Recreation Residences

Recreation Residences are cabins located on National Forests across the country. The cabins themselves are privately owned by individuals, while the land on which they sit is still owned by the American public under Forest Service management. Cabin owners receive a Special Use Permit to occupy forest land for up to a 20-year period.

There are several persistent but untrue myths about these cabins. Many people refer to recreation residences as “Government Lease Cabins” – they do not operate under a lease, but a Special Use Permit. Another is that recreation residences were issued a “Ninety-nine Year Lease.” We have never found evidence that a cabin was ever issued a permit for this length of time. Instead, this term was used to refer to the open-ended one-year permits that existed prior to 1915. Today, cabins are issued a permit for up to twenty years at a time with the option to renew at the end of that period.

These cabins are not available for rent to the general public they are privately owned, and in fact, their special use permits prevent them from being rented except with prior approval, or used for other commercial purposes. Also, the Forest Service does not sell these cabins. Occasionally, the owners will decide to sell, and these transactions are handled by the permittee or local realty companies.

These materials are intended to be a resource for existing and potential cabin owners. If you have any questions, please contact your Special Uses Permit Administrator.

For more information on recreation residences, please contact the Special Uses Permit Administrator for your district: