Finger Lakes National Forest

Learn about camping and boondocking at Finger Lakes National Forest, New York

Finger Lakes National Forest Camping Rules

Finger Lakes National Forest Camping Rules


Rules for camping at Finger Lakes National Forest were established by the U.S Forest Service published in Forest Orders, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, and documents issued by Finger Lakes National Forest…

camping at finger lakes national forest
Finger Lakes National Forest, New York

Camping at Finger Lakes National Forest

Finger Lakes National Forest is one of the smallest properties managed by the U.S. Forest Service. It’s the only national forest found in the State of New York. It’s located in the central portion of the state, nestled within the Finger Lakes region.

The forest manages three developed campgrounds….

  • Blueberry Patch Campground – accommodates tents, cars, vans, and RV. Has hookups, $15.00 a night per site, first come-first serve only.
  • Backbone Horse Campground – cars, vans, and RVs are still allowed here, though there a few sites restricted to horse riders only. No hookups, $15.00 a night, first come-first serve only.
  • Potomac Group Campground – for parties of 8-45 people. Reservations only.

There are other “camping areas” that have become popular places, but are not official campgrounds managed by the forest…

  • Foster Pond Campground – located around the banks of Foster Pond. Mostly for tent campers, however is a rough, narrow access road for 4WD vehicles right at the intersection of Potomac Rd and Chicken Coop Rd.

Is Dispersed Camping Allowed at Finger Lakes National Forest?

Yes, dispersed camping is allowed all throughout Finger Lakes National Forest. Most of the dispersed camping opportunities are for hikers with tents, however.

Otherwise, for RVs, vans, and cars, there are very few forest roads where a vehicle can find clearings away from highways. You are still allowed to boondock with your vehicle; there’s just not that many places to do so within Finger Lakes National Forest.

Dispersed camping rules for Finger Lakes National Forest…

  • Camping duration is restricted to 14 days in any 30 day period.
  • Your camp must be located at least 50 feet away from a pond, stream, or designated trail.
  • You are not allowed to camp on pasture lands where cattle is present.
  • If camping inside of a trail shelter, you are restricted to no more than 2 consecutive nights.

These rules are documented in Forest Order 2014-01 (download a copy here).

Passes and Permits

Purchase of a pass or permit is not required for camping. Finger Lakes National Forest does not issue passes or permits for day-use activities either. The only time when a fee will be assessed is when camping at one of the three developed campgrounds (see above), in which case you are required to pay the usual per-night fee.

Are Campfires Allowed?

Yes, campfires are allowed, but only in fire rings and grills provided by the forest. There are no restrictions on cooking food in a propane or kerosene powered burner.

Gathering Firewood for Campfires

There are no restrictions against gathering dead and down wood found within Finger Lakes National Forest. You are not allowed, however, to cut down standing trees or remove branch from standing trees.

You are allowed to bring in your own firewood as long as it originated from trees grown in Seneca or Schuyler Counties, NY (the location of Finger Lakes National Forest). Otherwise, the only other firewood you can bring in is kiln-dried wood fixed with a label of the producer’s name and address. You can also bring in USDA-certified firewood. This is per Forest Order 2011-01 (download a copy here).

Finger Lakes National Forest Maps

  • Motor Vehicle Use Map (download here) – the official road map of Finger Lakes National Forest. Illustrates where all the forest roads are, and the official forest boundaries.
  • New York’s Finger Lakes (National Geographic Destination Map) – (purchase from Amazon)

More About Camping at Finger Lakes National Forest

  • Contact Finger Lakes National Forest Visit Center – (607) 546-4470
  • Visit Finger Lakes National Forest Official Website – (click here)

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