Rules for Visitors to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, Georgia

All visitors and users of the National Forests are subject to Federal Regulations. The points of conduct listed here are generally included in and enforceable through Federal Regulations. All of the regulations pertaining to the Forest Service are published in Title 36 Chapter II of the Code of Federal Regulations and are on file at all Forest Supervisor and District Ranger offices. Violation of orders and regulations is subject to punishment by a fine or imprisonment.

Authority: 16 USC 551, 7 USC 1011(f)

State traffic and game laws apply to National Forests unless otherwise specified.


Welcome to your National Forests. As a visitor to the National Forests, we ask you to follow certain rules designed to ensure your health and safety, to protect the Forests and the natural environment, and to promote pleasant and rewarding outdoor recreation experiences for everyone. Forest Officers are empowered to enforce Federal Regulations and the rules listed below are taken from those regulations. Please take time to read and understand them.

Regional Foresters and Forest Supervisors may issue orders that will close or restrict the use of certain areas if the need arises. We post such orders so we can reasonably expect you to be familiar with them. Copies of the orders are available in the offices of Forest Supervisors and District Rangers. They are also available on our Forest Supervisor's Orders web page.

Most non-commercial activities usually do not require a permit unless 75 or more people participate or a fee is charged to participate in an event or activity. Generally, all commercial activities require special authorization. Information on all permit requirements is available from Forest Service Offices. If you  have any questions or need help, please contact your nearest Forest Service Office.

Please remember to be careful! You are primarily responsible for your own safety. Look out for natural hazards and dangers when you are in the forest. If you hike off trails or swim or dive in streams or lakes, you do so at YOUR OWN RISK.

Toccoa River Floating, Boating, and Paddling: Know your legal rights when floating, boating, or paddling on the Toccoa River because this river passes through public and private land. Read the details.

Guide to Firearms Use

Here is good overview of rules and regs pertaining to firearms possession and use in the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests. State and Federal laws come into play and it's your responsibility to be informed. View our guide here.

Guide to Geocaching and Letterboxing

These "hide and seek" orienteering based activities have become very popular over the years. As with all activities in the outdoors, they require planning, safety, and good outdoor ethics. Please take advantage of our Guide to Geocaching and Letterboxing.


While the great outdoors of the national forests offer good places to play paintball, there are a few limitations to where and when you can play paintball here. Read our policy on playing paintball before coming out to play.

Fee Areas

  • You must pay a fee to use certain developed sites and facilities. Such areas are clearly signed or posted as requiring a fee.
  • Where fees are required, you must pay them before using the site, facility, equipment, or service furnished.


  • Use picnic sites, swimming beaches, and other day use areas only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Campgrounds and other recreation sites can be used only for recreation purposes.
  • Permanent use or use as a principal residence without authorization is not allowed.
  • In campgrounds, camp only in those places specifically marked or provided.
  • At least one person must occupy a camping area during the first night after camping equipment has been set up, unless permission has otherwise has been granted by the Forest Ranger.
  • Do not leave camping equipment unattended for more than 24 hours without permission from Forest Ranger. The Federal Government is not responsible any loss or damage to personal property.
  • Remove all personal property and trash when leaving.


  • Obey restrictions on fires. Fires may be limited or prohibited at certain times.
  • Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, build fires only in fire rings, stoves, grills, or fireplaces provided for that purpose.
  • Be sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING FIRES UNDER CONTROL.

Public Behavior

  • No fighting or boisterous behavior.
  • Keep noise at a reasonable level. Please be considerate of fellow visitors. Threatening, intimidating, or interfering with any forest employee is a federal offense.

Audio Devices

  • Operate any audio device, such as a radio or musical instrument, so that it does not disturb other visitors.
  • A permit is required for operating a public address system in or near a campsite, developed recreation site, or over a body of water.

Pets and Animals

  • Pets must be always restrained or on a leash while in developed recreation sites.
  • Pets (except guide dogs) are not allowed in swimming areas.
  • Saddle or pack animals are allowed in recreation sites only where authorized by posted instructions. Hitching, tethering or hobbling a horse that causes damage to live trees, soil, or water is prohibited.


  • Throw all garbage and litter in containers provided for this purpose, or take it with you.
  • Garbage containers, when provided, are reserved for the use of visitors to the National Forest, not visitors to or owners of private lands or lands under permit.
  • Wash food and personal items away from drinking water supplies. Use faucets only for drawing water.
  • Prevent pollution - keep garbage, litter, and foreign substances out of lakes, streams, and other water.
  • Use toilets properly. Do not throw garbage, litter, fish cleanings, or other foreign substances in toilets and plumbing fixtures.

Operation of Vehicles

The use of motorized vehicles in the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests is allowed only on designated roads and trails. Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available online and at any of our five local offices in Georgia.

  • Obey all traffic signs. State traffic laws apply to National Forest unless otherwise specified. License tags, insurance and DUI violations are strictly enforced.
  • When operating vehicles of any kind, do not damage the land or vegetation or disturb the wildlife. Avoid riding or driving on unpaved roads or trails when they are wet or muddy.
  • Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, use cars, motorbikes, motorcycles, or other motor vehicles only for entering or leaving, unless areas or trails are specifically marked for them. A maximum of two (2) vehicles per campsite is allowed.
  • Do not block, restrict, or interfere with the use of roads or trails, especially gated roads.
  • Obey area and trail restrictions on use of trail bikes and other off-the-road vehicles. ORVs or ATVs (OHVs) must stay on designated trails.


  • Do not carve, chop, cut, or damage any live trees.
  • Preserve and protect your National Forests. Leave natural areas the way you find them.
  • Enter buildings, structures, or enclosed areas in Natural Forest only when they are expressly opened to the public.
  • Indian sites, old cabins, and other structures, along with objects and artifacts associated with them, have historic or archeological value. Do not damage or remove any such historic or archeological resource or other property of the United States.

Fish and Wildlife

Business Activities

  • Permits are required for any commercial activity.