Backcountry Camping the Ozark National Forest

fall-foliageFall in the Ozarks is a special time. The smell of campfire and early morning fog lingers in the maples, oaks, and sycamores to create a delicious haze that softens the powerful purples, blazing oranges, and vibrant yellows that fill the forest. You can see, smell, and feel autumn in the Ozarks. Of course, this special time in this special place is no secret. Locals and visitors alike flock in droves to camp and spend time out in nature. If you’ve ever tried to drive out to the Buffalo River to find a campsite on a Friday evening, you know just how popular camping in the Ozark National Forest has become.

Luckily, backcountry camping in the Ozarks is permitted. It is important,  however, to understand the rules to backcountry camping, and minimize your impact on the environment.

Tips for backcountry camping

  • Sign in at trailheads and leave information about your travel plans (start, finish, duration, etc.) As always, tell someone where you are going.
  • Practice the 7 “Leave No Trace” principles. Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Pack it out, pack it in. Basically, leave areas the way that you find them.
  • No permits required for backcountry camping in the Ozarks
  • Primitive camping – or backcountry camping – is not allowed within half a mile of developed Nation Park Service areas. This includes trailheads, campgrounds, etc.
  • Camp at least 50 feet from trails and at least 100 feet from water sources.
  • Don’t use soap or shampoo in streams, lakes, or rivers, and not wash clothing, dishes, or food within 100 feet of water sources.
  • Always check before bringing pets. For example, pets are not allowed along trails or backcountry areas along the Buffalo River.
  • Bury food scraps away from campgrounds in soil, but do not leave any trash.
  • Do not damage living vegetation. This includes cutting, carving, chopping, burning etc.
  • Use existing campsite and fire rings rather than make your own.
  • Make sure fires are completely extinguished before leaving the area.
  • Human waste must be buried in cat holes 6-8 inches deep, and 200 feet from water sources.

Be careful, considerate, and respectful. Most national forests, including the Ozarks, adhere to federal regulations. Whether you feel at home at a campground or in the wilderness, we have the gear to get you there. Stop by and see us before your next camping trip!

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