The rules associated with using DEC-managed public lands in New York State for recreational purposes are relatively simple and straightforward. The public must abide by all state land use regulations when recreating on all state-owned lands and conservation easements open to the public. Some of the most common rules are described below.
Backcountry or primitive camping is allowed on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks and Catskills as well as State Forest lands outside the Preserve. Backcountry camping is prohibited on Unique Areas, Wildlife Management Areas and a few other categories of state land.
For information on DEC's 52 campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, visit DEC Campground Information.
Camping Rules and Guidelines
Please note: Specific land units in the Forest Preserve may have regulations that differ from the rules and guidelines listed below. For information about specific land areas, look at our regulations page or contact the Regional Office near the land unit of interest.
- Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of any road, trail, spring, stream, pond or other body of water except at areas designated by a "Camp Here" disk.
- Groups of 10 or more persons OR stays of more than three days in one place require a permit from the New York State Forest Ranger responsible for the area.
- Lean-tos are available in many areas on a first come first served basis. Lean-tos cannot be used exclusively and must be shared with other campers.
- The storage of personal property on State lands is prohibited.
Fires at Campsites
- Fires should be built in existing fire pits or fireplaces if provided.
- Do not build fires in areas marked by a "No Fires" disk.
- Cutting standing trees is prohibited. Use only dead and down wood for fires.
- Extinguish all fires with water and stir ashes until they are cold to the touch.
Tips to Leave No Trace
- Removing plants, rocks, fossils or artifacts from state land without a permit is illegal.
- Use pit privies provided near popular camping areas and trailheads. If none are available, dispose of human waste by digging a hole 6"-8" deep at least 150 feet from water or campsites (200 feet is recommended by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics). Cover with leaves and soil.
- Do not use soap to wash yourself, clothing or dishes within 150 feet of water.
- Drinking and cooking water should be boiled for 5 minutes, treated with purifying tablets or filtered through filtration device to prevent instances of giardia infection.
- Carry out what you carry in.
- Keep your pet under control. Restrain it on a leash when others approach. Collect and bury droppings away from water, trails and camp sites. Keep your pet away from drinking water sources.
- Observe and enjoy wildlife and plants but leave them undisturbed.
Additional Rules for the Adirondack and Catskill Preserves
- Except in an emergency, camping is prohibited above an elevation of 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks.
- Except in an emergency or between December 21st and March 21st, camping is prohibited above an elevation of 3,500 feet in the Catskills.
- At all times, only emergency fires are permitted above 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks and 3,500 feet in the Catskills.
New York State Firewood Regulation
There is a regulation that prohibits the import of firewood into New York unless it has been heat treated to kill pests. The regulation also limits the transportation of untreated firewood to less than 50 miles from its source.
By transporting firewood, you could be spreading diseases and invasive insects that can quickly kill large numbers of trees. Help stop the spread and obey the Firewood Regulation:
- Get your firewood at the campground or from a local vendor - ask for a receipt or label that has the firewood's local source.
- If you choose to transport firewood within New York State:
- It must have a receipt or label that has the firewood's source and it must remain within 50 miles of that source.
- For firewood not purchased (i.e. cut from your own property) you must have a Self-Issued Certificate of Source (PDF), and it must be sourced within 50 miles of your destination.
- Only firewood labeled as meeting New York's heat treatment standards to kill pests may be transported into the state and further than 50 miles from the firewood's source. This wood is usually labeled "certified heat-treated".