Regulations & Safety Considerations

COVID-19 Precautions: In coordination with public health measures implemented by Duke University, masks are now required when passing others in the Duke Forest and when social distance (>6ft.) cannot be maintained. So, please carry a mask with you, and put it on when passing others.


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. In order to protect the rich legacy of research and the unique educational opportunities afforded by the resources within the Duke Forest, the following recreation rules are strictly enforced:

    1. All activities are restricted to forest roads, trails posted Designated Access Area, and picnic areas.
    2. Do not disturb any scientific equipment, stakes, or flagging.
    3. DOGS MUST BE LEASHED at all times, in accordance with county leash laws.  Under these laws, voice command is NOT recognized as adequate restraint.
    4. No fires of any kind are permitted in the Forest at any time except in the grills at the two improved picnic sites on NC 751.
    5. Cars, motorcycles, and motorized trail bikes are not allowed within the Forest or on the Forest roads except at the two improved picnic sites.
    6. Gates must not be blocked at any time.
    7. No vegetation (including trees, shrubs, flowers, mushrooms, brush, or grasses) may be cut, picked, scarred, or damaged in any way.
    8. No hunting or weapons.
    9. No camping is permitted.
    10. Access to the Duke Forest is not permitted after sunset except at the picnic shelters.
    11. Horses and mountain bikes must stay on graded and mowed roads.
    12. Rock and tree climbing is not permitted.

See a more extensive list of Prohibited Activities. Read Enjoying Duke Forest with Your Dog.

Safety Considerations

  1. Conditions along roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.  Use of the Duke Forest is at your own risk.
  2. The Forest, like the Duke Campus, is not immune to criminal activity. The respective, local county sheriff offices can respond to issues, but it should be noted that portions of the Forest are remote and thereby warrant the need for visitors to travel together.  If this is not possible, be sure to alert someone of your whereabouts and your expected time of return.
  3. Take a cell phone with you.  In the event of an emergency or if you observe possible unauthorized activity within the Forest, please contact Duke Police (684-2444), the Office of the Duke Forest (613-8013), or call 911.
  4. Lock your vehicle and be sure there is nothing visible within the car that might entice someone to break into the vehicle.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings and possible exposure to things such as insects, tick and snake bites, allergic reactions, low hanging limbs, and tripping hazards.  Please become familiar with the area’s poisonous plants and animals.
  6. Be aware of the weather conditions and dress appropriately.  During times of high temperature and humidity, it is recommended that you carry drinking water.
  7. For the safety of your pets and other visitors to the Forest, dogs must be kept on leash at all times.  Under county leash laws, voice command is NOT recognized as adequate restraint.
  8. Keep a safe distance from any machinery or vehicles operating in the Forest.
  9. Follow all posted Duke Forest regulations and signage.  Failure to abide by these rules could result in a written citation and your loss of use of the Forest.

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