Want a Dream Home Near the Appalachian Trail? Read This.

For Sale: Sunny House in the Forest! ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

For Sale: Sunny House in the Forest! Be sure to look at your Dream Home before you buy. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

The dream home for some folks is a gargantuan estate on an earthquake-prone, mudslide-prone, wildfire-prone hillside in California. I'd rather have a cozy cabin in a forest somewhere along the Appalachian Trail (AT). Would you? But even a dream home on the AT comes with responsibilities and a few dangers.

According to our friends with the National Forest Service in North Carolina, living next to a national forest allows homeowners to enjoy the forest's scenic beauty, closeness to nature and recreation opportunities.

They might not, however, be aware of issues that are unique to national forests and the responsibilities that come with living next door.

While some national forest lands are set aside as wilderness and remain undisturbed, other areas allow timber harvesting, which is done to manage for wildlife habitat and forest health, and provide needed wood products. Often private land lies within the forest boundary. The Forest Service does not regulate how these landowners manage their property, even though it can appear to be part of the forest on some maps.

Recognizing Boundary Lines

In most cases, the boundary lines between public and private land are clearly posted with signs and red paint, but sometimes older lines can be hard to locate. It is the adjacent landowner's responsibility to know where the boundary lies and to respect it, even if markings are not obvious.

Forest Service property corners are designated by iron pipes, metal posts, rock mounds or sometimes wood stakes with stamped monuments. Usually one or more witness trees are tagged to reference a corner marker.

If unsure of the boundary, adjacent landowners should contact the nearby district office or a licensed land surveyor before beginning any land-disturbing activity. It is illegal to expand a yard, dump debris or cut trees on national forest land without permission.

Neighbors are also encouraged to keep structures at a reasonable distance from common forest property lines because:

  • Distance offers protection from falling trees. Generally the Forest Service does not remove trees that lean or fall onto private property.
  • Distance creates a defensible space for the landowner, which makes it less likely for fire to move onto private land and cause damage to homes and property.

Managing Fire

The Firewise program provides information on preventative actions that can be taken to minimize the threat of wildfire, so landowners can be proactive and safeguard their lives and property.

Firewise plans, guides, tips and diagrams are available at:

Wildfires are often caused by activities on adjacent private lands, such as debris burning. Private landowners who cause wildfires may be liable for fire suppression costs if a fire originates on their property.

Prescribed fire is different than wildfire. Prescribed fire is used on national forest lands under careful conditions to enhance habitat for wildlife and to eliminate dead vegetation from the forest floor. Prescribed fire reduces the fuel load, which reduces the threat of wildfire.

When a prescribed burn is planned, the district office will contact adjacent landowners and let them know the date, time and area to be treated.

Programs exist for adjacent landowners to work with the Forest Service on cooperative burns across ownership lines. District rangers can provide details.

Acquiring Permits

A permit is required for collecting forest products like firewood, pine straw, ramps and galax. A nominal permit fee is charged. Gold panning and rockhounding do not require a permit, but these activities are limited in order to minimize resource damage.

Permits are also required for the construction of roads, and rights-of-way for driveways and utility corridors that cannot be reasonably accommodated on private land. All permitted activities must be compatible with other forest uses and be in the public interest. Processing these more complex permits can take time. Applicants usually are responsible for paying processing costs and an annual permit fee.

Recreation events and commercial outfitting are allowed on national forests, with a permit. Gatherings of more than 75 people also require a permit.

Recreating in the Forest

Visitors to the National Forests in North Carolina enjoy many activities like hunting, fishing, bicycling, rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding, OHV riding, picnicking, camping, scenic drives and water sports. Recreation visitors should not trespass onto adjacent private property. To protect forest resources, horses and bikes should stay on trails designated for those uses.

North Carolina's national forests have four designated trail systems for off-highway vehicles (OHVs). OHVs can only be used on designated trails. It is illegal to drive unregistered vehicles on other forest trails, on gated roads and on open forest roads.

Private property owners are welcome to use OHV trails, however it is prohibited to ride an OHV from private land to a designated OHV trail. Creating new trails on public land is also prohibited.

No matter where your house might be, love can turn it into a dream home.

Click Here for Forest Service Regs for Dream Homes Near the AT


Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, News, US Forest Service, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, and Conservation

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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