Dispersed camping, or camping outside of designated campgrounds, can be a great way to experience the forest- as long as everyone follows some rules and guidelines to protect forest wildlife, plants, water quality, and the health of others.
Dispersed camping is not for everyone- and that's fine as the Mt. Hood National Forest has over 70 designated campgrounds. Camping outside of campgrounds means no toilets, no drinking water, no metal fire rings, and no trash service. You are responsible for leaving the site cleaner than you found it and learning the skills of Leave No Trace camping before you head out.
Basic Rules & Guidance
- Some areas are closed to dispersed camping, such as within developed recreation sites, along certain roads, and particularly sensitive areas. Contact your local Ranger District for more information.
- You may camp on the forest for only 14 consecutive days.
- Please choose an existing site rather than create a new campsite.
- Camp at least 100 ft. away from streams, rivers, and lakes.
- If you didn't bring firewood and intend to build a campfire only collect already down wood.
- If your campfire is too hot to touch with bare hands- it's too hot for you to leave! Bring plenty of water and a shovel to help you put out your fire.
- Check in advance if there are any fire restrictions in effect.
- Treat or filter any stream water you collect for drinking, or bring water from home.
- Your group must be under 75 people. If it larger you must obtain a (usually free) permit in advance from the local Ranger District.
When Nature Calls
- Be prepared for your own sanitation!
- To dispose of feces, dig a hole 6” deep at least 100 feet away from any water source. When you're done, fill the hole with the dirt you dug up and take your toilet paper with you to dispose of in a proper waste container.
- Never defecate or leave toilet paper on top of the ground. Animals might eat it, it could easily get into the local water source and contaminate it, and plus it's just gross.
Leave No Trace
- Pack out everything you brought with you! Dispose of your garbage properly off the forest.
- Leave No Trace is a framework minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. They apply to virtually every recreational activity and help increase your safety and enjoyment of the forest. Learn more about the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.
- The Mt. Hood National Forest belongs to all Americans- including those who will come long after us. Do your part to keep the forest clean every time you visit.