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Dolly Sods Wilderness

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Area Management

The Dolly Sods Wilderness is part of the 110 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 Dolly Sods 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 or visit the websites listed 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-Specific Regulations

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 or visit the websites listed for more specific information about the regulations listed.


-- No permit or fee is required to enter or camp in the Wilderness.

-- Group size is limited to no more than 10 people per party. Groups larger than 10 people must split into smaller groups and remain at least 200 yards apart.

-- Portable heaters or cooking stoves (using fuel such as alcohol, gas, or gasoline) are permitted unless the area has been closed to all fires due to extreme fire danger.

-- As with all designated Wilderness areas, mechanical transportation (including wagons, game carts, bicycles, and other vehicles) is prohibited.

-- Beginning in August of 1943, the military used the area for maneuvers and mountain training for World War II. Many of the artillery and mortar shells shot into the area for practice still exist. For your safety: Stay on designated trails.

-- If you find an Unexploded Ordnance: Do not touch, move or dig near or around the suspected ordnance. Identify the area on a map or by terrain feature. On the ground, from a distance away, you can point out the location by making an arrow using rocks or sticks, or hanging a bandana. From a safe distance away, use your GPS device to record the general location of the possible ordnance. Pictures of the possible ordnance and its location are very helpful. Walk away in the direction you came. Immediately contact the Forest Service.


-- Camping is prohibited within 200 feet of any stream or trail.

-- Camp at existing campsites. These usually have a fire ring and show bare ground around them. If you camp at a place without a fire ring DO NOT create one. Use a backpacker-type stove for your cooking needs and enjoy a night without a campfire.

-- Do not camp at trailheads.


-- Please note that many trails are steep and rocky and not conducive to stock use.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.