Camping & Cabins

Dispersed Camping Guidelines

What is Dispersed Camping?

Many people enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers. Dispersed camping is the term used for camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a developed campground. In some popular dispersed camping areas, camping is limited to designated sites only.  Dispersed camping is free, therefore  no services; such as trash removal, and little or no facilities; such as tables and fire pits, are provided.

There are extra responsibilities and skills that are necessary for dispersed camping. It is your responsibility to know these before you go camping. Camping rules and regulations apply to make your experience safe, and to keep the natural resources scenic and unspoiled for other campers.

Rules for Dispersed Camping

  • Motorized vehicle use for the purpose of dispersed camping is only allowed 150 feet from any designated route to limit resource damage. Use existing campsites.
  • Groups of over 75 people, who wish to use the forest, need to obtain a special use permit. There is no fee and permits can be obtained at the nearest Forest Service Office.
  • You need to be self-contained. No amenities are provided; such as water, restrooms or trash cans.
  • You may camp in a dispersed area for up to 16 days. After 16 days, you must move at least 10 miles for camping in another dispersed area.
  • Please place your campsite at least 200 feet from any stream or other water source.
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
  • Follow Leave No Trace principals.
  • Contact a local Forest Service office to see if any fire restrictions are in place.

Where Can I Disperse Camp?

 Many people drive out on Forest Service roads into the woods and find a clearing or a spot near a stream or with a view of the mountains.  Visitors are encouraged to use existing camp sites.  Typically, dispersed camping is NOT allowed in the vicinity of developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, or trailheads. Dispersed camping is not allowed within one mile of developed campgrounds. Motorized vehicle use for the purpose of dispersed camping is only allowed 150 feet from any designated route to limit resource damage. Use existing campsites.  Visitors are encouraged to use one path of ingress and egress to prevent resource damage.

How to Pick a Campsite

If you are going to an area where others have camped before, pick a site that has been used before. Plants, soil and wildlife are impacted by new campsites so using existing ones will minimize your impact in the forest. If there is no existing campsite, then follow these Leave No Trace principals.

  • Camp on bare soil if possible, to avoid damage or killing plants and grass.
  • Camping within 200 feet of any water source is discouraged..
  • Avoid camping in the middle of a clearing or meadow; try to make your campsite less visible so that other visitors will see a "wild" setting
  • Pick a tent/camp trailer site that is already level with good drainage as opposed to digging trenches.

Can I have a Campfire?

Please use existing fire rings to minimize the scarring of new rocks, soil, and plants. If you don't bring your own firewood collect only dead wood that is on the ground. You should not cut branches off of live trees. If a popular camping area does not have dead wood on the ground, please bring your own firewood.  Wood permits are not needed to collect firewood for camp fire use on the forest. If wood is transported home for personal use a permit is required. To obtain a permit please visit a local Forest Service office.

The National Forest has wildfires each year. Many of these are caused by human activity, typically escaped campfires from dispersed campers. Campfires are allowed when you are dispersed camping unless there are fire restrictions in effect due to high fire danger conditions. It is your responsibility to know if fire restrictions are in effect before you go camping. You can learn about any fire restrictions by contacting a local Forest Service office

Before you leave your campfire make sure is it completely out. You should be able to put your whole hand into the ashes without being burned; it should be cool to the touch. Stir the ashes to make sure all embers have cooled. This is very important! Many forest fires are caused by abandoned campfires that were not completely out.  Please only burn wood and paper produces in camp fires.  Items such as aluminum cans, soup cans, glass bottles, and plastics should be packed out when you leave.

Going to the Bathroom in the Woods

Dispersed camping means no bathrooms and no outhouses.  Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails.  Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.  Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.  For those with camp trailers, dispose of waste and grey water at dumping stations.

Treating Your Water

With an increasing population and visitation to our National Forest, some water sources have been contaminated with invisible micro-organisms that can make people very ill and even kill them in some cases. Giardhea is a common contamination that has been spread through improper toileting and wild animals to many water sources. It will cause diarrhea, cramping, and other physical problems.

The only way to ensure that water from any undeveloped source is safe is to treat it. Follow the water treatment guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Water from faucets in developed recreation areas has been tested and treated and is safe to use without treating.

Have Fun!

If you follow these tips you can save a safe, low impact, primitive camping experience. Thank you for helping care for YOUR National Forest.