The Prescott National Forest camping rules published below were gathered from Orders issued by the Supervisor of Prescott National Forest, along with information published U.S. Forest Service website, and from the Code of Federal Regulations…
Mingus Mountains, Prescott National Forest. Photo by mistoutlive, FreeRoam
Prescott National Forest Camping Rules
Passes and Permits
Purchase of passes or permits is not required for boondocking (dispersed camping) inside Prescott National Forest.
- Developed campgrounds, however, may require per-night fees, depending on the campground. (Reference, Camping & Cabins, Prescott National Forest).
- Permits are required for day-use activities in certain areas of the Forest, namely picnic areas, boating areas, and trailheads. (Reference, Recreation Passes and Permits, Prescott National Forest).
Areas Off-Limits to Camping
Prescott 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, Alerts and Notices, Prescott National Forest).
Maximum Length of Stay
As of January 30, 2017, the maximum length of stay for camping at Prescott National Forest is 14 days within any 30-day period, with the exception of the Prescott Basin, in which camping is restricted to specified dispersed camping areas, and with a limit of 7 days within any 30 day period. (Reference, Prescott Forest Order 09-233).
A permit is not required to build a campfire while boondocking at Prescott 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, Forest Orders, Prescott National Forest).
You’re free to gather dead and down firewood to build a campfire while camping at Prescott 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, Forest Product Permits, Prescott 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 – Prescott National Forest limits dispersed camping to within 300 feet of specified forest roads. Refer to the forest’s Motor Vehicle Use Map for a list of the specified roads (see “Motor Vehicle Use Maps” below).
Developed Areas – Prescott National Forest has not issued any required camping setbacks from other developed areas.
Target shooting is allowed inside Prescott National Forest and is restricted to Arizona’s statewide laws and regulations on guns. (Reference, Target Shooting, Kaibab National Forest).
- 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.
- You may not fire tracer bullets or incendiary ammunition (This is a nationwide rule of the U.S. Forest Service)
- You may not shoot at exploding targets (fireworks, explosives). (This is rule for all forests in the south western USA) (Reference, Forest Order 03-00-00-19-001).
- Trash and refuse cannot be used as targets. This rule is specific to Prescott NF. (Reference, Forest Order 03-09-00-20-266)
- More rules regarding target shooting within Prescott National Forest… (Reference, Target Shooting, Prescott National Forest).
Off-Highway Vehicle Rules
Prescott National Forest does not have any further OHV Rules beyond what rules the U.S. Forest Service has already issued nationwide, or what the State of Arizona has already issued…
- 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 Prescott 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 Prescott 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.
- Prescott 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