RECREATION OPPORTUNITY SPECTRUM
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:
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
• 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
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
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.