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Emigrant Wilderness

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Area Management

The Emigrant 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 Emigrant 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.


-- Group size is limited to 15 people.

-- Campfires are prohibited above 9000 feet and within one-half mile of Emigrant Lake to protect whitebark pine forests (in sharp decline due to an exotic blister rust) and to prevent depletion of organic material in slow-growing high elevation areas.

-- Camping is prohibited within 100 feet of lakes, streams, trails and where posted. This regulation helps protect fragile lakeside vegetation, protects critical habitat for threatened wildlife, preserves solitude, and protects water quality. There are NO exceptions for using existing campsites that are within 100 feet of water.

-- Disposing of body waste or wash water within 100 feet of any water source is prohibited.

-- Disposing of debris, garbage, or other waste is prohibited. This includes any material left in fire rings.

-- Shortcutting of trail switchbacks is prohibited. Shortcutting trails can lead to dangerous trail conditions, trail closures, and can degrade stream water quality.

-- Discharging a firearm, air rifle, or gas gun except for the lawful taking of wildlife as permitted by State game laws, is prohibited.

-- The possession or use of any wagon, cart or mechanized vehicle (including bicycles and game carts) is prohibited.

-- It is prohibited to leave unattended within the Wilderness any equipment, personal property or supplies for a period in excess of 24 hours. This includes barbeque grates, geocaches, and hunting camps.

-- Camping for more than one night at Camp, Bear, Grouse, Powell or Waterhouse Lakes is prohibited in order to protect natural resources, recreation sites, and opportunities for solitude at these popular destinations.


-- Groups are limited to no more than 25 head of pack or saddle stock.

-- Tying pack or saddle stock within 100 feet of lakes, streams, trails, and campsites, except while loading or unloading, is prohibited.

-- Tying pack or saddle stock to trees, except while loading or unloading, is prohibited.

-- Grazing or holding more than four stock overnight within one-quarter mile of Rosasco, Pingree, Piute, Gem, Jewelry, Long, or Maxwell Lakes is prohibited.

-- Grazing or holding stock overnight within one-quarter mile of Camp, Bear, Grouse, Powell, Wood, Deer, or Waterhouse Lakes is prohibited.

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 mandatory permit, which does not limit use. Wilderness permit systems are implemented to collect information on use levels and patterns and as an education and information tool. People interested in visiting the Emigrant Wilderness should contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more information about this permit system, which may vary by location or time of the year.

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