Dec 20, 2023

Is It Legal to Pitch a Tent on Public Land in Massachusetts?

Just recently, I went on a camping trip in the Berkshires. It was a lot of fun like always, but the unfortunate happened before I went on the trip. No, I didn't forget the bug spray or anything like that (even though I should have packed some) LOL. In all seriousness one of the lift cables to my popup ended up snapping right as I was ready to open it up for the season. With only few days to spare, I had to act fast. So, I went down into my basement and busted out of my old 10-person tent that I had stored since 2020 when I did a camping trip down on The Cape.

During the camping trip recently, the question popped into my mind, can I set my tent up anywhere in Massachusetts as long as I am on public land?

Here are the laws and regulations I found:

According to, Massachusetts's state forest system is managed by the State's Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) where they manage about 450,000 acres of state forest lands across 103 individual forest units.

No, dispersed camping is not allowed in Massachusetts State Forests. However, "backcountry camping" is allowed within the state forest system but is restricted to designated camping sites along hiking trails and by the presence of a leanto. Otherwise, camping in Massachusetts State Forests is limited to state-operated and privately-operated campgrounds. -

The DCR also does not allow anyone to set up camp without first having secured a reservation. All reservations are handled online by Reserve America. The only exception is with leantos for hikers at designated backcountry campsites and that list can be found by clicking here.

Here are the laws and regulations I found: