffs Wilderness


Bristol Cliffs Wilderness

George D. Aiken Wilderness


George D. Aiken Wilderness

Glastenbury Wilderness


Bald Mountain Trail
Glastenbury/West Ridge Loop
Little Pond Trail

Joseph Battell Wilderness


Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff
Sucker Brook Trail

Lye Brook Wilderness


Lye Brook Wilderness
Bourn Pond Trail
Lye Brook Falls Trail
Prospect Rock Trail

Peru Peak Wilderness


Peru Peak Wilderness
Styles Peak Loop


Wilderness Management on the Green Mountain National Forest

The Wilderness Management Area emphasizes the management and protection of congressionally designated wilderness areas.  Management emphasizes the maintenance of wilderness values consistent with the Wilderness Act of 1964 and subsequent legislation, including:

  • A general appearance of being affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable
  • Outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation
  • At least 5,000 acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition
  • Ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical values

In order to maintain these values, wilderness areas prohibit the use of motorized and mechanized vehicles and equipment, installation of new structures, and road development except where provided for by law. 

Desired Future Condition (DFC)

While Eastern wilderness includes lands that have been modified through logging and other human uses over hundreds of years, current natural ecological processes will be allowed to take place.  The Wilderness management areas will be a product of natural succession where large and small-scale changes occur through natural events such as wind disturbances or ice storms. 

  • Vegetation composition will result from natural ecological processes rather than human-caused activities. 
  • Vegetation cover will vary based primarily on ecological conditions
  • Temporary openings, early successional forest, small permanent upland openings, and the wildlife associated with these areas may be found but will be uncommon and the result of natural processes. 
  • Components of the natural disturbance regime will include individual tree throw, infrequent large-scale blow down, very infrequent fire, insect damage, and beaver flooding. 

The intent is that arcels previously maintained as early successional units will disappear with the passage of time.

Recreation Maintained Naturally

Recreation in wilderness areas is managed towards a desired ROS class of Primitive.  There will be little evidence of human development in Wilderness MAs with several exceptions including trails, trail shelters, trail blazes, and limited trail signing that provides onsite guidance to visitors. 

Interaction between users will vary by wilderness, specific places within each wilderness, and season of use.  In general, use will be concentrated around trail corridors and other popular features.  Away from trails and in low-use wildernesses, evidence of, and interaction with, other users will be low. 

Facilities and designated campsites may be present when necessary to protect Wilderness values.  Managerial controls will be kept to a minimum and used only as necessary to protect ecological and social values.

Standards and Guidelines for Wilderness 

Forest-wide standards and guidelines apply.  The management area standards and guidelines are to be applied in addition to Forest-wide standards and guidelines.  In case of a conflict between the Forest-wide standards and guidelines and the management area standards and guidelines, the most restrictive standard and guideline shall apply.

Guidance for managing Wilderness is found in:

Wilderness Acts

  • PL 88-577, September 3, 1964 (Wilderness Act)
  • PL 93-622, January 3, 1975 (Eastern Wilderness Act) and Amendment  PL94-268, April 1976 for Bristol Cliffs
  • PL 98-322, June 19, 1984 (Vermont Wilderness Act)
  • PL 109-382, December 1, 2006 (New England Wilderness Act)

Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) covering Wilderness, include:

  • Title 36 CFR – Part 293 – Wilderness – Primitive Areas
  • Title 36 CFR subpart 228.15 (Minerals)
  • Title 36 CFR subpart 261.61 (National Forest Wilderness prohibitions)

Forest Service Manuals – FSM 2320 series

Wilderness Management Plans



S-1: Subject to valid existing rights, minerals in Wilderness shall be unavailable for lease.

Timber Management


S-1: Timber management shall not be permitted.


G-1: Vegetation changes should be left to the forces of nature except as provided for in Forest Service direction. 

Special Forest Products


S-1: Gathering of special forest products for commercial sale shall be prohibited.



S-1: Livestock areas shall be prohibited.



S-1: Wildlife habitat improvement projects shall be prohibited.  Habitat shall be a result of natural processes.



G-1: Fish stocking may continue in lakes where it has historically been done. 

Ecological Special Areas and Mount Horrid


S-1: Ecological special areas and the Mount Horrid candidate Research Natural Area contained within Wilderness shall be managed to protect their special ecological values.


G-1: Recreation and other activities may be restricted or prohibited through area closures to protect the special ecological values of these areas.

Pests, Diseases, and Non-Native Invasive Species


G-1: Non-native invasive species may be suppressed where native ecological communities or TES species are threatened by their presence. 

G-2: Ecosystem restoration should be considered only if the need is causally linked to human-induced changes, and if those changes pose a significant threat to resources outside of wilderness.

Fire Management


G-1: Wildland Fire Use may be permitted.



S-1: Storing equipment/materials shall be prohibited.

S-2: A minimum tools analysis shall be completed before undertaking any project.


G-1: Education efforts on pre-trip planning should discourage group sizes larger than ten people.

G-2: Monitor effects of geocaching activities to determine if there are conflicts with wilderness values and resources.  Consider prohibition of geocaching if conflicts occur.

G-3: Whenever practical, campsites outside of the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail should be managed in ways to make them as unrecognizable as possible.  Only minimal physical changes and structures should exist at most sites (simple rock fire rings). 

G-4: The minimum tool concept should be used to guide management actions.

G-5: Restoration efforts should be site-specific and small scale, such as rehabilitating campsites or other sites impacted by recreation. 

G-6: Numbers of users may be limited to provide opportunities for solitude and low to moderate contact with other groups or individuals.

G-7: Visitor use may be managed by informing visitors of alternative opportunities outside of wilderness, restricting access to the wilderness, limiting length of stay, limiting group size, and/or instituting a permit system.

Developed Recreation


S-1: Construction of new overnight facilities shall be prohibited.


G-1: Overnight facilities identified in the area-enabling legislation may be retained.

G-2: Shelters identified for retention should be maintained.  Native materials are to be used, if possible, for maintenance and repair.  Non-native materials may be used only if native material is unavailable or impractical.  Materials are to be replaced in-kind.  Any materials used should be durable, and should blend closely with the natural surroundings.

G-3: An existing facility determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places may be retained if this is the only way to adequately preserve and protect its historical or cultural significance.

G-4: Existing overnight facilities that are not identified in area-enabling legislation should be removed if they can no longer meet health and safety standards without full replacement; if they are not needed for resource protection; and are not historically significant.

G-5: For shelters that will be retained, every practical effort should be made to minimize the presence of the shelter and its impact on the surrounding area.



S-1: The use of horses, pack animals, dog teams, bicycles, and motorized vehicles in Wilderness shall be prohibited, except for search and rescue operations with Forest Supervisor approval, fire suppression with Forest Supervisor approval, and motorized access to private in-holdings as authorized by law and permits. 


G-1: Cairns, limited scree walls, blazing, and directional arrow signs may be used only when the summer trail tread is not easily discernible, for resource protection, or to mitigate an unusual or extraordinary public safety hazard.

G-2: Trails may be added or eliminated to protect wilderness values.

G-3: Trails should be constructed, relocated, and maintained to a minimum standard necessary for protection of the soil, water, vegetation, visual quality, user safety, and long-term maintenance.   Emphasis should be placed on trails that appear to be part of the wilderness environment and not an intrusion upon it. 

Appalachian Trail and Long Trail


S-1: Activities shall be planned and carried out in cooperation with the appropriate trail management partner(s). 

S-2: Management direction contained in the Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail MA (8.1), the Long Trail MA (8.2) and Wilderness MA (5.1), apply to areas where each respective trail goes through a Wilderness MA.  Where conflict exists, the stricter standards shall be followed.

S-3: The use of horses, pack animals, dog teams, bicycles, and motorized vehicles on the footpath of the AT/LT shall be prohibited.


G-1: Any physical changes and structures should be limited to those needed to prevent deterioration of the site by repeated use.

G-2: Existing shelters and associated facilities may be maintained on the AT/LT and associated trails.

G-3: Use of hand-held power tools, such as chainsaws, to re-open trails following catastrophic natural events may be authorized by the delegated authorizing official.

G-4: When existing trail shelters deteriorate to the point that they must be replaced or reconstructed, the shelter and shelter location should be analyzed for historic significance.  When possible, relocate shelters to appropriate sites outside of wilderness. 

Heritage Resources


G-1: Archaeological research and excavations may be permitted under the condition that they will not alter the long-term ecological integrity or wilderness values of the area.

G-2: Preservation, maintenance, research, and interpretation related to significant historic properties may be undertaken under the condition that such properties are consistent with the character of the Wilderness.

Transportation Analysis


S-1: Roads shall be prohibited unless required by law to provide access to private land or easements.

S-2: Decommissioned roads shall be restored to landscape level or converted to trails. 


G-1: Historically significant roads may be closed, rather than decommissioned, as determined through SHPO.  Actions for closing roads shall follow Forest Service transportation policy.

Recreation Special Uses


S-1: Permits for competitive or recreation events shall be prohibited.

S-2: Permits for recreation facilities shall be prohibited.


G-1: Future development of use zones through the LAC process may restrict Outfitter Guide use or not allow use to increase beyond a level that can be accommodated within the established standards.

G-2: Outfitter/guide permits should not disperse use from high- to low-use areas.

Non-Recreation Special Uses


S-1: Permits for roads and trails shall not be issued unless required by law to provide access to non-federal land.

S-2: On-the-ground military exercises shall be prohibited in wilderness.


G-1: Other non-recreation special use permits may be authorized provided they are consistent with management area emphasis and Desired Future Condition, and they will not threaten or diminish the character or purpose for which the management area was designated, or as directed by the Wilderness Act of 1964.


Things to Know When Visiting Wilderness Areas

Trail Conditions and Signage

  • Trails are maintained with hand-tools.
  • Blazing is minimal
  • Step over blowdowns are left if people can stay on the trail tread way.
  • Bridges are not usually present.
  • Vistas are not maintained in wilderness.
  • Signs in wilderness have no mileages

Wilderness Outdoor Skills and Ethics

  • Carry in and carry out your property and supplies
  • 14 Day Camping Limit
  • No more than two consecutive nights in AT/LT shelters
  • UnauthorizedTrail Creation and Vegetation Cutting is illegal

More Information