Desolation Wilderness General Rules

To protect fragile ecosystems and reduce environmental impacts please follow the visitor use guidelines listed below.
The following are enforceable Forest Service regulations (maximum penalty of $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail)


  • A valid permit is required for both day and overnight use year-round.
  • You must enter the Desolation Wilderness on the entry date shown on your permit.
  • During the quota season, you must stay your first night within the destination zone listed on your permit
  • You may not re-enter on a different date using the same permit.
  • Your permit is not valid until signed.
  • You must carry your permit with you during your trip and present it upon request to a Forest Officer


  • Campfires are prohibited year round within Desolation Wilderness.
  • Camp stoves for cooking are permissible.


  • There is a quota limiting the number of visitors to Desolation Wilderness between the Friday before Memorial Day to September 30th each year.
  • There are 45 destination zones designated with maximum quota for the first night stay in each zone during the quota season.
  • The zone quota system in Desolation Wilderness requires you to predetermine the location of your first night's stay.
  • During the off-quota season there is no limit to the number of overnight users in each zone (maximum group size still applies).


  • Group size is limited to 12 people per party who will be together at any time in Desolation Wilderness.
  • Many destination zones have quota less than the maximum group size.
  • Smaller groups increase the wilderness experience both for you and other wilderness visitors.
  • Smaller groups decrease impacts of camping and travelling on the wilderness resource.
  • Stock is limited to 2 animals per person and a maximum of 12 stock per group.


  • Campsite selection is the most important decision you will make during your stay in Desolation Wilderness!
  • The zone quota system in Desolation Wilderness requires you to predetermine the location of your first night's stay.
  • Camp at least 100 feet from lakeshore, stream, or trail.
  • There are camping restrictions for Special Management Areas to reduce impacts at popular lakes.
  • The maximum stay in Desolation Wilderness is 14 days.


  • Eagle Lake, Grouse and Hemlock Lakes, and the north and east side of Lake of the Woods, have designated campsites established.
  • The designated campsites are marked with a tent symbol on a 4x4 post.
  • Camp within 30' of the marked post.
  • Only one group is allowed at each designated site.
  • If all designated campsites are taken when you arrive at your destination, locate your camp at least 500' from the lakeshore.
  • Restoration sites have been established to allow damaged shorelines and meadows a chance to recover from overuse. Respect these sites and walk a different path!


  • Human and dog waste must be disposed of 200 feet from water or trail in a cat hole 6-8 inches deep or packed out.
  • Please pack out your toilet paper.
  • Practice Leave No Trace and pack out everything you pack in, including organic debris.
  • Washing with soap, including biodegradable soap, in a stream, lake or any other water source is prohibited.
  • Please clean your cookware 200' from water sources.


  • Protect yourself by using bear canisters for food storage, or by hanging your food using the counterbalancing method.
  • Bear proof food storage containers are available for free rental from the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, LTBMU Supervisor's Office, or the Pacific Ranger District.


  • Your dog must be controlled at all times. Dogs impact wildlife and barking intrudes on the experience of others.
  • El Dorado County has a leash law.
  • Please bury or pack out your dog waste.


  • Damaging or removing any natural feature in the Wilderness is prohibited.
  • Photo your finds, leave them behind for others to enjoy.


  • Livestock are limited to two livestock per person and 12 livestock in one group.
  • Do not hitch, tether, or hobble a horse or other saddle or pack animal within 200 feet of a water source or within 100 feet of a campsite.
  • Do not tie stock directly to trees except for loading, unloading, or short rest breaks while traveling
  • Must have approved weed free forage.
  • There are some trails that are not recommended for stock use. Plan your trip carefully.


  • Treat all water by boiling, using purification tablets, or filtering.
  • State fish and game laws apply.
  • Discharging a firearm is prohibited within 150 yards of a campsite, or occupied area, or in any manner or location that places people or property at risk of injury.
  • Fireworks of any kind are illegal.


  • Commercial use may be prohibited in wilderness and/or requires a special use permit. Contact a Forest Service office for more information.
  • If you are charging a fee for leading a group into the wilderness, this is considered outfitting and guiding and requires a special use permit.
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