U.S. Forest Service Land Use Regulations

Most FOP trips happen primarily on land historically inhabited by the Abenaki, Pequawket, Arosaguntacook, and Mohican people. Today, these lands are called the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, and Mooselookmeguntic Lake in Maine. Some FOP trips also happen on land historically inhabited by Munsee Lenape and Wappinger people in present-day New York and Connecticut.

Today, these lands either administer or follow rules for land use by the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service (along with private landowners in each of these areas) has laid down rules for land use that are steeped in the same concerns for the environment found in FOP’s Minimum Impact goals. For some, therefore, these rules may seem redundant, or simply a matter of common sense, but they must be observed with strict attention both for the sake of FOP’s continued respect and reputation within the outdoor community, as well as the continued preservation and well-being of the wilderness we utilize.

As part of FOP’s permitting agreement for use of the areas mentioned above, we have entered into a contract with the Forest Service that specifies that we will know and abide all the land-use rules and regulations. Leaders are responsible for knowing and following all the land regulations in the area that your FOP trip is hiking in. General adherence to a goal of minimum impact should be sufficient in meeting most of the rules for the places we hike and canoe in. Perhaps the simplest rule of thumb is to remember to always Leave No Trace, wherever you are (“take only pictures, leave only the lightest of footprints”).


Always bring your own tent or shelter. Sometimes it helps to camp or bivy in designated/established overnight sites. Do NOT create new sites. Use the existing tenting areas whenever possible to avoid widespread impact. In the White Mountains in New Hampshire, 1991 Restricted Use Area (RUA) rules prohibit camping and wood or charcoal fires above timberline, or within 200 feet of any roads or trails, and 200 feet from streams or other water sources, and only at designated sites whenever possible.

The laws of Maine and New Hampshire require that permission must be obtained from the owner to camp on private land, and that permits be obtained to build camp- fires anywhere outside the White Mountain National Forest, except at officially designated campsites. Camping and campfires are not permitted in New Hampshire state parks except at roadside campsites (“car campgrounds”).

In the Green Mountains in Vermont, use of any overnight facility is limited to three consecutive nights. In both the Whites and the Greens, always be considerate of other hikers - pay special attention to your group’s noise level! The most common complaint cited by other hikers about FOP trips in all the areas we hike in is that we make too much noise. Other hikers have priority for use of the shelters - in our permitting contracts with the Forest Service, it is specified that we will not use the shelters. If you must use a shelter in an emergency, make sure to leave space for other hikers.

In both the Green Mountains and the Whites, primitive camping is generally permitted below timberline if leave-no-trace practices are followed (except in specified areas). In the Green Mountains timberline is fixed at 2,500 feet, and in the White Mountains it is defined as any place where the trees are generally less than 8 feet in height (mountain summits are especially susceptible to damage and generally more exposed and less safe than sites below tree-line, and therefore should obviously not be used as campsites).

If you are camping off the trail, camp at least 200 feet (75 paces) from any trail, stream, pond, or other water source (so as to protect water quality and minimize pollution). Camp out of sight of the trail, and never camp where someone has clearly camped before (unless you are at a designated site). Camp someplace that has a clear, level place for a tarp, where you will not have to destroy vegetation. While in camp, wear sneakers or light shoes to avoid trampling vegetation.

Because of the prevalence of hungry wildlife, it is suggested that you hang your food wherever you camp. (These are suggested rules of conduct from the Forest Service, not laws or regulations.) Be sure to take all food, trash, and items resembling food (for example, toothpaste or peppermint soap) out of your packs and hang them in separate bags. Hang packs and consider leaving the pockets unzipped so mice can freely run in and out without chewing through the fabric. Hang your boots or pack them securely inside a closed backpack to keep porcupines away (porcupines love salt; leather retains salt; never leave your boots where they can reach them).


Fires are permitted in both the Greens and the Whites (unless otherwise noted) below timberline (again - 2,500 feet in the Green Mountains and any place where the trees are generally less than 8 feet in height in the Whites) but are strongly discouraged. Campfire permits used to be but are no longer required in the Whites, but hikers who build fires are still legally responsible for the damage they may cause. Fires are not permitted on state lands except at explicitly designated sites, and on any private land the owner’s permission is required.

Whenever possible, a portable stove should be used instead. Campfires can cause unnecessary signs of human presence and ugly scars on the landscape. If you must have a fire, use only fallen, dead wood. Don’t cut down snags, since animals rely on these for homes. Keep your fire small, and clear away all duff and forest litter to prevent the fire from spreading. Be sure that your fire is completely doused with water before bedding down for the night or leaving the campsite. Never leave your fire unattended, and leave no trace of your fire when you leave.

Remember, a candle can be a focus point for a group instead of a campfire! FOP very strongly discourages having fires because of their high impact at popular sites and the safety hazards involved. Fire use is not minimum impact camping - you should not use them except in emergencies or unless you are at a roadside campground (“car camping”).


Wash and rinse all dishes - and yourself - at least 200 feet (75 paces) from any water source. If you are in a campsite, use the designated wash pit. On FOP, no dirty pots or dishes should ever go to the water source - everything should be cleaned at the campsite, with fetched water from your collapsible jug.


Pack out everything you pack in. Burying, scattering or burning food scraps will only attract animals and leave a mess for other people. Help by picking up trash others have left behind - carry out more than you carried in.

Human Feces

For feces, dig a hole 6 inches deep into the humus layer of soil, at least 200 feet (75 paces) from water. After use, cover the hole and microorganisms will do the rest. Above timberline, or where there is not enough topsoil to dig a deep enough hole, carry your waste out.

If the site has a privy, use it. Carry out all tampons and sanitary napkins - please do not dispose of these products in outhouses. To improve outhouse efficiency and re- duce odors, whenever possible urinate in the woods. Always urinate at least 200 feet (75 paces) from any water sources. (In the Pemi human waste is becoming a huge problem. The forest service sells tablets with microorganisms to help break down waste quicker and speed the process of waste reduction. Trips in the Pemi are encouraged to participate in this effort).


Stay on the trail to avoid killing vegetation. Short cuts can cause erosion and make more work for the volunteers who take care of the trail for you. Even if a trail is muddy, you should never need to walk on the vegetation beside it. Don’t be squeamish - walk through the mud! Use special care above timberline. Extreme weather and a short growing season make these areas especially fragile. Footsteps alone can destroy the toughest natural cover, so please try to stay on the trail or walk on rocks.

Trail Etiquette

Respect other hikers and the wildlife. Travel and camp quietly. Treat all trail lands with respect, especially all private land, as one inconsiderate hiker could cause a landowner to close whole trail systems.

Remember: Leave no signs of your presence anywhere along the trail.

Special rules for the Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve and Cupsuptic campground (Mooselookmeguntic Lake, Maine), Bigelow Preserve (Flagstaff Lake, Maine), and South Arm campground (Richardson Lake, Maine):

  • Arrival: You must obtain a fire permit and pay for your campsite, leaving your name, site and a brief message. Check in at the office if appropriate.
  • Picnic tables: If you find it necessary to move a picnic table, please put it back in its original location.
  • Fireplaces: DO NOT move the fireplaces. Never leave a fire unattended.

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