These official rules and regulations for camping at Coconino National Forest were gathered from Orders issued by the Supervisor of Coconino National Forest, along with information published U.S. Forest Service website, and from the Code of Federal Regulations…
Dispersed camping along Forest Road 82E, Lake Mary area, Coconino National Forest. Photo by bartle_man, FreeRoam
Coconino National Forest, Camping Rules
Passes and Permits
Purchase of passes or permits is not required for boondocking (dispersed camping) inside Coconino National Forest.
- Developed campgrounds, however, may require per-night fees, depending on the campground. (Reference, Camping & Cabins, Coconino National Forest).
- Permits are required for day-use activities in certain areas of the forest, including Lake Mary, Oak Creek Canyon by Sedona, Fossil Creek area, Casner Mountain Trail, and Soldier Creek Road. (Reference, Recreation Passes and Permits, Coconino National Forest).
Areas Off-Limits to Camping
Coconino National Forest maintains numerous areas that are either off-limits to camping, or are off-limits on a seasonal basis. Because these areas open and close throughout the year, you will have to refer to the Forest’s latest published Forest Orders. To see these Forest Orders… (Reference, Forest Orders, Coconino National Forest).
Maximum Length of Stay
As of September 2, 2020, the maximum length of stay for camping at Coconino National Forest is 14 days within any 30-day period. (Reference, Coconino Forest Order 03-04-20-18).
- There is no radius-distance for this rule; it appears to apply forest-wide.
A permit is not required to build a campfire while boondocking at Coconino National Forest.
- However, campfire bans and restrictions come and go throughout the year. Check with the local ranger district office (see phone numbers below) for the current campfire restrictions.
- Current campfire restrictions are also published on the Forest’s website. (Reference, Fire Restrictions, Forest Orders, Coconino National Forest).
You’re free to gather dead and down firewood to build a campfire while camping at Coconino National Forest. You are not allowed to transport wood home or outside of the forest. You cannot cut down standing trees, dead or alive, without a permit, regardless for camping or home use. (Reference, Firewood Permits & Cutting Season, Coconino National Forest).
Water – The State of Arizona has a law prohibiting anyone from camping within 1/4 mile of a body of water (lakes, rivers, et al) or from a livestock watering container. This law is published under Arizona Revised Statute, Title 17 Fish & Game. (Reference, ARS § 17-308 Unlawful camping)
Roads – Coconino National Forest has no rules on camping setbacks from roads, other than to set up camp far enough away from a road so that you don’t impede the flow of traffic.
- The Forest does states on its website, however, that you may drive your vehicle no more than 300 feet from the side of a road designated for dispersed camping. For roads not designated for dispersed camping, you can still camp along these roads, but you cannot drive your vehicle off of these roads. (Reference, Dispersed Camping Guidelines, Coconino National Forest).
Developed Areas – Coconino National Forest currently has no other camping setbacks from developed areas. Note that the forest once had a camping setback of one (1) mile from a developed campground in accordance with Forest Order 04-99-08-R which was in effect as of October 1, 1999, but has since been replaced by Forest Order 03-04-20-18 which removed this setback.
You may not discharge a weapon within 1/4 mile of a residence, another campsite, or other developed area. This is an Arizona law that applies statewide. Note that this is a much greater distance than U.S. Forest Service’s requirement of 150 yards. The state law takes precedence here. For more information… (Reference, Shooting on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest).
Off-Highway Vehicle Rules
Street-legal vehicles may be operated on all roads open for public use. Non-street legal vehicles are limited to only roads that are identified in the Motor Vehicle Use Maps for Coconino National Forest. See “Motor Vehicle Use Maps” below.
- Non-street legal vehicles must still meet State-mandated title and equipment requirements to be ridden on forest roads.
- The U.S. Forest Service, including Coconino National Forest, considers any vehicle capable of traveling over a non-paved road, an “off-highway vehicle”. This includes RVs, cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, everything.
- The only distinction they make is between street-legal vehicles and non-street-legal vehicles.
Motor Vehicle Use Maps
These are the Forest’s official road maps. They indicate which roads are open to street-legal vehicles only, and which are open to both street-legal vehicles and non-street legal vehicles. They also explain which roads are designated as “dispersed camping”. For further discussion on this read, “How to Use Motor Vehicle Maps (MVUM) to Find Free Camping“.
Camping Rules that Apply to All National Forests
The following are prohibited (Reference, CFR Title 36, Chapter II, § 261.4 Disorderly conduct)…
- Inciting others into violence,
- Fighting, and
- Causing public inconvenience, annoyance, or creating alarm by making unreasonably loud noises.
The following are prohibited (Reference, CFR Title 36, Chapter II, § 261.5 Fire)…
- Leaving a fire without completely extinguishing it,
- Firing any tracer bullet or incendiary ammunition,
- Building a campfire without removing all flammable material around the campfire, and
- Failing to maintain control of a campfire.
Occupancy and Use Restrictions
The following are prohibited (Reference, CFR Title 36, Chapter II, § 261.10 Occupancy and use)…
- Building your own roads, structures, enclosures, or other improvements on forest lands,
- Using forest lands for permanent residence,
- Shooting a gun within 150 yards of another campsite, campground, residence, or other occupied area,
- Abandoning personal property, including trash,
- Parking a vehicle so that it blocks the flow of traffic,
- Making unreasonably loud noises so that it disturbs nearby campsites, campgrounds, or other persons, and
- Lighting fireworks or firecrackers inside caves.
The following are prohibited (Reference, CFR Title 36, Chapter II, § 261.11 Sanitation)…
- Possessing or leaving behind, trash, litter, debris in an exposed, unsanitary condition,
- Dumping sewage or waste water (gray water) on the ground, and
- Bringing in trash from home to dump into a forest trash container.
- Coconino National Forest Official Website, U.S. Forest Service
- National Forest Rules for Developed Campgrounds, Boondocker’s Bible Legal Database
- All National Forest Articles, Boondocker’s Bible Knowledgebase
- All Articles About Camping in Arizona, Boondocker’s Bible Knowledgebase