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Alert iconEffective Thursday, November 3, 2022: All designated state forest campsites will be reserved through the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests Reservations website.

To learn about the reservation system and why this change was made, please see the DCNR Bureau of Forestry Camping Reservation System Frequently Asked Questions (PDF).

Camping in Pinchot State Forest

Pinchot State Forest is an ideal location to enjoy a night outdoors. There are numerous recreation opportunities throughout the forest and varying types of camping experiences.

Visitors will find natural beauty throughout the landscape with vistas, lakes, wildlife, and cascading streams.

To ensure the long-term sustainability of these valuable natural resources and recreation experiences, be sure to practice Leave No Trace Principles.

Motorized, Roadside Camping at Designated Sites

Motorized camping or roadside camping is defined as overnight camping in or near a vehicle where the vehicle is used for storage or transportation. This type of camping may only be done at designated campsites and always requires a permit.

There are no developed facilities, modern conveniences, or other improvements at state forest campsites. Visitors must take trash with them upon departure.

There are three types of motorized, roadside camping opportunities in Pinchot State Forest:

  • Roadside campsites are singular, remote sites located along dirt and gravel state forest roads. They may be pull offs or have a short driveway. These sites allow for overnight camping in or very near a vehicle. Depending on layout, the sites may accommodate different types of equipment such as tents, small RVs, or trailers. Three roadside campsites are available on the Thornhurst Tract: Fireline, Carvolth, and Sassafras.

  • State forest rustic campsites -- unlike other motorized, roadside sites -- are within a campground setting with a concentration of other sites nearby. These are ideal for those who want a rustic experience near other campers. They receive regular maintenance and some include a pit latrine or vault toilet, but no other amenities. Three state forest rustic campsites are available in the Manny Gordon Recreation Area and 12 are available in the Moon Lake Recreation Area.

  • State Forest Rustic Organized Group Campsites are designated for organized groups. The Moon Lake Group Campsite is limited to organized groups, which have a formal organization to coordinate and carry out its activities, appointed or elected leadership, and periodic meetings. An organized youth group has a majority of its members under age 18 and is affiliated with an on-going organization like school, youth, and church groups. An organized adult group has a majority of its members above 18 years of age and is affiliated with an organization such as the Rotary Club or the Lions Club.

Each designated motorized, roadside campsite provides the following:

  • Fire ring
  • Picnic table
  • Tent site
  • Parking for two vehicles or one vehicle with travel trailer

Check campsite details to determine the suitability for your equipment and desired experience.

Permits and Reservations for Motorized, Roadside Campsites

Camping permits and reservations are required to stay at motorized, roadside campsites.

Reservations can be made online at the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests Reservation website at any time, or by calling 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), Monday through Saturday, 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. 

Motorized, roadside campsites may be reserved up to eleven months in advance.

Use the Interactive Pennsylvania State Forest Camping Sites GIS Map to view locations and visit the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests Reservation website to see pictures and additional detailed information on each campsite.

Stays are limited to seven nights at a motorized, roadside campsite.

Check in and check out time is 3:00 P.M. Campers must vacate for at least 48 hours before returning. Please be considerate of other visitors’ opportunities to use this valued resource.

Please review your permit for additional rules and conditions.

Primitive Backpack Camping

Backpack campers are permitted to camp in most areas of the forest without a permit if staying no more than one night in any location.

Backpackers may camp overnight anywhere except:

  • In designated Natural Areas
  • Within 200 feet of a forest road
  • Within 25 feet of a trail
  • Within 100 feet of a stream or any open water
  • Within the Seven Tubs, Moon Lake, and Manny Gordon Recreation Areas

Backpack camping is typically done at trailside campsites and does not allow for access to motorized vehicles during overnight stays.

Primitive, trailside camping is part of an overall backcountry travel experience.

It involves hiking from campsite to campsite, far from your vehicle and nearby buildings, roads, and trailheads where you will find no modern conveniences or campsite improvements.

The Pinchot Trail, which traverses the Thornhurst Tract, offers some of the best opportunities for backpacking; however, other Pinchot State Forest hiking and shared-use trails can be used to form short loops or out-and-back overnight trips.

Remember, if you are camping close enough to your vehicle to access it to store gear and supplies, you are not primitive camping -- you are roadside, or motorized, camping.

A permit and reservation is always required for motorized, roadside camping, and it is only permitted at designated sites. Please plan appropriately.

Primitive Backpack Camping Permits

A free primitive camping permit is required if a backpacker desires an emergency point-of-contact or if a campfire is requested during the annual spring wildfire season (March, April, and May). 

Camping permits are also required for primitive backpack camping at the same site for more than one night.

To request a primitive backpacking permit in Pinchot State Forest, please contact the district office at 570-945-7133.

Water Trail Camping

The North Branch Susquehanna Water Trail winds through portions of the Pinchot Forest District.

There are limited opportunities for primitive, water trail camping on DCNR Bureau of Forestry managed islands.

Please follow all State Forest Rules and Regulations for water trail camping. If unsure of land ownership, please do not stop.

Group Camping

Backpacking or motorized, roadside camping in groups of more than 10 people must obtain a Letter of Authorization from the state forest.

These are processed through the Pinchot State Forest district office and may take up to two to three weeks to obtain. Please plan accordingly.

Campfires

Campfires are not permitted when the fire danger is high, very high, or extreme; and from March 1 through May 25, unless authorized by Pinchot State Forest.

Additionally, if the camping date is several days away or more, campfire permission may not be determined until closer to the dates of the camping trip.

Seasonal Campsite Closures

The following designated campsites in Pinchot State Forest will be closed from Friday, November 18, 2022, through Friday, March 31, 2023:

  • Fireline
  • Sassafras
  • Carvolth

The Manny Gordon Recreation Area campsites will close from Sunday, December 11, 2022, and reopen Friday, March 31, 2023.

The Moon Lake Recreation Area campsites will close Sunday, November 20, 2022, and be available for use Friday, March 31, 2023.

Contact Information

Contact the Pinchot State Forest district office at 570-945-7133 for more information. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., closed state holidays.

Enjoy your stay in Pinchot State Forest!