The Duke Forest is private land owned and managed by Duke University as an outdoor classroom and living laboratory. Dr. Clarence Korstian, the first director of the Duke Forest, recognized the importance of allowing the community to remain in touch with a natural land base, but limited public recreation has always only been an ancillary benefit of the Forest’s existence. Our office works to ensure that use by recreational visitors does not conflict with the Forest’s foremost priorities of teaching, research, and resource stewardship.

Read our Recreation Impact Statement from August 2020 to learn more about the significant negative impacts to the Duke Forest caused by unauthorized recreational activities.

Limited public recreation that meets the following conditions is permitted in the Duke Forest:

Recreating Responsibly

Learn about Recreating Responsibly in Duke Forest
  • Activities must comply with  Regulations and Safety Considerations
  • Activities must abide by all signage posted in the Forest.
  • Activities must not conflict with teaching, research, and stewardship projects.
  • Activities must occur in designated access locations (e.g. no recreation in posted restricted research areas, foot traffic only on foot trails, bikes and horses – as well as foot traffic – on mowed, graded, and/or graveled roads).
  • Activities must begin and end at Duke Forest gates.
  • Recreational visitors must yield to heavy equipment traffic, including staff and researcher vehicles.
  • Use of the Duke Forest is at your own risk.
  • Group activities must be approved in advance (click here to submit a group use request).


  • Parking is not allowed in front of forest gates.
  • Parking is often only available in roadside right-of-ways, which are not maintained by or under the authority of the Office of the Duke Forest.

A Note about our Roads and Trails

  • Mowed, graded, and/or graveled roads begin at each Duke Forest gate.  These roads are represented by the acronym F.T. on our recreation maps, which is an abbreviation for fire trails. Our roads or fire trails – in most cases – were originally established and/or maintained to serve as fire breaks. Roads and F.T.s are designated for use by walkers, runners, and hikers, as well as cyclists and horseback riders. No motorized vehicle use of any kind (including E-Bikes) is allowed except by Duke Forest staff and approved teaching and research users.   
  • Foot trails in the Duke Forest are non-graveled, dirt trails designated for use by Duke Forest management and blazed with BLUE DOTS. These trails have always been and remain solely for use by walkers, runners, and hikers. No bike, horse, or motorized use of any kind has ever been permitted on foot trails. Foot trails are not designed to withstand bike, horse, or motorized use.
  • Conditions along roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.

Approved activities

Please click the images below to read about each activity.

Hiking and RunningNature Study & ImmersionPicnics and ReceptionsFishing
Running and HikingNature StudyPicnics and Receptions
Horseback RidingMountain Biking

On Graveled Roads Only
(aka “Fire Roads”, Fire Trails”, or “F.T.”)
horseback ridingMountain Biking

Detailed maps showing recreational access locations, including forest gates, roads, foot trails, creeks, and topographic contours are posted at most major forest gates. Information about our maps.

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