The ROS system is an inventory and management

tool used by the Forest Service to assist in

providing lands for recreation use. A premise of

ROS is that people expect and seek variety in

forest settings. For example, backcountry campers

are not looking for highly developed facilities such

as roads, lighted areas, picnic tables, or flush

toilets; they seek solitude and hope to find few

reminders of civilization. Recreation vehicle campers

and car campers, on the other hand, often expect

easy access and developed facilities offering

comfort, security, and social opportunities.


The figure above illustrates the six ROS classes reflecting the range of possible recreation settings.


Figure of the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum showing a spectrum of settings ranging from Solitude, Risk Taking, and Self-Reliance to Security, Comfort, and Socializing.


The setting range includes: 


Semi-primitive Non-motorized

Semi-primitive Motorized

Roaded Natural

Rural and



The Forest Service strives to provide

and maintain the range of settings from

roaded natural through primitive to meet the

expectations and desires of visitors.

ROS classifications help determine acceptable

development for each specific site. A combination

of the following factors determines the ROS class

for an area:

• Remoteness, including distance from roads

and settlements.

• Degree of naturalness, based upon the level

of human modification to the landscape.

• Social setting, based upon the number of

encounters with other people experienced

in a typical day.

• Managerial setting or degree of visitor

controls evident.


To maintain a setting’s integrity while creating a

satisfying visitor experience, these factors must be

consistent within a setting. For example, the width

and surface of an access road that leads to a

campground should reflect the development size

and type of facilities to be found at the

campground. Also, the

utilities and materials

selected for buildings

must support the

assigned setting.

The ROS does not apply to recreation facilities

alone, but to all types of Forest Service facilities

from public to nonpublic to utilitarian. The

following graphic illustrates the system of

appropriate structures and uses and how they

fit into the ROS settings.


Figure shows the influence of the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum on facility character and type of use.

The range of facilities includes:

Bridges, signs/interpretation, toilets, forest service utility buildings.


See Appendix C for more information.




Chapter 4 Table of Contents

Reader’s Guide