Hikers and backpackers, before backpacking get your California campfire permit and make sure you understand all the rules and laws pertaining to legally having a campfire or using a portable gas stove, including summer restrictions and prohibitions. Whether you like to backpack in wildernesses, national forests, national parks, or BLM lands, or you just like to camp in the outdoors outside developed campgrounds, you should find the information you need in this post.
Get a California Campfire Permit Online
- Enter your name, address, and email into the application form
- Watch a short Youtube video on the website (also just below in this post)
- Answer 8 questions based on the info presented in the Youtube video
- Print your permit!
Get a California Campfire Permit In-Person
You can quickly and easily get your permit at an office of the
- United States Forest Service (USFS)
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
- California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire)
- National Parks
Check the Internet for the nearest office and the hours it’s open. Note that some offices are closed on weekends, which is when many backpackers start their hikes.
California Campfire Permit Rules and Laws for Backpackers
You are required to have a permit on your person if you have a campfire or use a portable gas stove outside of developed campgrounds. You are also responsible for checking for any restrictions or prohibitions. Before you head into the woods for your backpacking trip (even if it’s a spring backpacking trip), check with the specific agency with jurisdiction.
What Does a California Campfire Permit Cost?
Absolutely nothing — there is no fee, at least for now. And I think it will stay this way. Cal Fire and the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other federal and state agencies want everyone to be aware of safe practices, and the current cost-free system allows as many people as possible to be informed, thus lessening the chance of costly wildfires.
What About in Developed Campgrounds?
You do not need a campfire permit in developed campgrounds in California. This includes nearly all the official campgrounds on United States Forest Service lands, Bureau of Land Management lands, in the national parks, and in private campgrounds — because these campgrounds have specific rings or pits.
Backcountry and Backpacking Campfire Restrictions in California
You can count on campfire restrictions being put in place in California (and much of the western United States) at some point from midsummer on (think early to mid-July), once the danger of wildfires grows as fuels dry out and soil moisture decreases. These restrictions can vary, but they usually include no open flames, although backpacking stoves are frequently exempt, especially in wilderness areas in national forests.
However, the start and end dates of campfire restrictions varies by jurisdiction. For example, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest may prohibit campfires two weeks before the Klamath National Forest, which may prohibit them a week before Lassen National Forest.
Your Take, Backpackers
Questions or comments about the process? If you took the online test, did you get any questions wrong? (I got them all right, but I also write test questions for a living.)