The rules associated with using Department of Environmental Conservation-managed public lands in New York state for recreational purposes are relatively simple and straightforward.
Hiking and backcountry camping are allowed on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks as well on state forest areas. Generally, camping is prohibited on Unique Areas, Wildlife Management Areas and other categories of state land. Hiking is generally permitted anywhere but special requirements apply to mountain biking and horseback riding.
For information about specific land areas, contact the regional office responsible for the area. For information about State Campgrounds, visit that page on the Department's Web site. The rules and guidelines for the use of New York state's public lands are in general as follows:
Except where marked by a "Camp Here" disk, camping is prohibited within 150 feet of roads, trails, lakes, ponds, streams or other bodies of water.
Groups of 10 or more persons or stays of more than three days in one place require a permit from the New York forest ranger responsible for the area.
Lean-tos are available in many areas on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lean-tos cannot be used exclusively and must be shared with other campers.
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. 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 five minutes, treated with purifying tablets or filtered through filtration device to prevent instances of giardia infection.
Fires should be built in existing fire pits or fireplaces if provided. Use only dead and down wood for fires. Cutting standing trees is prohibited. Extinguish all fires with water and stir ashes until they are cold to the touch. Do not build fires in areas marked by a "No Fires" disk. Camp stoves are safer, more efficient and cleaner.
Carry out what you carry in. Practice "leave no trace" camping and hiking.
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.
Removing plants, rocks, fossils or artifacts from state land without a permit is illegal.
The storage of personal property on state land is prohibited.
Carry an approved flotation device for each person aboard all watercraft.
Except in an emergency or between Dec. 15 and April 30, camping is prohibited above an elevation of 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks.
Except in an emergency or between Dec. 21 and March 21, 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.
Special Regulations for the
High Peaks Wilderness Area
In response to issues raised in the development of the High Peaks Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan, several new regulations have been adopted. These regulations are needed to protect the wilderness resource from further decline and to ensure that conditions in the High Peaks Wilderness comply with the wilderness guidelines identified in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. A brief synopsis of the regulations are listed below. This is not a complete list so review the official regulations before you begin your trip. In addition the General Rules for use of state land apply.
(Information courtesy of the NYSDEC, www.dec.ny.gov.)