Prohibited activities

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

The following activities are prohibited on the Duke Forest in addition to prohibit activities outlined in Duke University’s Use of University Lands and Facilities Policy:

  1. Any off-trail activities
  2. Access after sunset or before sunrise
  3. Off-leash dogs
  4. Camping and/or campfires
  5. Hunting and/or carrying weapons
  6. Operating motorized vehicles
  7. Rock and tree climbing
  8. Group activities not pre-approved
  9. Removal or damage of vegetation
  10. Disturbing scientific research
  11. Horseback riding and mountain biking off of graded and mowed roads
  12. Commercial use and Pay-to-Participate Activities (see below)
  13. Commercial photography/videography, and portrait photography (see below)
  14. Geocaching, terracaches, and letterboxes (see below)
  15. Metal detecting (see below)
  16. Hobbyist drone flights (see below)

Commercial Use and Pay-to-Participate Activities

Commercial use and pay-to-participate activities (e.g. paid exercise classes, running/biking programs, gym outings, unsanctioned events, etc.) are not allowed and will not be approved for Group Use. Duke University is a nonprofit institution, and all use must be related to nonprofit purposes.

“Commercial enterprises will not be afforded use of university facilities for profit-making or advertising purposes. Exceptions to this policy may be made by the Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations. Any commercial activity on the grounds of the campus must be approved in advance and in writing by the Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations.”

– Duke University’s Use of University Lands and Facilities Policy, 2016

Commercial photography/videography, and portrait photography

The Duke Forest is a teaching and research laboratory and is not a venue for non-news photography or videography projects. All photography or video projects must seek prior approval from both our office and also University Communications. Please read more about filming on campus.

In-the-moment photography which we define as spontaneous and informal photographs/video of plants, animals, people, and other subjects are allowed and encouraged. Photography of this kind is a wonderful way to connect with nature and to remember time spent with others in the Duke Forest. Remember that off-road and off-trail access is not permitted to the general public. Keep in mind that the Duke Forest is a teaching and research laboratory and not a park.

Formal portrait photography (posed portraiture of individuals) is not permitted in the Duke Forest. No gear (lights, chairs, reflectors, etc.) may be set up. A member of the community may rent one of our two picnic shelters and invite a photographer. Formal portraits would be allowed in this situation only within the area immediately surrounding the shelters and not on connecting roads and trails or off-trail. No photographer (nor vendors of any kind) may rent a shelter for commercial use. This is not an approved use of our shelters.

Geocaching, Hobbyist Drone Use, and Metal Detecting are not allowed

The primary mission of the Duke Forest is to serve as a living laboratory and outdoor classroom for teaching and research. While public recreation is permitted, these activities must not conflict with teaching and research projects or with the natural and historical values of the Forest.

Due to safety and research integrity concerns (including protection of research and natural areas; preservation of cultural and archaeological sites; maintenance of trails and the creation of unauthorized trails; safety of visitors and liability; and the overall adherence to Forest Regulations and Safety Guidelines) placing and/or searching for geocaches, terracaches, letterboxes, or any other form is strictly prohibited in all divisions of the Duke Forest. Similarly, flying drones and/or metal detecting is not allowed.

Hobbyist drone use is not permitted within or above the Duke Forest without expressed, written, and exceptional permission. Please refer to Duke University’s Drone Policy.

Any caches found will be considered abandoned property and will be removed and discarded. Any persons found flying drones or metal detecting will be reported to local law enforcement.

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