Tonto National Forest

Learn about camping and boondocking at Tonto National Forest, Arizona

Tonto National Forest Camping Rules

Tonto National Forest Camping Rules


The Tonto National Forest camping rules published below were gathered from Orders issued by the Supervisor of Tonto National Forest, along with information published U.S. Forest Service website, and from the Code of Federal Regulations…

tonto national forest camping

Little Green Valley, Tonto National Forest. Photo by theamdawg, FreeRoam

Tonto National Forest Camping Rules

Passes and Permits

Purchase of passes or permits is not required for boondocking (dispersed camping) inside Tonto National Forest.

Areas Off-Limits to Camping

Tonto 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, Tonto National Forest).

Maximum Length of Stay

As of February 16, 2018, the maximum length of stay for camping at Tonto National Forest is 14 days within any 30-day period. (Reference, Tonto Forest Order 03-12-00-18-329).

Campfire Restrictions

A permit is not required to build a campfire while boondocking at Tonto 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, Tonto National Forest).

Gathering Firewood

You’re free to gather dead and down firewood to build a campfire while camping at Tonto 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, Tonto National Forest).

Camping Setbacks

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 – Tonto National Forest does not currently have any setback requirements from roads.

Developed Areas – Tonto National Forest has not issued any required camping setbacks from other developed areas.

Target Shooting

Target shooting is allowed inside Tonto National Forest and is restricted to Arizona’s statewide laws and regulations on guns. (Reference, Recreational Shooting, Tonto National Forest).

  • Recreational shooting is prohibited within certain areas of the forest. (Reference, Recreational Shooting Restrictions Map)
  • 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).
  • More rules regarding recreational shooting within Tonto National Forest… (Reference, Recreational Shooting Visitor Information, Tonto National Forest).

Off-Highway Vehicle Rules

You are prohibited from driving any vehicle off of a forest road or highway. (Reference, Forest Order 03-12-00-20-384)

  • OHV use in the Bulldog Canyon area requires a permit. (Reference, Bulldog Canyon and OHV Permit, Tonto National Forest).
  • 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 USGS National Forest map for Tonto National Forest. These maps can be obtained from a ranger station.
  • Non-street legal vehicles must still meet State-mandated title and equipment requirements to be ridden on forest roads.
  • More information about OHV use in Tonto National Forest… (Reference, OHV Riding, Tonto National Forest)

Motor Vehicle Use Maps

Tonto National Forest does not publish an official Motor Vehicle Use Map like most national forests. It only offers a printed USGS National Forest map available at any forest visitor center or ranger station, at a cost of $14.00.

Camping Rules that Apply to All National Forests

Disorderly Conduct

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.

Sanitation Rules

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.

Additional Information

Phone Numbers

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