Rules and Regulations

The following is a partial summary of rules and regulations that apply to the most common activities on the Forest. Forest visitors may review the complete text for rules and regulations by contacting a Hoosier National Forest (NF) office.

Please call one of our offices for more information on these items. 

General Camping Rules

  • Campers may stay up to 14 consecutive days within a 30-day period. Campers may not stay on the Forest in excess of 30 days total in a calendar year.
  • At least one person must occupy a camping area during the first night after camping equipment has been set up. Camping equipment cannot be left unattended for more than 24 hours.
  • Camping is allowed at designated horse camps, and designated recreation areas. Camping is allowed on most areas of the forest with a few exceptions.
  • Camping is not allowed within 300 feet of trailheads, or within 100 feet of trails or water bodies
  • Camping and campfires are not allowed in rock shelters across the Forest.


  • Backpacking is allowed on National Forest lands. No permit is required.

Primitive and roadside camping

  • Primitive and roadside camping is allowed away from developed campgrounds. Your camping equipment or vehicle must not block a trail, gate, or road.
  • If camping with a vehicle, use established pull-offs. Refer to the Dispersed Camping page for more information.

Developed campsites and recreation areas

  • Fees required in season. The recreation season generally runs from mid-April through mid to late October, depending on the site. Check with our office for exact information.
  • No more than 8 people may use a single campsite, 16 for a double campsite.
  • Dogs must be on a leash six feet or less and are not allowed at beaches.
  • No glass containers are allowed on the beaches.
  • Quiet hours are in effect 10:00 P.M. – 6:00 A.M.
  • All vehicles and camping equipment must be placed on the hardened surface.
  • Not more than two transportation vehicles may be parked at the site in addition to a camping vehicle (RV, pop-up, etc.) and boat. More than two tents, bicycles, and motorcycles are allowed if they fit reasonably on the hardened surfaces. Additional vehicle charges may apply.
  • Fire rings must be used for campfires. All fires must be in provided rings, with wood that fits within it.
  • Day use areas are closed between 10 PM and 6 AM except for fishermen on the water.
  • During the off-season, some portions of recreation areas may be gated. Pedestrians may enter these areas for the purpose of walking, picnicking, or fishing.

Horse Camps

  • Campers may camp anywhere in the following camps as long as roads are not blocked: Shirley Creek, Blackwell, Young’s Creek and Hickory Ridge. There is no fee. The horse camp at German Ridge requires a fee and campers must camp in a designated site. A trail permit is required to have horses within the horse camps and to ride Hoosier NF trails. 
  • Day users must park in the day use parking area at German Ridge. Day users at other camps may park anywhere as long as roads are not blocked.
  • Non-horse campers may use these camps but should be mindful of safety around horses.
  • Only individuals camping in the site are allowed between the hours of 10 P.M. – 6:00 A.M.
  • Alcohol is prohibited at German Ridge Lake and Beach.
  • Horses may not be tied within reach of a living tree. Highlines are permitted.
  • Quiet hours are in effect between 10:00 P.M. – 6:00 A.M.
  • Stock are not allowed to move faster than a walk.

Charles C. Deam Wilderness

  • Use of wheeled vehicles, including carts, wagons, or bicycles is prohibited within the wilderness.
  • Mechanized or motorized equipment, including generators, is prohibited.
  • Possessing any non-burnable food or beverage containers, including deposit bottles, except for non-burnable containers designed and intended for repeated use is prohibited. 
  • Hunting is permitted but target shooting is not.
  • Paintball is prohibited.
  • Roadside parking and camping is prohibited along Tower Ridge Road.
  • Group size is limited to 10 persons or less.
  • Camping within 100 feet of ponds, lakes, trails, or stream is allowed only on designated sites.
  • No alcoholic beverages are allowed at the Hickory Ridge Tower.
  • ​Geocaching is prohibited in the Wilderness to preserve its natural character.
  • Camping is restricted within 300 feet of designated trailheads, wilderness access points, and horse camps.


  • Small, open fires are permitted except during extremely high fire danger.
  • Use only dead and down material for firewood. Live trees may not be cut or defaced. No hardwood firewood may be brought in unless it has been certified by the USDA.
  • Use a fire ring or grill if one is provided.  Firewood must fit in fire ring.

Hunting, Trapping, Fishing & Firearms

  • Hunting is allowed anywhere on National Forest land except in recreation areas with designated boundaries, the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest, or where posted.
  • State laws on hunting, trapping and fishing are enforced on National Forest lands, requiring either a resident or nonresident license.
  • Discharging a firearm (including a bow and arrow) is prohibited in or within 150 yards of a developed recreation site, a residence, or any place where people are likely to be. Shooting across roads or bodies of water is also prohibited.
  • Target shooting is permitted in the general forest area (except in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness) as long as other persons in the area are not placed at risk and there is no damage to resources such as using a tree as a target.
  • Paintball is prohibited in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, within developed recreation areas, or other special areas.


  • Possessing, discharging or using any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device is prohibited on the Hoosier National Forest.


  • Swimmers are encouraged to use designated beaches.
  • Swimming is not allowed at the boat ramps.


  • Plant collecting is not allowed.
  • Mushroom hunting for personal use is allowed.
  • Small leaf collections are allowed.
  • Some recreational mineral collecting such as gold panning or geode gathering is allowed with certain restrictions.
  • Metal detecting is allowed only in developed recreation areas for items having no historical value. Only surface collecting is allowed (no digging), except at designated beaches where it is permissible to sift through the sand for modern items.
    • Archaeological sites or artifacts may not be disturbed.

Rock Climbing and Caving

  • Rock climbing is permitted on most National Forest land with the exception of a portion of Hemlock Cliffs.
  • Caves on the Hoosier are closed seasonally (September 1 to April 30) to visitors due to white nose syndrome in bats and our concerns to reduce the spread of this disease. The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act also prohibits the Forest from publicizing the location of caves.

Trail Use

  • Horse and bicycle riders must stay on trails specifically designated for bicycle or horse use.
  • Hikers may hike anywhere except where an area is posted closed.
  • A fee is required for horses and bicycles used on trails.
  • Off road vehicles are not allowed on the Hoosier National Forest.
  • Stock may not be tied within reach of any living tree.


  • Electric trolling motors only are allowed on the following lakes: Tipsaw, Indian, Celina, Saddle, and Springs Valley.
  • Vehicles and trailers must park in designated areas.

Business Activities

  • Selling merchandise or services, posting or distributing any information, or conducting meetings or events requires a permit.