Wilderness protection is the law, but it also requires your personal commitment. All members of your group are responsible for following minimum impact regulations, both as hikers and stock users. Violations of any of these laws can result in fines of up to $5000 and six months imprisonment. A ranger will review these regulations with you when you pick up your wilderness permit.
Protect the wilderness environment by following these policies and regulations:
- Pets, weapons, and motorized or mechanical equipment are prohibited in national park wilderness.
- Shortcutting trails is prohibited. Stay on trails to reduce erosion and preserve vegetation. Do not build rock cairns or other trail markers.
- Pack out (never bury) all trash.
Selecting a Campsite
- Camp at least 100 feet from water where terrain permits. Never camp closer than 25 feet to water.
- Camp on bare ground, never on vegetation or in meadows. Choose a site screened from trails and other campers if possible. Avoid sites near dead standing trees or limbs.
- Do not construct rock walls, bough beds, new fireplaces, trenches, etc.
Wood fires are permitted in Kings Canyon National Park below 10,000 feet elevation except in Granite Basin and Redwood Canyon.
Fires are permitted in the Kaweah River Drainage of Sequoia National Park below 9000 feet elevation except at Hamilton Lakes, Pinto Lake, and Mineral King Valley.
Fires are permitted in the Kern River Drainage of Sequoia National Park below 10,400 feet elevation with some exceptions.
- Use only existing fire rings; do not build new ones. Do not add rocks to existing rings.
- Use only dead and down firewood. Do not chop live vegetation or remove dead branches from standing trees.
- Fires must always be attended.
- Do not burning aluminum foil, foil-lined packets, or plastic. Plastics emit toxic fumes and foil does not completely burn.
- Put out fires 1/2 hour before leaving by adding water and stirring the ashes. Don't use dirt to put out fires.
- Bury human waste 6 inches deep and at least 100 feet from trails, camps and water sources.
- Purify all water from natural sources by boiling for 3-5 minutes, or use a filter that eliminates giardia and water-born bacteria.
- Never wash directly in a water source - clothes, dishes or yourself. Carry water 100 feet from the source before washing. Biodegradable soaps pollute; dispose of them like any soap, well away from water.
- Wash your hands often, especially before preparing or eating meals. Poor hygiene is a large factor in sickness during wilderness travel.
Food Storage and Bears
When bears repeatedly obtain human food and garbage, they may become destructive and dangerous and must be killed. To prevent this, follow these regulations:
- Food must be stored properly any time you are not preparing and eating it. Store anything with an odor (soap, sunscreen, garbage) the same as food.
- Food and related supplies (coolers, etc.) left at trailheads must be stored in metal food storage lockers where provided. If none are available, ask a ranger for alternatives. Items left in vehicles attract bears; property damage can result.
- Some wilderness locations have metal food storage lockers.
- Portable bear-resistant canisters allowed by the parks are required in the following areas: Rae Lakes Loop, Dusy Basin, Palisades Basin, and Rock Creek drainage. Portable bear-resistant canisters may be rented at Roads End Permit Station (Cedar Grove), Kings Canyon Visitor Center (Grant Grove), Lodgepole Visitor Center, Foothills Visitor Center, and Mineral King Ranger Station.
- If lockers are not available and canisters are not required, you must post a 24-hour guard or use the counterbalance method of hanging food. Camp near hanging food to better defend it.
- If a bear gets your food, you must pack out all debris and report the incident to the nearest ranger.
To minimize the chances of a bear getting your food, please follow these recommendations:
- Avoid bringing odorous foods.
- Plan to camp, eat and hang food before dark. Leave packs on the ground, empty of food and scented items, with the pockets open.
- Make loud noises and throw things to scare bears away should they approach. Be bold, but keep a safe distance and use good judgment. Never attempt to retrieve food from a bear. Never approach a bear or get near a cub. Report injuries, property damage, or unusual encounters to a ranger.
All bears in the Sierra Nevada are American black bears, Ursus americanus. This name can be misleading, as they may be black, brown, cinnamon, or even blonde in color. The last grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) in California was killed near Sequoia National Park in 1922. This information does not apply to parks inhabited by grizzly bears.
Proper stock use is an important way for you to minimize impacts and adequately care for your animals. Please take the time to read and become familiar with the stock use guidelines and regulations.