• Campground Selection, Purpose of Publication and Research Method
• Management of National Forests
• Campground Description and Configuration
• Seasons, Rates and Forest Information
• Wheelchair Friendly Bathroom Facilities
• Trail Information
• Water Sports
• America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass
• Campground Updates
• Volunteer Campground Hosts and Hostesses
• Comments and Questions
Campground Selection, Purpose of Publication and Research Method
The purpose of this publication is to provide factual information about campgrounds in National Forests that will assist campers in making selections for overnight camping. Only organized (developed) campgrounds with ten or more designated sites and accessible with at least the family sedan are included. Group campgrounds and dispersed sites are excluded. Personal observations and recommendations are included about the campgrounds, the National Forests and surrounding areas.
No attempt is made to classify or rate the development level of campgrounds. Rather, based on the campground descriptions provided, it is left up to the reader to make a campground selection that fits their needs and personal comfort zone. To help narrow the search for a campground, a Look-Up Table is provided for each National Forest. It is organized alphabetically by the nearest city/town (to a campground) within state.
With rare exceptions, the authors personally surveyed each campground described in this Guide. Except in a few instances, Forest Service staff at the Supervisor and Ranger District Offices were interviewed. From May 1996 to October 1998, the authors traveled full time in their 23-foot and then 27-foot travel trailer. The authors now make their home-base in Arizona and continue the campground research each year from May through October until completion - projected for the summer of 2008.
The information on this website is also published in electronic format as Ebooks on CD or as downloads organized geographically. The title of the guides is "U.S. National Forest Campground Guide." Purchase our Ebooks from the Bookstore
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Management of National Forests
Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service manages the National Forests. Under the direction of a Regional Office, management of each National Forest is accomplished by a Supervisor. Each National Forest is divided into Ranger Districts, managed by District Rangers. Addresses and telephone numbers for the Supervisor and Ranger District Offices are provided in the title page for each forest contained in this Guide.
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Campground Description and Configuration
Organized campgrounds range from primitive to highly developed. Most of these primitive campgrounds include designated camping sites with at least one vault toilet. Fresh water may or may not be available. Campground development levels above primitive vary. They can include vault toilets and water to flush toilets with hot (or cold) showers to sites with recreational vehicle (RV) hookups. Of course, many of the campgrounds include beautiful lakes with provided swimming beaches, fishing, power boating, canoeing, etc. These recreational facilities also contribute to the development level of the campground.
The camp sites described are classified as tent sites, RV sites or combined sites. The number of camping sites counted do not include designated host sites. Some campgrounds have sites with full or partial RV hookups. When describing water availability, the Guide includes whether the spigots are hand pumps or water pressure devices with or without threads. The latter information is to let RVrs know whether there is a source for temporarily connecting a water hose to fill up the fresh water tank.
NOTE: The authors describe the availability of potable water (drinking water) for each campground. Because of a bad test or system failure, drinking water may suddenly be unavailable. It is suggested you call the Ranger District Office for the status of potable water at your selected campground.
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Seasons, Rates and Forest Information
Primarily because of budgetary constraints imposed by the Congress and weather, season and rates (fees) can change without notice. And, although not a common occurrence, campgrounds can be closed for renovation or natural disaster. Fees for campgrounds vary from free to $25 per day. Typical fees run from $5 to $12 per day. Normally, there is an additional charge for a second vehicle, which rarely includes a towable or tow vehicle/travel trailer combination. Many of the developed campgrounds are unattended and paying the fee is based on the honor system. Especially if reservations cannot or are not going to be made or it is close to the beginning or end of a season, it is a good idea to call the Ranger District Office to ensure the selected campground is open and confirm the fee. Both the Forest Supervisor and Ranger District Offices have literature available for the public about the Forest (including maps) and the surrounding areas; contact either office for additional information.
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The Forest Service, through a concessionaire, provides a national telephone reservation system (and Web site) for making camping site reservations at many of its campgrounds. If reservations are accepted for a given campground, the telephone number is displayed in the campground description. For the national telephone system, the telephone number is 1-877-444-6777. It is toll free, some credit cards are accepted and there is a charge for making a reservation. If the reservation telephone number displayed for a campground is 1-877-444-6777, reservations can be made on line at www.recreation.gov. A fee is also charged for making an on-line reservation. For a campground taking reservations, normally no more then sixty percent of the sites can be reserved. The remaining sites are first come, first serve.
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Wheelchair Friendly Bathroom Facilities
Many of the National Forest campgrounds provide bathrooms or vaults for individuals requiring assistance. The authors surveyed campgrounds with no accessibility to some with state-of-the-art accessibility. In the information provided for each campground, "Wheelchair Friendly" is displayed with either "yes" or "no" indicated. "Yes" means there is at least one bathroom stall (or vault) with handrails and can be accessed by a wheelchair. "No" means there are no handrails or, although handrails are provided, in the authors' judgement, barriers exist preventing wheelchair access to the bathrooms. The authors do not attempt to ensure that accessible facilities are in compliance with state or federal law, regulations or guidelines.
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Hiking is, of course, abundant throughout most National Forests. However, information about trails in this Guide is provided only if they are associated with a campground researched by the authors. The trail must have a marked trail head, be located within (or a short walking distance from) the campground or be within a recreation area in which a researched campground is located. In most cases, information provided is name, length and type of access - foot, horse, mountain bike, OHV, etc. If a trail is wheelchair friendly, interpretive or a loop, this too is indicated. The length of a trail is the mileage one way or total mileage if a loop. Detailed information about a trail is available from the applicable Ranger District Office.
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Fishing information is provided only if it is readily accessible from the campground or the recreation area in which the campground is located. Although the type of fish are identified in this Guide, fishing regulations should be obtained from the Ranger District Office. Wheelchair friendly fishing piers or docks are also identified.
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Water sports information is provided only if readily accessible from the campground or within the recreation area in which the campground is located. Although there may be a body of water accessible from the campground, swimming is indicated only if the Forest Service provides a swimming area.
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National Forest campgrounds permit pets, but they are required to be leashed and under control. This is true not only in the campground but also when hiking. An uncontrolled pet on the trail can bring a bear to its owner. Also, unleashed animals are a threat to wildlife and could become infected with a disease. While rabies is always a concern, other diseases could be transmitted to a domestic animal. Be safe and keep pets close and under control at all times. Of course, pet droppings should be picked up and properly discarded. Although not required by the Forest Service, having a valid immunization shot certification from a veterinarian is a good thing to do. Some private campgrounds require certification and Canadian law requires it when visiting there. In the event of illness or injury to the animal or others, quarantine may occur if a shot certification cannot be produced.
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America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass
As of January 2007, one pass called America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass was implemented. It replaced four passes (Golden Eagle, Golden Age, Golden Access and National Parks) which were used to reduce or eliminate entrance fees into federal lands and other fees, such as campground fees. The America the Beautiful pass replaces the above passes and is valid on lands managed by U.S. Department of the Interior Agencies - National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation, and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. This interagency pass is made possible by TITLE VIII--FEDERAL LANDS RECREATION ENHANCEMENT ACT, enacted in December 2004. Although access to most federal public lands remains free, this pass, like the replaced passes, applies to locations currently having entrance or standard amenity fees. The replaced passes remain valid until expired, lost or stolen.
Sale of the new pass began in January 2007 at certain federal recreation sites, government internet sites and selected third-party vendors. The costs for the new four-in-one pass are:
1. an annual interagency pass for $80 (formerly Golden Eagle Passport)*;
2. $10 lifetime senior pass for U.S. citizens 62 or older (formerly Golden Age Passport);
3. free lifetime access pass for U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities (formerly Golden Access Passport; and
4. a new, free, annual pass for volunteers acquiring 500 hours of service.
*This pass is not valid for reducing campground fees.
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The authors depend on the readers and Forest Service to advise of changes or corrections to information about the campgrounds. Please transmit an email message informing the authors of changes and corrections. Or, between November 1 and April 30, a FAX can be transmitted to the authors on (520) 432-5787. Comments or questions about the information in this Guide are always welcome.
During February of each year, a FAX is transmitted by the authors to each Ranger District Office requesting update information on the fee, season and reservation status. The changes are posted to this Web site by March or April. If by May 1, the "Update Date" field for each campground on this Web site does not contain the current calendar year date, it should be assumed the Forest Service has not provided updates.
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Volunteer Campground Hosts and Hostesses
Volunteer campground hosts and hostesses are located at many of the National Forest campgrounds. Most reside in an RV on one of the sites (usually free of charge) and are always prepared to provide information or lend a hand when needed. The authors found these dedicated volunteers friendly and ready to provide information about the area, the forest and most anything else to ensure a pleasant experience in the forest. Generally, volunteer hosts and hostesses are experienced campers with a wealth of knowledge to share. Often retirees, they are usually unpaid and act as campground hosts because of a love for the forest and enjoy interacting with people. Because host positions may not be filled from one year to the next, the authors chose not to include host information in this Guide. For campers interested in becoming a host, see the section on available host positions.
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Comments and Questions
Readers are invited to comment on these pages and ask questions
about the information provided. This can be accomplished by
transmitting an email message to either Fred or Suzi.
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This Guide is just that - a reference guide containing data about campgrounds in National Forests. It is intended to help campers select a campground that meets their requirements. The information can change without notice. Natural disasters and weather conditions can result in a sudden campground closure or revised opening and closing dates. Federal budgetary constraints and other factors can cause the fee to increase with little or no notice to the authors and public. On occasion, campgrounds may even close because of financial limitations. Because of all these considerations, it is a good practice to call the Ranger District Office to confirm the fee and status of the campground.
Of special concern is the condition of the access road(s) to the campgrounds. National Forest and county roads can be dirt, gravel or paved. A significant number are dirt or gravel. Some are well maintained and others are full of potholes and washboard-like surfaces. Still others can be steep, curvy, single-lane and downright scary. The authors attempt to describe these conditions. If the Forest Service or other road authority limits vehicle size, this information is also published in the Guide. The authors will sometimes state an access road is not "RV friendly." This, of course, is their judgment but is likely a road to avoid if driving an RV. Road conditions can change rapidly because of weather or wear and tear. If the authors' directions to a campground describe an access road as dirt or gravel and more than a half mile long, it is suggested you call the Ranger District Office for conditions and suitability/safety for your vehicle.
The authors describe the availability of potable water (drinking water) for each campground. Because of a bad test or system failure, drinking water may suddenly be unavailable. It is suggested you call the Ranger District Office for the status of potable water at your selected campground.
This Guide represents research performed by the authors. While the authors do have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, the agency did not approve the publication of this Guide. No funds or financial considerations were provided to the authors by the Forest Service or any other government agency.
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Average Parking Apron Size: Based on the authors' judgement, the average parking apron is measured and indicated in the campground description. The purpose of this information is for RVrs to decide whether parking aprons in a campground will accommodate their rig.
Note: Based on the authors' research experience, this field was changed from "Largest Parking Apron Size" to "Average Parking Apron Size" for many of the campgrounds - all National Forests west of the Mississippi and some east of it. Average Parking Size is the preferred measurement technique.
Boat Carry Down Access: In the campground description, "yes," indicates an area suitable for a camper to carry a canoe, kayak or other small water craft into a body of water from within a campground or directly from the camper's camp site. This access is not a boat ramp. A "no" indicates the absence of such an area.
Boat Ramp: In the campground description, "yes," indicates the presence of a developed and maintained ramp suitable for campers to launch a power or non-power boat into a body of water within a campground or recreation area. A "no" indicates the absence of a boat ramp.
Boondocking: Boondocking (or dry camping) is used to describe a type of camping by an RVer. Camping in this manner involves using all the self-contained facilities of an RV - fresh water, electric (battery powered) and waste disposal.
Chaparral Environment: The term "chaparral" is derived from the Spanish for scrub-oak and is commonly found in the southwest. Chaparral describes a community of tough, fire-resistant shrub vegetation in an area with wet, mild winters and hot, dry summers with an assortment of hardy, versatile wildlife. California Oak, Toyon (Holly Wood), and Chamise are common chaparral shrubs. Birds such as Scrub Jay and Wren tit add color and music to the Chaparral.
Clearcutting: Where all trees larger than one inch are harvested. The only tree exceptions are trees designated for wildlife habitat. This method of harvest provides maximum sunlight for new tree growth.
Combined Site: A designated site in a National Forest campground that can, in the author's judgement, accommodate either a tent or an RV.
Conifer Tree: This type of tree has needle-leaves which it retains year round. Examples: Balsam Fir, Ponderosa, Sitka Spruce, Juniper, and Redwood trees.
Deciduous Tree: This type of tree will lose its leaves on a seasonal basis either in fall or during the dry seasons. Examples: Maple, Elm, Sycamore, and Cottonwood trees.
Directions - to a campground: Although there may be multiple routes into a campground, the authors' attempt to select the one that is the easiest and safest for campers with RVs. However, directions may include roads that are dirt, narrow, steep and washboards.
A city or town is always used as the starting point in providing directions to a campground. The criteria for the selected city or town is that it must be on the Rand McNally Road Atlas and have gasoline and at least limited groceries.
Dispersed Camping: Represents camping in undeveloped areas throughout a National Forest. These areas can be accessed by various means of transportation, i.e., automobile, hiking, horse, bike, canoe, etc. Dispersed camping is usually very primitive - no fresh water, sanitation or refuse facilities - pack it in, pack it out. Check with the Supervisor or Ranger District Office for rules that may apply to dispersed camping.
Dry Camping: See "Boondocking."
Fishing: In the information provided for each campground, the authors indicate "yes" or "no"for fishing. "Yes" means fishing is readily accessible from the campground. When the campground is located in a National Forest Recreation Area and there is fishing within the recreation area, "yes" is indicated. "No" means fishing is not readily accessible from the campground.
Full Hookups: Electric, water and sewer connections are provided for an RV.
Grilles on Sites: While most designated campsites do have a place for fire, not all are equipped with a grill. The definition for a grill is a metal rack or surface where a pot and pan can be placed above a fire and used for cooking. The number of grilles on sites represent the number of grilles found at the campground and not the number of fire rings or pits.
Group Campground: This is a campground, designated by the Forest Service, for groups only. Normally, these campgrounds are reserved by contacting the appropriate Ranger District Office.
Group RV Site: A campsite with a large parking apron that accommodates two or more RVs. Such a site is often designated for double occupancy by the Forest Service and may require a higher fee. A group RV site should not be confused with a group campground where an entire campground is reserved for a group of campers.
Group Selection: A forest management technique where small groups or clusters of trees are removed to create an opening for wildlife habitat and regeneration of trees which require partial sunlight.
Group Tent Site: A campsite with an area off the parking apron which can accommodate two or more tents. A higher fee may be required. A group tent site should not be confused with a group campground where an entire campground is reserved for a group of campers.
Hand Pump: A mechanical device, used to draw water, protruding about three to four feet above the ground with a long handle. The handle is pumped by hand to extract potable water from a well below.
Hiking: In the information provided for each campground, we indicate "yes" or "no" for hiking. "Yes" means there is a marked trail head readily accessible from the campground. In some cases, the campground may be located in a National Forest Recreation Area. If so, and there is a trail head located within the recreation area, "yes" is indicated. If known, the trail mileage and type of hiking is indicated, i.e., foot, horse, ATV, etc. Some campgrounds have trails, but they are not marked. "No" for hiking is indicated but the hiking comments reflect there are unmarked trails.
Individual Tree Selection: A forest management technique where individual trees of various sizes, dispersed throughout the forest, are individually selected for harvest. This method is frequently used to remove very old, sick or diseased trees.
Kayaking: For the purpose of this Guide, "kayaking" is defined as a whitewater sport where individuals challenge themselves in a paper thin kayak on fast flowing bodies of water. A "yes" means there is a useable whitewater waterway at or readily accessible from a campground. A "no" designation means there are no whitewater waterways in or readily accessible from the campground.
Largest Parking Apron Size: Based on the authors' judgement, the largest parking apron is measured and indicated in the campground description. The purpose of this information is for RVrs to decide whether parking aprons in a campground will accommodate their rig.
Note: Based on the authors' research experience, this field was changed to "Average Parking Apron Size" for many of the campgrounds - all National Forests west of the Mississippi and some east of it. This is the preferred measurement technique and is defined above.
Middle-Story: This term describes the center or mid-point in a forest's vegetation. An approximate height in a mature forest would be the head of a man.
National Forest: "Congress established the Forest Service in 1905 to provide quality water and timber for the Nations benefit. Over the years, the public has expanded the list of what they want from National Forests (and Grasslands). Congress responded by directing the Forest Service to manage national forests for additional multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation. Multiple use means managing resources under the best combination of uses to benefit the American people while ensuring the productivity of the land and protecting the quality of the environment."
National Recreation Area: A Congressionally identified "special place" within the National Forest Service System. These "special places" are recognized and managed in a special way by the Forest Service.
Nearest City/Town: A city or town "closest" to a National Forest campground that has both gasoline and at least limited groceries and is on the Rand McNally Road Atlas. There may be a city or town closer to a campground, but it does not meet these selection criteria. See also "Directions - to a campground," above.
Off Highway Vehicle (OHV): A type of two-wheel or four-wheel motorized vehicle that can be driven off road, usually on designated trails, open areas, beaches, etc. Some examples are four-wheel drive/4x4 autos (such as an SUV), ATV, Quad, dirt bike, etc.
Open Site: The site is located in an open area or has little vegetation around it with no shade or canopy of vegetation.
Over-Story: This term describes the highest level of vegetation seen in a given area. The over-story is composed of the crown of leaves from the trees.
Pack it In, Pack it Out: A campground has no refuse site. If no refuse facilities are provided, campers are required to pack out what they pack in.
Prescribed or Controlled Burns: In some National Forests, this is a method used to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire and maintain the forest health. The Forest Service applies and monitors these controlled fires. Burns are generally performed in the spring during the off-camping season to minimize impact on campers.
Rain Shadow: Sometimes the slopes on one side of a mountain range are forested differently from the other side because the mountain range forces moisture-laden air to condensate on that side. With condensation, rain falls on that side and leaves little moisture for the other side. The result is a thick, rich forest on the rain shadow side of the mountain range and a dry, less lush forest on the other.
Ramada: This is a term used primarily west of the Mississippi, describing picnic tables that are covered with a roof-like structure.
Recreation Vehicle: Recreational vehicle (RV) is a motor home, travel trailer, slide-in or pop-up tent.
Riparian Environment (Riverine): Most distinctive in the southwestern region, Riparian environments are strips of lush forests found along waterways. The area is moist and cooler than the nearby chaparral environment and an ideal habitat for animals. Sycamore and Cottonwoods are common riparian trees along with yellow monkey-flowers and stream orchids. Newts, Sandpipers and Kingfishers are a few of the frequently seen wildlife.
RV: See Recreational Vehicle, above.
RV Pull Throughs: These are drive-through parking aprons, normally semi-circular in design. No backing is required.
RV Site: A camping site in a National Forest campground that has been designated by the Forest Service for RVs only or, in the authors' judgement, accommodates only an RV.
Sailing: Generally, for the purpose of this Guide, there is a body of water adjacent to a National Forest campground, where, in our judgement, sailing is possible. A "yes" means sailing is possible and, to our knowledge, is permitted by federal, state and local authorities. A "no" designation means there is no water for sailing, or there is water, but it is not a practical option or federal, state or local authorities prohibit the sport.
Seed Tree Cutting: Removes most of the trees in a cutting and leaves a few, well-spaced trees to reseed the area.
Shelterwood Cutting: Approximately 40 to 60 percent of the trees are selectively removed. This allows younger or remaining trees to become established within the shelter of the remaining, older trees.
Silviculture: "the art of managing and tending a forest"
Spigot: A potable water device available to all campers. It is not camping site specific and can be a device with or without threads. This designation includes either a pressurized system or hand pumps.
Swimming (provided): In the information provided for each campground, "yes" or "no" is indicated for swimming. "Yes" means there is swimming easily accessible in or from the campground and is provided (marked and posted) by the Forest Service. "No" means there is no body of water for swimming or there is water, but the Forest Service does not provide an area for swimming. In most cases, where swimming is provided, there are no lifeguards.
Tables on Sites: This field provides the number of picnic tables found within the campground. Not all campsites have a table because they are moved by campers from one site to another. The authors attempt to account for this in their research.
Temperate Rainforest: Found along the coast from Alaska through Oregon and in pockets in northern California, the temperate rainforest is a product of abundant moisture from coastal fog, rain, and occasional snow. This environment supports immensely tall trees such as Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Western Red cedar.
Tent: The variety of tents is huge. For the Guide, the authors limit the term to a portable, soft-walled structure that can sleep two adults comfortably.
Tent Pad: This is normally an area at a campground site that is clearly defined for a tent. The authors' criteria for a tent pad is it must be framed with wood, cement or some other material. If an area on the site is elevated, this too may qualify as a tent pad. The fact that there is an open grassy area at the site does not qualify as a tent pad.
Tent Site: A designated site in a National Forest Campground that accommodates only a tent. Either the Forest Service permits only a tent or, in the authors' judgement, the site is not suitable for an RV. Walk-in sites are clear examples of tent sites only.
Under-Story: This term describes the lower vegetation or ground cover found in a forest. This vegetation includes grass, ferns, berry bushes, and very young trees.
Vault: This is a toilet without running water. It is also known as an "outhouse" or "pit toilet." Chemical toilets, similar to those found in airplanes, are also classified as vaults.
Walk in Tent Sites: From a parking lot or designated parking spot for a vehicle, a camper must walk to access a site. These sites are normally no more then a few hundred feet from the parking area.
Waste Station: Also known as a "dump station," this is a location where waste water from RVs is dumped. Potable water for the RV fresh water tank (or other water containers) may also be available at or near the actual dump location.
Water Buffalo: A portable tank on wheels used to dispense drinking water.
Water Skiing: Generally, a body of water is adjacent to a National Forest campground. Regulations for water sports are normally controlled by either state or local authorities. A "yes" means that, in the authors' judgement, the sport is practical and authorities permit it. A "no" designation means there is no water, the sport is not practical or authorities prohibit it.
Wheelchair Friendly: In the information provided for each campground, "Wheelchair Friendly," is displayed with either "yes" or "no" indicated. "Yes" means there is at least one bathroom stall (or vault) with handrails, which can be accessed with a wheelchair. "No" means there are no handrails or, although handrails are provided, in the authors' judgement, barriers exist preventing wheelchair accessibility. No attempt is made to ensure that campgrounds are in compliance with state or federal law, regulations or guidelines.
Wilderness: An area defined by the Congress and designated "wilderness" has three equally important characteristics: 1) It is a place not controlled by humans, where natural ecosystem processes operate freely, and where its primeval character and influence are retained. 2) It is a place not occupied or modified by humankind, where humans are merely visitors, and the imprint of their work is hardly noticeable. 3) It is a place with outstanding opportunities for solitude and for a primitive and unconfined recreation experience. No motorized vehicles (including boats) or power tools are permitted in a designated wilderness.
Wooded Site: Describes a camping site where trees provide a canopy for shade most of the day.