Recreation Passes & Permits
The Forest Service offers places for hiking, biking, skiing, nature viewing, scenic drives, and for gathering forest products such as mushrooms, firewood, and Christmas trees. Many of the facilities and services associated with these opportunities are free. However, some do require fees or permits to help maintain, manage, and improve your national forests and grasslands.
In general, you can purchase many of these passes and permits at any Forest Service office near you.
Please select from the following options to learn more.
You must have a California Campfire Permit to have a campfire, charcoal barbecue, or use a gas stove or lantern. The permit is your agreement to follow the campfire restrictions and regulations in effect.
Remember that regulations governing campfires can change with weather conditions and the seasons. To protect yourself and the forest, before each visit, check with the Forest Service for current campfire restrictions.
Your campfire permit is valid from the date issued until the end of the calendar year and may be used in any National Forest in California (subject to current local restrictions by forest.)
Obtain your campfire permit here: http://permit.preventwildfiresca.org/
Campfire permits can also be issued in person:
Go to one of our offices listed on our Contact Us page during business hours and a receptionist will issue you a permit. Or any Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Office, or Bureau of Land Management office.
During certain times of the year, it can be necessary to impose restrictions on campfires and other open flame fires due to high fire danger. It is your responsibility to check and monitor the status of restrictions. The best way to do this is by contacting a local office in the area you intend to visit.
Terms of the Permit
When you sign the permit you agree to the following:
- Clear all flammable material away from the fire for a minimum of five feet in all directions to prevent escape of the fire. Meadows make poor campsite locations as you will destroy sections of the meadow with the campfire and the clearance.
- Have a shovel available at the campfire site for preparing and extinguishing campfires.
- Have a responsible person in attendance at all times. Leave the permit with that person and make sure they are aware of the terms of the permit.
- Extinguish campfire with water, using the drown, stir, and feel method.
It Can Cost You - You will be held liable for the cost of suppression and damages caused by any wildfire that starts through negligence on your part.
How To Safely Start And Put Out A Campfire
Prepare Your Site - Find a level spot away from overhanging branches, brush, or dry grass. Keep away from the base of a hill. Escaped fires travel uphill fast. With a shovel, clear a circle 10 feet wide down to bare dirt. Hollow out a fire pit 6 inches deep and 2 feet across at the center of the cleared circle. Pile the dirt around the fire pit. Keep your fire small. Use existing fire rings where available to reduce the number of disturbed areas and damage to soil cover and vegetation.
Beware of the Duff - Duff is the layer of decomposing wood material that lies on the forest floor between pine needles and bare dirt. Many times it may look like dirt, but it isn't. Duff burns, dirt doesn't. It allows even the smallest ember to smolder for days, most times underground and unnoticed, until enough heat is built up to produce flames. Don't let the duff fool you.
- Attend to Your Fire - Never leave your campfire unattended, even for a few minutes or if you take a nap.
- Drown the Fire - Drown your campfire 1/2 hour before you break camp. Use your shovel to separate the burning pieces of wood in the fire pit.
- Stir and Mix - Stir and mix water with the ashes until the fire is out. Don't try to bury the fire under dirt, it can smolder for hours and then escape.
- Drown Briquettes - Charcoal briquettes should be extinguished by dumping into a pail of water, mixing thoroughly, and then place into the fire pit.
- Feel the Ashes - Feel the ashes to be sure the fire is out. Before you leave the campsite, check the area within 50 feet of the fire for sparks or embers that may have escaped.
- Come Prepared - Obtain your campfire permit, bring your shovel, and a pail for water.
River Use Permits
On the Upper and Lower Kern Runs, the Forest Service provides an annual permit which is free of charge. Boaters need to pick up these permits in person at a Forest Service office in Kernville, Lake Isabella.
River Use Manifest
For the Forks Run, the Forest Service operates an advance reservation service because of the popularity for this stretch of river. There is a $12.00 charge for this service.
A permit is required for overnight visits to the Golden Trout Wilderness. These permits are free of charge and may be obtained virtually or at one of our offices. One permit is required per trip per group. If you choose to have a campfire or utilize cooking devices or lanterns, you will need also need a campfire permit and be aware of restrictions that may prohibit campfires. These may also be obtained free of charge at the same time you obtain your Wilderness Permit. Permits for overnight visits to other wilderness areas or for day use are not required but we ask that you sign the register at the trailhead.
This registration card assists in compiling accurate visitor use trend data and necessary to manage the wilderness effectively. Thank you.
Old Goldledge Campground Holiday Use Permit Application
CLOSED DUE TO STORM DAMAGE - Due to storm damage the recreation site is closed and will not be offering a permit this year. Looking forward to offering the Holiday Permit in 2024 (The Sequoia National Forest, Kern River Ranger District is continuing efforts to balance the needs of recreationists with impacts to the land along the Upper Kern Wild and Scenic River. In 2019 a Pilot Program was implemented at Old Goldledge Campground in order to align the number of visitors and vehicles more closely with the physical capacity of the camping area. This FREE permit program will be in place again in 2022 during high-use Holiday weekends only. Up to four permits will be issued for each holiday weekend.)
- Request a permit here
National Recreation Passes
National passes are honored nationwide at Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Fish & Wildlife Service sites charging entrance or standard and expanded amenity fees.
There are several pass options to consider. To make the best choice on which pass to purchase, you should think about your recreation plans for the next year.
- Your best value may be a single-day pass.
- Or if you’re a frequent visitor to one or more sites, a multi-day pass or annual pass that covers a forest or region may be the best buy.
- An Interagency Annual Pass may be your best value if you plan to visit many different federal lands across the nation that include lands managed by other federal agencies.
- You may also qualify for one of the Interagency Lifetime Passes (Interagency Senior Pass or Interagency Access Pass).
- The "Every Kid Outdoors" pass gives fourth graders free access to 2,000-plus federal recreation sites. Detailed information about that pass is available on the Every Kid Outdoors site.
- Active military personnel and their dependents also qualify for an Interagency Annual Military Pass.
The USGS Store provides Frequently Asked Questions about Recreational Passes. For more information about permits and passes, see our national Recreation Fees and Passes website.