Dispersed Camping Information

Most of the Sequoia National Forest is open to camping free of charge which is referred to as “dispersed” camping. Dispersed camping is prohibited in certain areas, generally within a ¼ mile of major highway corridors, within 200 feet of a water source, within ¼ mile of developed sites, and in historical and archeological sites.

Maps and staff are available at most Sequoia National Forest Service offices to assist visitors in finding a suitable spot.

Not being in a developed campground means that there will not be certain conveniences:

  • Campfires: Depending on fire restrictions and fire danger, campfires may be prohibited for dispersed camping. More information on campfires at the bottom of the page.
  • Water Quality: Be prepared to bring your own drinking water or have a water filter.  Lake, stream or spring water may be contaminated.
  • Human Waste: Proper disposal of human waste is crucial.  Human waste can spread disease, lead to contaminated water supplies, contaminate soils, attract wildlife, and spoil a dispersed camping area for future users.  Portable eco-friendly human waste disposal systems which allow you to safely "Pack It Out" are commercially available and recommended.  As a last resort, choose a spot at least 200 feet away from water sources and dispersed campsites, dig a small hole at least six inches deep, and cover it when you are through. Seal your toilet paper in a bag, pack it out, and dispose of it properly.
  • No trash service - Pack It In, Pack It Out
  • Know Before You Go! It is your responsibility to plan accordingly and know the closures and restrictions for the area you plan to visit. For more information on current forest closures and alerts click here.
  • Maximum stay limit for camping is 14 days per District. Please remove all your equipment and garbage when you leave.

The beauty of the natural vegetation around your campsite is probably why you chose it. Keep it healthy and growing by not cutting anything down, not putting nails into trees, and treading carefully along meadows, stream sides, and other sensitive areas. Keep your vehicle at least twelve feet from designated roads and trails to prevent resource damage and to adhere to Travel Management Regulations. 

When you pick your spot, make sure that it is at least 200 feet away (about seventy paces) from streams and lakes, to help protect streamside vegetation, and prevent water degradation and sedimentation. Dispersed campsites must be outside the boundary markings of developed campgrounds and dispersed camping closure areas.

There are many fine camping spots you can reach on the Sequoia National Forest motorized routes and trails, but some routes may be rough, steep, or narrow and not suited for low-clearance or for large recreation vehicles.

Camping Near Roads

  • Dispersed camping is not allowed within 1/4 mile from a major highway corridor.
  • Vehicles are not permitted off of roads, but if you can safely park your vehicle adjacent and parallel to the road and are not blocking the roadway, you may park and camp.  Most sites will have a parking spot nearby while other sites may not. 
  • Because the footprint of a vehicle can have a large impact to soils, please do not create new “parking spot” for a campsite.  Please park in designated or already impacted spots.

Camping Near Water

  • While dispersed camping is generally allowed, ‘resource damage’ is a violation. Therefore, if camping near a stream, river, or lake causes resource damage –such as altering sensitive streamside habitat, crushing plants, or creating water quality issues –it is prohibited.
  • At all times, please adhere to Leave No Trace (LNT) Ethics. LNT, a National Forest Partner, has established The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace which provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. One of these principles is to travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Generally, stream and lakesides are not ‘durable surfaces,’ so the recommendation is camping 200 feet from water sources to allow for habitat regeneration and wildlife use.

Human Waste

  • Another Leave No Trace Principle is dispose of waste properly.  We generally refer to this as Pack-in, Pack-out –but there’s a nuance when it comes to human waste.
  • Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease, and to maximize the rate of decomposition.
  • The recommendation is the use of ‘cat holes’ to dispose of human waste properly. To dig a cat hole, follow these steps:
    • Select a cat hole site far from water sources, 200 feet (approximately 70 adult paces) is the recommended range.
    • A small garden trowel is the perfect tool for digging a cat hole.
    • Dig the hole 6-8 inches deep (about the length of the trowel blade) and 4-6 inches in diameter.
    • When finished, the cat hole should be filled with the original dirt and disguised with native materials.
    • Pack out all toilet paper or other products.


  • Lesson your campfire impact, another LNT principle.
  • A campfire permit is required to have a campfire, charcoal barbeque, or camp stove. Permits can be obtained for free at Readyforwildfire.org
  • Use existing fire grates or fire rings. If none exist, please use the fire pit method and disassemble it after you extinguish your fire. Gather only dead and down firewood.
  • Please do not bring wood from outside the forest, this wood may have invasive species of bugs that can damage ecosystems.
  • Firewood may not be transported off of the Forest without a permit.
  • During times of high fire danger campfires may be prohibited for dispersed camping, these restrictions can be enacted at any time depending on the weather.
  • Be sure Know Before You GO! and check with the forest you plan to visit on current fire restrictions and weather forecasts.
  • More information on campfire regulations and tips.