Begin Main Content Area

Special Requests to Use State Game Lands

The Game Commission protects the Commonwealth's resources while ensuring that hunting, furtaking and wildlife dependent recreation are enjoyed to the greatest extent possible. Sometimes activities interfere with each other or harm wildlife resources. Therefore, certain activities cannot be conducted without permission from the Director.

Special Use Permit Applications

  1. Anyone wishing to conduct an activity that requires Game Commission authorization; including any activity or event involving more than 10 persons, which may conflict with the intended purposes or uses of property, or poses a potential environmental or safety problem, should apply for State Game Lands Special Use Permit (PDF). Maps should accompany the application outlining the activity area. Except in exceptional circumstances, permits shall only be issued to responsible adults over the age of 18.
  2. Completed applications should be forwarded to the appropriate region for review.
  3. The applicant will receive written notification for a Special Use Permit, disapproval or conditional approval.

Requests for Trails and Designated Routes

A "designated route" is a multi-use road or trail located upon state game lands, which is open to hiking, bicycling and horseback riding at certain times of the year, and under certain restrictions.

Public requests for permanent new trails, trail re-routes and designated routes on state game lands should be made using an Application for State Game Lands Special Use Permit (PDF).

Trained representatives from organizations such as those listed below are authorized, through participation in a trails training course covering best management practices and trail maintenance standards. These representatives will review the proposed trail on site and may act as an advisor to the applicant. Proof of training may be requested. The responsibility of the trained trail organization representative is to conduct an initial review of the proposed trail area, and if satisfied that adequate best management practices are proposed in the trail planning and layout, co-sign the application. No flagging or trail marking is permitted without prior approval of the appropriate Game Commission land management group supervisor.

Keystone Trails Association
PA Appalachian Trails Committee
PA Equine Council
PA Chapter International Mountain Bicycling Association
PA State Snowmobile Association

The permit applicant should have support from an established club or group that is willing to enter into a Trail Maintenance Agreement (see below) with the Game Commission.

Any application for a trail that enters or leaves state game lands on adjoining private land, must include a copy of a signed agreement with the adjoining private landowners, allowing access through their private lands to state game lands. These agreements should be for at least five years or be annual, continually-renewing agreements.

Any application for a trail that enters or leaves state game lands on adjoining public land must include documentation of an existing designated trail or trail agreement from the public land agency prior to consideration.

Completing a PNDI search for the proposed area, and attaching the clearance documents to the application is recommended.

The Trail Maintenance Agreement

Trail maintenance agreements are required for any proposed new trail, trail re-route or new designated route established on state game lands.

Agreements typically span a period of five years, with annual extensions after that, unless revoked. The maintenance agreement covers specific issues to that particular trail such as access for trail work, maintained trail width, approved trail signs, road crossings, trail volunteers, contact numbers, authorized equipment for trail maintenance, trail uses, trail closures, cutting of vegetation, etc.

Two copies of the trail maintenance agreement will be prepared by the Game Commission region office and sent to the applicant for signature. Once signed and returned, the agreement will be considered along with the application for approval, disapproval or conditional approval (pending additional information/documentation).

Application Review Process

Applicants should allow plenty of lead time. Game Commission staff members who conduct trail reviews are especially busy during the fall and late spring seasons.

Signed permit applications will be forwarded to the appropriate Game Commission land management group supervisor.

The following impacts are considered during the review process: appropriateness for the affected state game lands; hunting or management conflicts; funding implications; land and habitat classifications; wetlands; critical, unique, or special habitats; threatened or endangered species or habitats; required permits; topography and soil conditions; sustainability; proper trail planning and layout; access for maintenance; habitat management or forestry impacts; Game Commission regulations and other lawful uses; state game lands management plans; anticipated use; wildlife impacts; other environmental or management concerns.

State game lands have been established as wildlife management areas, and to provide opportunities for hunting and trapping. All other recreational uses of these lands including trails are considered secondary uses and subject to management discretion, therefore not all trail requests will be approved.

If the permit application is disapproved, the applicant will receive written notification from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

When an approval is issued, a copy of the Special Use Permit and maintenance agreement will be returned to the applicant. This will signal the complete and final approval for the proposed trail. When the applicant receives these documents from the Game Commission, they may initiate trail activities as outlined in the agreement.