General Rules

These regulations have been made by the Secretary of Agriculture to assure the enjoyment of recreation in the National Forests. They are common sense rules meant to control actions that cause damage to natural resources and facilities, as well as actions that cause unreasonable disturbances for National Forest visitors. This is only a partial list. To view the entire list please visit Title 36: Parks, Forests, and Public Property. A violation of these regulations is subject to a penalty of not more than $5000 or 6 months imprisonment, or both.


§ 261.16 Developed Recreation Sites

The following are prohibited:

  • (a) Occupying any portion of the site for other than recreation purposes.
  • (b) Building, attending, maintaining, or using a fire outside of a fire ring provided by the Forest Service for such purpose or outside of a stove, grill or fireplace.
  • (c) Cleaning or washing any personal property, fish, animal, or food, or bathing or washing at a hydrant or water faucet not provided for that purpose.
  • (d) Discharging or igniting a firecracker, rocket or other firework, or explosive.
  • (e) Occupying between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. a place designated for day use only.
  • (f) Failing to remove all camping equipment or personal property when vacating the area or site.
  • (g) Placing, maintaining, or using camping equipment except in a place specifically designated or provided for such equipment.
  • (h) Without permission, failing to have at least one person occupy a camping area during the first night after camping equipment has been set up.
  • (i) Leaving camping equipment unattended for more than 24 hours without permission.
  • (j) Bringing in or possessing an animal, other than a seeing eye dog, unless it is crated, caged, or upon a leash not longer than six feet, or otherwise under physical restrictive control.
  • (k) Bringing in or possessing in a swimming area an animal, other than a seeing eye dog.
  • (l) Bringing in or possessing a saddle, pack, or draft animal except as authorized by posted instructions.
  • (m) Operating or parking a motor vehicle or trailer except in places developed or designated for this purpose.
  • (n) Operating a bicycle, motorbike, or motorcycle on a trail unless designated for this use.
  • (o) Operating a motorbike, motorcycle, or other motor vehicle for any purpose other than entering or leaving the site.
  • (p) Depositing any body waste except into receptacles provided for that purpose.


§ 261.4 Disorderly Conduct

The following are prohibited:

  • (a) Engaging in fighting.
  • (b) Addressing any offensive, derisive, or annoying communication to any other person who is lawfully present when such communication has a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person to whom, individually, the remark is addressed.
  • (c) Make statements or other actions directed toward inciting or producing imminent lawless action and likely to incite or produce such action.
  • (d) Causing public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm by making unreasonably loud noise.


§ 261.5 Fires

The following are prohibited:

  • (a) Carelessly or negligently throwing or placing any ignited substance or other substance that may cause a fire.
  • (b) Firing any tracer bullet or incendiary ammunition.
  • (c) Causing timber, trees, slash, brush or grass to burn except as authorized by permit.
  • (d) Leaving a fire without completely extinguishing it.
  • (e) Causing and failing to maintain control of a fire that is not a prescribed fire that damages the National Forest System.
  • (f) Building, attending, maintaining, or using a campfire without removing all flammable material from around the campfire adequate to prevent its escape.
  • (g) Negligently failing to maintain control of a prescribed fire on Non-National Forest System lands that damages the National Forest System.


§ 261.3 Interfering with Forest Officer, Volunteer, or Human Resource Program Enrollee of Giving False Report to a Forest Officer

The following are prohibited:

  • (a) Threatening, resisting, intimidating, or interfering with any forest officer engaged in or on account of the performance of his official duties in the protection, improvement, or administration of the National Forest System is prohibited.
  • (b) Giving any false, fictitious or fraudulent report or other information to any Forest Officer engaged in or on account of the performance of his official duties knowing that such report or other information contains false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry.
  • (c) Threatening, intimidating, or intentionally interfering with any Forest officer, volunteer, or human resource program enrollee while engaged in, or on account of, the performance of duties for the protection, improvement, or administration of the National Forest System or other duties assigned by the Forest Service.


§ 261.13 Motor Vehicle Use

After National Forest System roads, National Forest System trails, and areas on National Forest System lands have been designated pursuant to 36 CFR 212.51 on an administrative unit or a Ranger District of the National Forest System, and these designations have been identified on a motor vehicle use map, it is prohibited to possess or operate a motor vehicle on National Forest System lands in that administrative unit or Ranger District other than in accordance with those designations, provided that the following vehicles and uses are exempted from this prohibition:

  • (a) Aircraft;
  • (b) Watercraft;
  • (c) Over-snow vehicles;
  • (d) Limited administrative use by the Forest Service;
  • (e) Use of any fire, military, emergency, or law enforcement vehicle for emergency purposes;
  • (f) Authorized use of any combat or combat support vehicle for national defense purposes;
  • (g) Law enforcement response to violations of law, including pursuit;
  • (h) Motor vehicle use that is specifically authorized under a written authorization issued under Federal law or regulations; and
  • (i) Use of a road or trail that is authorized by a legally documented right-of-way held by a State, county, or other local public road authority.

For more information and maps on Designated Routes for Motor Vehicle Use visit our web page on
Travel Management: A Program for Motor Vehicle Route Designation.


§ 261.10 Occupancy and Use

The following are prohibited:

  • (a) Constructing, placing, or maintaining any kind of road, trail, structure, fence, enclosure, communications equipment, or other improvement on National Forest System lands or facilities without a special use authorization, contract, or approved operating plan, unless such authorization, contract, or operating plan is waived pursuant to §251.50(e) of this chapter.
  • (b) Taking possession of, occupying, or otherwise using National Forest System lands for residential purposes without a special-use authorization, or as otherwise authorized by Federal law or regulation.
  • (c) Selling or offering for sale any merchandise or conducting any kind of work activity or service unless authorized by Federal law, regulation, or special-use authorization.
  • (d) Discharging a firearm or any other implement capable of taking human life, causing injury, or damaging property as follows:
    • (1) In or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area, or
    • (2) Across or on a National Forest System road or a body of water adjacent thereto, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result in such discharge.
    • (3) Into or within any cave.
  • (e) Abandoning any personal property.
  • (f) Placing a vehicle or other object in such a manner that it is an impediment or hazard to the safety or convenience of any person.
  • (g) Commercial distribution of printed material without a special use authorization.
  • (h) When commercially distributing printed material, delaying, halting, or preventing administrative use of an area by the Forest Service or other scheduled or existing uses or activities on National Forest System lands; misrepresenting the purposes or affiliations of those selling or distributing the material; or misrepresenting the availability of the material without cost.
  • (i) Operating or using in or near a campsite, developed recreation site, or over an adjacent body of water without a permit, any device which produces noise, such as a radio, television, musical instrument, motor or engine in such a manner and at such a time so as to unreasonably disturb any person.
  • (j) Operating or using a public address system, whether fixed, portable or vehicle mounted, in or near a campsite or developed recreation site or over an adjacent body of water without a special-use authorization.
  • (k) Use or occupancy of National Forest System land or facilities without special-use authorization when such authorization is required.
  • (l) Violating any term or condition of a special-use authorization, contract or approved operating plan.
  • (m) Failing to stop a vehicle when directed to do so by a Forest Officer.
  • (n) Failing to pay any special use fee or other charges as required.
  • (o) Discharging or igniting a firecracker, rocket or other firework, or explosive into or within any cave.


§ 261.11 Sanitation

The following are prohibited:

  • (a) Depositing in any toilet, toilet vault, or plumbing fixture any substance which could damage or interfere with the operation or maintenance of the fixture.
  • (b) Possessing or leaving refuse, debris, or litter in an exposed or unsanitary condition.
  • (c) Placing in or near a stream, lake, or other water any substance which does or may pollute a stream, lake, or other water.
  • (d) Failing to dispose of all garbage, including any paper, can, bottle, sewage, waste water or material, or rubbish either by removal from the site or area, or by depositing it into receptacles or at places provided for such purposes.
  • (e) Dumping of any refuse, debris, trash or litter brought as such from private property or from land occupied under permit, except, where a container, dump or similar facility has been provided and is identified as such, to receive trash generated from private lands or lands occupied under permit.


§ 261.6 Timber and Other Forest Products

The following are prohibited:

  • (a) Cutting or otherwise damaging any timber, tree, or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or Federal law or regulation.
  • (b) Cutting any standing tree, under permit or timber sale contract, before a Forest Officer has marked it or has otherwise designated it for cutting.
  • (c) Removing any timber or other forest product cut under permit or timber sale contract, except to a place designated for scaling, or removing it from that place before it is scaled, measured, counted, or otherwise accounted for by a forest officer.
  • (d) Stamping, marking with paint, or otherwise identifying any tree or other forest product in a manner similar to that employed by forest officers to mark or designate a tree or any other forest product for cutting or removal.
  • (e) Loading, removing or hauling timber or other forest product acquired under any permit or timber sale contract unless such product is identified as required in such permit or contract.
  • (f) Selling or exchanging any timber or other forest product obtained under free use pursuant to §223.5 through 223.11.
  • (g) Violating any timber export or substitution restriction in §223.160 through 223.164.
  • (h) Removing any timber, tree or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or Federal law or regulation.
  • (i) Violating the Forest Resources Conservation and Shortage Relief Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. 620, et seq .), or its implementing regulations at 36 CFR 223.185–223.203.