Regulations & Safety Considerations


COVID-19 Precautions Update: In accordance with CDC and state of NC guidelines regarding outdoor activities and spread of the coronavirus, Duke University no longer requires masks to be worn outdoors except in crowded areas or where social distancing is not possible. Adequate spacing (at least six feet of social distancing) should still be given AT ALL TIMES to other visitors of the Duke Forest and of Duke University’s Al Buehler Trail. See Duke’s latest update from May 3rd by clicking below.


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, which are available to rent.
  5. Cars, motorcycles, and motorized trail bikes are not allowed within the Forest except for pre-approved uses.
  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.

Read our Recreation Impact Statement from August 2020 about the significant negative impacts caused by unauthorized recreational activities. See a more extensive list of Prohibited Activities. Read Enjoying Duke Forest with Your Dog.


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.


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, call 911. If you observe possible unauthorized activity within the Forest, please contact the Office of the Duke Forest (919-613-8013).
  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 hazards 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. Read more about dogs in the Duke Forest.
  8. Keep a safe distance from any machinery or vehicles operating in the Forest.

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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