Is camping, tenting or dwelling permitted in forests?

Forest impressions
Photo: BML / Alexander Haiden

The use of forests for camping in the dark or tenting without the consent of the owner of the forest or the person responsible for maintaining the forest road is to be fined.

The Forest Act 1975 stipulates that anyone may in principle enter the forest for recreational purposes and spend some time there.

Certain forest areas and those forest areas that the owner of the forest has closed off (in a manner permitted under forest law) are excluded from this legal obligation. Moreover, forest areas can also be excluded from the use for recreational purposes (blocked for this purpose) under other laws.

Use going beyond entry and spending some time for recreational purposes, such as camping (staying at a certain place for a longer time) in the dark and tenting, riding vehicles (also bicycles) or horse-riding, is only permitted with the consent of the owner of the forest, and on forest roads only with the consent of the forest road maintainer, which in most cases is the owner of the forest.

Throwing away garbage is prohibited and punishable (also) in forests. Waste must therefore be taken along and disposed of correctly, as (sharp-edged) waste could also harm other visitors to the forest or wild animals.

Please note that the lighting of fires in forests is subject to stringent regulations.

Camping in the dark and tenting

Camping in forests in the dark, tenting, camping with a caravan or spending the night in a vehicle (the last two cases also require permission to ride a vehicle in the forest) are subject to the consent of the owner of the forest or the maintainer of the forest road.

Is it allowed to build a hut in the forest?

The only case in which the building or use of a hut does not constitute clearing (use of forest soil for purposes other than those of forest cultivation) is if the hut really serves only forest management and is indispensable for forest management. Dwelling in a hut which is not required for forest operations is therefore considered clearing.

In the case of clearing, permissibility under forest law therefore requires a clearing notice or a clearing permit.

To be permissible the building of a hut must, in particular, also comply with the applicable building and nature conservation laws.

Administrative offences
According to the Forest Act camping in the dark, tenting or camping without the consent of the forest owner or forest road maintainer, is punishable by a fine of up to  150.

Who, for this purpose, rides a vehicle on a forest road identifiably cordoned off for general use without authorisation is liable for punishment by a fine of  730 or a prison sentence of up to one week.

The throwing away of garbage is to be punished by a fine of up to  150.

Violation of the ban on clearing is punishable by a fine of up to  7,270 or imprisonment for up to four weeks.

Legal basis

  • Forest Act 1975, Federal Law Gazette No 440, as last amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 56/2016 "Rechtsinformationssystem"
  • Nature conservation laws and construction codes of the Provinces

Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management
Directorate III 2 - Forest Legislation, Legal Policy and Vocational Qualification
Marxergasse 2
1030 Vienna
Director Mag. Katharina Kaiser
Phone: +43 1 711 00 - 606681