State Forests Rules

Minnesota's state forests—your public land to enjoy

State forest lands are available for a variety of recreational activities, including hunting, trapping, off-highway vehicle riding, camping, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and wildlife watching.

Before heading out on your next adventure, please review a few key rules. All Minnesota state forest users are responsible for obeying state forest rules and regulations in Minnesota Rules, part 6100.3000 through 6100.4300.


There are two ways to camp in state forests: in designated campgrounds (preferred) and dispersed.

  • Designated campsites have a fire ring, garbage container, picnic table, and access to water and vault toilet. First-come, first-served. Fees are collected on site.
  • Dispersed camping with no amenities is allowed at least one mile outside of designated campgrounds on state forest land. No fee.

All campers must "leave no trace" no matter where you camp. Pack out what you pack in, do not damage trees, water, habitat, picnic tables, or anything else. Do not burn litter or garbage.
Always observe signs posted in campgrounds.

Key Camping Rules

  • State forests are open to camping at all times unless otherwise posted.
  • Summer camping (campground and dispersed) is limited to 14 days.
  • Camping is limited to 21 days between the second Sunday in September and first Saturday in May.
  • Bury human waste (if vault toilets are not available) and animal parts such as fish guts at least 150 feet from a water body and away from areas where it could cause a nuisance or hazard to public health.
  • When dispersed camping, do not block trails, roads, or gates with your vehicle.
  • Building permanent structures of any kind is prohibited.


Camping fees are charged in campgrounds with developed facilities (drinking water, garbage containers, toilets). No fees are charged for other recreational uses of state forests. Learn more about camping in state forests.

Campfires in a state forest campground or day-use area

Use fire rings or charcoal grills. Keep campfires no larger than 3 feet wide and 3 feet high. Do not burn household garbage. Attend the fire at all times. Completely extinguish your fire before leaving the area. It should be cold.

Campfires when dispersed camping

Select a level spot a safe distance away from trees, low overhead branches, shrubs, dry grass, or logs to prevent the fire from escaping, and clear all combustibles within 5 feet of campfire. Keep campfires no larger than 3 feet wide and 3 feet high. Attend the fire at all times. Completely extinguish your fire before leaving the area. It should be cold to the touch.


Personal Property

Do not allow personal property or vehicles to obstruct roads or trails.
Don't leave equipment unattended for more than 24 hours.

Fireworks and Alcohol

Fireworks are not allowed in state forests. Alcohol is not allowed in state forest campgrounds.

Day-Use Areas
  • Designated day-use areas are open to picnicking, swimming, and boating, and other recreation.
  • Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Overnight camping is not allowed.
  • Alcohol consumption is not allowed.
Hunting and Shooting

State forests and wildlife management areas are open to hunting, trapping, and fishing during the appropriate season and with the correct license.

State forests are open to target, trap, and recreational shooting except where prohibited by law, or posted or designated closed.

Exception: Shooting is not allowed in Sand Dunes State Forest.

State game refuges within state forests are closed to hunting unless listed as open.

Firearms must be unloaded and cased and bows unstrung when in or within 200 feet of any campground, picnic area, beach, parking lot, interpretive site, or trailhead.

For regulations about hunting, trapping, firearms, bows, limits, seasons, and deer stands go to the hunting and trapping regulations webpage.

Watch Out for Private Property

State forests contain private holdings within their boundaries. Watch for posted "No Trespassing" and "No Hunting" signs and stay off private property.

  • You must have permission before entering private land, even to cross it to access public land.
  • Hunting on private land within a state forest is subject to state trespass laws.
Deer Stands and Elevated Scaffolds
  • Temporary, portable deer stands that do not damage trees are preferred in state forests.
  • Cutting trees for shooting lanes is not allowed.
  • Deer stands on state forest lands are considered available for public use and must remain accessible to all.
  • For complete hunting and deer stand rules read the hunting and trapping regulations.
Road and Trails
  • All trails and roads, except groomed ski trails, are open to hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking unless posted closed.
    • Horseback riders need a horse pass except when riding on forest roads and forest road right-of-ways
    • Cross-county skiers on designated ski trails need a ski pass.
  • Highway-licensed vehicles may use signed forest roads.
  • Forest roads are open to off-highway vehicles, unless posted closed.
  • Organized, large-scale events such as group horseback- or mountain bike-riding may require a special-event permit. Contact the DNR Forestry office closest to the state forest for details.
  • Exception: In the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest
    • Horses are allowed only on designated horse trails.
    • Bicycles may travel only on designated bike trails or where motor vehicles are allowed.
  • Always stay on signed trails
  • Trails and roads may be temporarily closed. Check for temporary closures before heading out.

Trail courtesy:

  • Share the trail with others.
  • Keep right so others can pass.
  • Obey traffic signs and rules.
  • Some trails travel along or through private property. Respect adjacent landowners' rights and privacy.
  • Warn other trail users when passing by giving an audible signal.
  • Let horses know you are approaching and passing. Some may be spooked by quiet bikers, runners, or inline skaters.

Trail users are responsible for obeying the rules and regulations in Minnesota Rules, part 6100.3000 through 6100.4300.

Harvesting Trees, Plants or Harvesting berries and mushrooms
  • It is OK to collect and use dead fuelwood for campfires while in a state forest.
  • It is OK to:
    • Collect berries, mushrooms, or other items for personal use while in a state forest.
    • Pick up cones from the ground to take home.
  • You must get a permit from the DNR Forestry office closest to the state forest to:DNR Forestry offices may issue permits for harvesting items in State Forests and on other DNR-managed lands including:
    • Wildlife Management Areas
    • Consolidated county lands
    • Forestry-acquired lands
    • Trust fund lands
    Obtain permits from the DNR Forestry office closest to the State Forest or DNR-managed lands from which you wish to collect items.

Cutting trees for shooting lanes is not allowed.

Invasive Species

Help prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals such as emerald ash borers, garlic mustard, buckthorn, earthworms, zebra mussels, and a host of other troublesome species.

On land

  • Clean your gear before entering and leaving the recreation site.
  • Remove mud and seeds from clothes, pets, boots, gear, and vehicles.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Use only firewood and hay that is local or certified by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture or USDA.

On water

  • Clean watercraft of all aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species.
  • Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
  • Dry docks, lifts, swim rafts and other equipment for at least 21 days before placing equipment into another water body.
  • Aquatic Invasive Species

This is only a summary of permitted and regulated activities. A complete copy of the rules is available; See Minnesota Rules Chapter 6100.0100 to 6100.1950 for details.

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