FAQs

You'll find common questions on these topics and the answers on this page: 

 

COVID-19

What sites are open at this time?

Most developed campgrounds and bathrooms are currently closed. A current list of recreation sites open and closed can be found on this page.

Dispersed activities and sites such as hiking, hunting, fishing, boat launches, OHV trails, rifle ranges and dispersed camping are open and available to the public.

Please visit https://www.recreateresponsibly.org for tips on how to recreate safely and responsibly when using public lands.

Why are certain sites closed? When will they reopen?

We are making every effort to expand access to recreation sites within the context of CDC guidance and within the guidelines issued by the White House for Opening Up America Again. We are revisiting our closure decisions and working closely with our state and local partners to determine the best path forward to safely reopen sites while prioritizing employee and public health and safety.

Assessing and preparing recreation areas for health and safety will take time and may delay facility reopening. A phased approach to reopening other recreation sites and facilities will help ensure employees and volunteers have needed Personal Protective Equipment and cleaning supplies to sustain reopening these sites long-term.

We do not have a specific date for reopening currently closed recreation sites. Changes in operational status will be posted and updated our website (https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/scnfs/home) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/scnfs) as we reopen recreation facilities. Thank you for your continued patience.

I’m a reporter. Who can I talk to about the Forest Service’s response to COVID-19?

If your questions are more of a general nature regarding Forest Service response to COVID-19 or you are national news outlet, please contact the Forest Service’s Washington Office. For national-level media questions, please submit your question or request to the following email link: SM.FS.pressoffice@usda.gov. If you are a local reporter looking for information for a locally relevant story, please reach out to our Forest Supervisor’s office at https://www.fs.usda.gov/contactus/scnfs/about-forest/contactus or (803) 561-4000.

 

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL PASSES (a.k.a. National Parks Pass, Senior Pass, Access Pass)

What types of passes are available?

There are multiple types of passes available:

  • The Annual Pass, available for anyone to purchase. It costs $80 and two people can sign the pass.
  • Active-duty military personnel who bring military ID and 4th grade students with a valid Every Kid in a Park voucher are eligible for a free Annual Pass.
  • The Senior Pass, available as an annual pass for $20 or as a lifetime pass for $80. Available to citizens or permanent residents of the United States age 62 or older. One person can sign the pass. You can bring in expired annual passes to provide a discount on the lifetime pass (if you bring in one expired annual senior pass, you would receive a $20 discount. If you bring in two expired annual senior passes, you would receive a $40 discount.
  • The Access Pass, available for any citizen or permanent resident of the United States who has a permanent disability, regardless of age. One person can sign the pass.

What do I need to do to get the Access Pass?

You can get an Access Pass at any of our offices.  You will need to bring two items: First, you will need a photo ID.  Second, you will need to bring in paperwork that verifies that you have a permanent disability. (Note: Your % disability is not needed.)  The best way to verify this is to bring in an official letter from your doctor.  If you have other paperwork that states that you have a permanent disability, like from the VA or another state or federal agency, that will be fine, too. Please call ahead of time to make sure personnel are available to issue a pass before you visit.

Where can I go to pick up an America the Beautiful pass?

You can pick up a pass at any of our district offices or our supervisor’s office here in Columbia. You can purchase the pass Monday-Friday, 8:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 – 4:30 pm.  Our offices are closed on weekends.  Since there are very few people who can issue the passes, I recommend calling the office before you go to make sure that the right person is there to issue a pass. You can also purchase a pass online from the USGS store.

Is there a discount for camping in the National Forest campgrounds, like Woods Ferry, with an America the Beautiful Senior Lifetime Pass?

Yes. The America the Beautiful pass confers a 50% discount on some expanded amenity fees. This generally applies to single family campsites, highly developed boat launches or swimming sites, guided tours, movies and seminars (pass holder only.) It does not apply to additional campsites not occupied by the pass holder, group sites (flat fee required), or utility hookups (additional fee required.) At Woods Ferry, you would get the 50% discount for a single family site without utility hookups.

What does the America the Beautiful Pass provide coverage for?

The America the Beautiful Pass provides discounts for the following:

  • All passes cover the fees for access and use to sites that charge entrance fees or day use fees.
  • For sites that charge per vehicle, it covers one vehicle and all persons accompanying the owner of the pass in the vehicle. For sites that charge per person, the pass admits the pass holder and three additional adults.
  • Senior Passes and Access Passes also provide a 50% discount on some expanded amenity fees like camping (excluding hook-ups), boat launches, and so on. Check with the office that manages the site you wish to visit to confirm coverage
 

CAMPING

Is there free primitive camping on the Forest?

Yes. Dispersed camping is available on all four of our districts. A dispersed camping permit is required for the Enoree, Long Cane, and Francis Marion districts. No permit is required for dispersed camping on the Andrew Pickens district. You can find dispersed camping permits online or apply at the district office for a permit.

What exactly is dispersed camping?

Dispersed camping, or primitive camping, is camping outside of a designated campground within the general forest. RV camping and car camping are not considered dispersed camping. Camps must be at least 50 feet from water and trails, and ½ mile from any road or parking lot.

Do you have RV camping?

Yes. We have three locations that can accommodate RVs:

  • Buck Hall Recreation Area, on the Francis Marion Ranger District. Buck Hall is the only site that has RV hook-ups.
  • Cherry Hill Recreation Area, on the Andrew Pickens Ranger District
  • Whetstone Horse Camp, on the Andrew Pickens Ranger District

Be mindful that larger RVs may not be suitable for certain campsites.

Where can I make a reservation for a campsite?

Reservations are available through recreation.gov, but only for specific sites. Many campsites are first-come-first-served only.

How long can I camp?

You can camp for up to fourteen days during a 30-day period. After a cumulative fourteen days within a 30-day period is up, the site must be vacated. Refer to the Supervisor's order on this subject at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd635798.pdf.

How many people can camp at a specific site?

Using a single family campsite or other area by more than eight people or more than two vehicles, or use of a multiple family campsite or other area by more than fourteen people or more than four vehicles is prohibited.

On recreation.gov, I was looking at a reservable campsite and noticed some sites are listed as W for 'walk-in.' Are they really walk-in sites??

Recreation.gov has a three-days-in-advance reservation policy. A “walk-in” site applies to any of Buck Hall’s campsites that have not been booked under this timeframe. A site labeled “walk-in” may be occupied on a first-come-first-served basis for one day at a time. A camper must physically show up and pay by cash or check via fee tube every individual day that the site is on walk-in status for a maximum of 14 days. As soon as someone else reserves the site online, it is no longer in walk-in status. A walk-in camper will be asked to vacate that spot the morning the campsite is reserved.

Are there any campsites that are not dispersed campsites that are free?

Yes. Honey Hill and Elmwood on the Francis Marion Ranger District are designated campsites that have no fees associated with them. There are also a number of different campsites on the Andrew Pickens Ranger District that have no fees associated with them.

 

HIKING, HORSEBACK RIDING, AND OHV TRAIL

Are dogs allowed on hiking trails?

Dogs are allowed on trails. Please keep them on leash for the safety of the dogs and as courtesy for other people on the trail.

I am wondering if it is possible to book horseback riding, the price on that, and where to do so?

If you are wondering if the Forest Service rents horses or provides horseback riding services, we do not. Those types of services might be offered by private companies/outfitters. Each of our district offices would have more information about local businesses. 

If you have your own horses and are interested in trails and horse camping, each of our districts has trails suitable for horseback riding. Camping with horses is permitted on all districts, though the Francis Marion Ranger District does not have an established campground where you can camp with your horses- you will need a dispersed camping permit along the horse trails to camp with your horses on that district. Some campgrounds are primitive, and others have more amenities, depending on which district/campground you want to visit.  More information is on our website:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/scnfs/recreation/horseriding-camping OR by contacting the district office directly. The district staff will have the most thorough and detailed information available.

If the campgrounds that accommodate horses are closed, are the horse trails that you access from the campgrounds closed as well?

The horse trails remain open if the campgrounds are closed unless we post a closure notice on the trails. Parking will be available at the trailhead, but other amenities will not be available.

I’m new to the area, and I’ve heard about some trails and dirt roads I could bring my family out on and enjoy some of the forest. Is there a map of some sort to show the roads/trails?

The Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests have many miles of non-motorized trails (e.g.: hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, and water trails) and several OHV trails to enjoy. The OHV trails are not accessible to Jeeps or other full-size vehicles (maximum width is 50 inches). However, there are many Forest Service roads (“dirt roads”) for you to explore. There are several options for maps.  First, the Forest Service’s Interactive Visitor Map is a good place to start.  As you zoom-in to the location you want, more and more details appear. Second, our website contains Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) under the Maps and Publications link. Finally, some of our districts sell maps that would be a good resource for both hiking and driving activities.

If you need more in-depth information about a specific location, I recommend contacting the district office directly. 

Would a side-by-side with a less than 50" width be allowed on the trails?

We do allow UTVs, side by sides, on the OHV trails that are 50" or less in width. You just have to stay on the marked trails at all times. Caution: UTVs with roll bars can have trouble getting around tight turns on the trails between trees. If you have to drive off the trail to make the turn, then your vehicle is not suited for the OHV trail and is not allowed.

 

HUNTING AND TARGET SHOOTING

What is the policy for hunting on Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests?

Hunting and fishing are allowed on national forest land.  All hunting and fishing in South Carolina is regulated by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).  If you hunt on National Forest land, you must obey ALL SCDNR regulations regarding licensing, tags, limits, seasons, and any other regulations.  For more information on these regulations, visit www.dnr.sc.gov.  For hunting purposes, all national forest land in South Carolina is considered part of the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) program.  Therefore, you will need to follow all WMA rules and regulations.  The SCDNR will have all the information you need. 

On our end of things, make sure that you follow all Forest Service regulations while you are on national forest land.  Obey parking signs and private land boundaries, don’t block gates, no motorized vehicles anywhere other than on roads, etc. 

If you would like information about areas to hunt and camp on national forest land, visit the hunting link on our website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/scnfs/recreation/hunting.

Is hog hunting allowed at Sumter National Forest during closed hunting season (i.e. May thru October)?

S.C. DNR regulates hunting in South Carolina. Included is a link to their website on hog hunting with all the regulations. My quick read of the regulations is hog hunting is allowed during any open game hunting season, including on Wildlife Management Areas, by a properly licensed hunter. Sunday hunting is not allowed on WMAs- national forest lands are treated as WMAs in South Carolina. For more specific questions please contact SCDNR, but my understanding is that hog hunting is only allowed during a hunting season.

Do you issue hunting or fishing licenses?

The Forest Service does not issue hunting or fishing licenses. You would need to speak to S.C. DNR to get a license. They are available online and at retail centers across the state.

Are there fees to shoot at the ranges?

We are in the process of implementing a $5 daily fee/$50 annual pass for our shooting ranges to keep them well maintained. (at this time only Enoree District shooting ranges have fees). The Twin Ponds Rifle Range on the Francis Marion National Forest will not have a fee as it is operated in partnership with SCDNR.

There are several ways to pay fees for use of the rifle ranges.

  • There are fee tubes or deposit boxes available at each range where you can fill out the provided envelope and deposit it and the fee
  • There is also an annual permit based on calendar year you can purchase at the district offices. Permits are also available at the Columbia office.

In addition:

  • Obey all posted range rules
  • Use paper targets
  • No skeet or trap shooting
  • Clean up your trash

Am I allowed to go target shooting outside of the rifle ranges on the forest?

No. Target shooting is only permitted on the rifle ranges.

In South Carolina, all Forest Service lands are in the SCDNR WMA (Wildlife Management Areas) program. This is addressed in the SC DNR rules and regulations handbook under 3.5 in the WMA section. This states that recreational shooting is restricted to designated areas (which in our case refers to our shooting ranges). The Forest Service enforces this under 36CFR261.8B.

 

SPECIAL USES

Do you allow a person to cut a Christmas tree?

We do not have a Christmas tree cutting program on the Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests. Even though we seem to have lots of pine trees, these trees actually aren’t the right type to be used for Christmas trees. Also, these types of trees are economically important, so we don’t cut them for Christmas tree purposes. However, each District Ranger has the discretion to issue a free permit for cutting a tree like an Eastern Red Cedar/Juniper for personal use (not for resale), which has historically been used as a Christmas tree in some areas. I recommend contacting the district office nearest to you and asking the District Ranger if she/he would be willing to issue you one of these permits. Again, it is the Ranger’s ultimate decision to issue the permit, so there’s no guarantee. 

I am seeking permission from forest management to place an Earth cache (i.e. virtual - no container) on National Forest land. Please let me know if this is permissible.

Virtual caches ARE allowed on national forest land. (FYI: Real caches require quite a bit more paperwork, including permits AND fees.) The only thing you need to do is notify the local district office that you are creating a virtual cache. 

Is foraging for mushrooms in the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests permitted?

Yes, foraging for mushrooms for personal use is allowed on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests. You may need to obtain a miscellaneous forest products permit before you go. Your best option would be to call the district office for the area in which you plan to go looking to see if you need a permit for that district.

Can I collect firewood from the forest?

Firewood permits can be issued for dead and downed trees, only. Permits can be obtained by contacting your local Forest Service District Office. Depending upon the amount, location and district, permits usually range from $5 to $20. The cutting down of any live tree on Forest Service property is prohibited by the National Forest Service unless exclusively allowed and identified by a specific Ranger District.

I am a photographer looking to photograph a couple at the Francis Marion National Forest. How do I get the proper permits and follow all rules and regulations for the photo session?

You would need to obtain a special use permit. Our Special Uses Program Manager oversees the permitting process. His email is derrick.miller@usda.gov.

 

CAREERS

My son is a senior and will be 18 in November. He has expressed interest in a career with the Forest Service and we are not sure where is best to start. I would love to speak to someone who can guide us in the right direction?

As far as other careers in the Forest Service, many of them are scientific or technical in nature, so a college degree is important but not necessary. One of the things to note about federal jobs is that to qualify for most entry-level jobs, you must prove that you have at least one year of experience doing a similar job at a slightly lower level. (Upper-level positions DO require some college courses or a college degree.) This is where internships and volunteering can help. Internships can sometimes be arranged through a National Forest or other land management agency directly, OR there are not-for-profit organizations that partner with many agencies to coordinate internship and volunteer programs. (Examples of these include the Student Conservation Association, Greening Youth, American Conservation Experience, and AmeriCorps.)

If your son is leaning toward a field like forestry, silviculture, wildlife management, outdoor recreation, etc., then a college degree is probably the best option. However, if he isn’t sure yet, then spending a year or so doing some internships could be a great way of exploring the options and getting more in-depth advice from experts in the field.

You should also check www.USAJobs.gov periodically to see what positions, if any, are open. Most hiring is done through USAJobs. If you need further information, you can also contact the Forest Service Human Resources Office at 877-372-7248.

 

OTHER QUESTIONS

While out in the forest I saw damage to the local area (graffiti, trail damage, washed out road, etc.) Who do I report it to?

Report the damage to the district office responsible for maintaining that area. If you are unsure, report it to the Supervisor's Office at (803)561-4000.

Where can I get a map of the forest?

Maps are available for purchase at any of our offices. Maps are also available through the USGS store. Another option would be to use the Interactive Visitor Map. You can use it to generate printable maps for free and is also available as a smartphone app (Visitor Map- Map of Forest Service Lands) Our website also contains Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) under the Maps and Publications link.

Do you provide rentals for boats, canoes, etc.?

The Forest Service does not provide rentals for equipment. However, there are many opportunities for rentals and guides from private businesses in the surrounding areas.





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