The Desolation Wilderness is part of the 111 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness"
as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964
. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques
when visiting the Desolation Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.
General Wilderness Prohibitions
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited on all federal lands designated as wilderness. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters, unless provided for in specific legislation.
In a few areas some exceptions allowing the use of motorized equipment or mechanical transport are described in the special regulations in effect for a specific area. Contact the Forest Service office
for more specific information.
These general prohibitions have been implemented for all national forest wildernesses in order to implement the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is "unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness." Use of the equipment listed as prohibited in wilderness is inconsistent with the provision in the Wilderness Act which mandates opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation and that wilderness is a place that is in contrast with areas where people and their works are dominant.
Wilderness managers often need to take action to limit the impacts caused by visitor activities in order to protect the natural conditions of wilderness as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Managers typically implement 'indirect' types of actions such as information and education measures before selecting more restrictive measures. When regulations are necessary, they are implemented with the specific intent of balancing the need to preserve the character of the wilderness while providing for the use and enjoyment of wilderness.
The following wilderness regulations are in effect for this area. Not all regulations are in effect for every wilderness. Contact the Forest Service office
for more specific information about the regulations listed.
-- Group size is limited to no more than 12 people per party.
-- Permits are required year-round for day and/or overnight entry.
-- Campfires are prohibited year-round. Only camp-stoves are allowed.
-- Do not shortcut switchbacks.
-- Pack out all debris, garbage, or other waste.
-- Human waste must be disposed of at least 200 feet from any campsite, trail, or water source. Bury or pack out toilet paper.
-- During the camping quota season, the first night’s stay must be within the assigned travel zone.
-- A fee is required for the overnight Wilderness permit and for making a Wilderness camping reservation.
-- Groups are limited to no more than 2 head of pack or saddle stock per person, or no more than 12 head per party.
-- Hitching, tethering or hobbling pack or saddle stock within 200 feet of any water source, or within 100 feet of any campsite is prohibited.
-- It is prohibited to leave stock manure in an unscattered condition within 100 feet of any campsite or water source.
Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness
Wilderness Permit System
A wilderness permit system has been implemented for this wilderness. This involves a use-limiting permit system with quotas and reservations. Wilderness permit systems are implemented to collect information on use levels and patterns and as an education and information tool. Use-limiting systems are implemented after monitoring has determined that current use levels are resulting in unacceptable impacts to the resource and/or to the wilderness recreation experience. These systems help distribute visitor use throughout the season and help minimize crowded conditions at popular areas. People interested in visiting the Desolation Wilderness should contact the Forest Service office
for more information about this permit system, which may vary by location or time of the year.
The following user fee system(s) have been implemented for this wilderness: OVERNIGHT CAMPING, TRAILHEAD PARKING. Fees are most often used to offset the operating costs of a permit system or to help fund management activities such as trail maintenance. Contact the Forest Service office
for more specific information on this fee system.