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Summer Hill State Forest

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Summer Hill State Forest locator map

Recreational Activities

  • Primitive Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hunting, Wildlife Management Unit 7J
  • Horseback Riding
  • Nature Photography/Observation
  • Snowmobiling
  • Trapping

Background Observation

Summer Hill State Forest encompasses 4,355 acres of dense forest land and is located in the towns of Locke, Sempronius and Summer Hill in southern Cayuga County. Some of the more popular recreational activities include hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, snowmobiling and horseback riding. Horseback riding has grown in popularity within the forest, and an informal trail system is currently in existence. However, since this area can become very wet at times, the season of use is limited to May through October, and the DEC respectfully requests the use of sound judgment and good sense when contemplating a trip to the trails.

There is a 28-mile snowmobile trail that runs through Summer Hill State Forest, partly on seasonal town roads and partly in the forest. At this time there are no plans to construct other formal facilities, and management will continue according to the Hewitt-Cayuga Highlands Unit Management Plan


Article 9, Titles 5 and 7, of the Environmental Conservation Law authorize the Department of Environmental Conservation to manage lands acquired outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Management, as defined by these laws, includes watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, recreation and kindred purposes.

The first settlers on or near the Hewitt- Cayuga Highlands arrived in 1792 in the town of Niles and later traveled to Moravia, Locke, Sempronius, Scott, and Summer Hill. Nathaniel Fillmore, one of the first to settle in Summer Hill, was the father of U.S. President Millard Fillmore.

The majority of Summer Hill State Forest was purchased by the state in parcels during the 1930's. During this period, lands that had once been cleared for agriculture were restored to forests in an attempt to counteract the crashing economy and loss of jobs. The planting of trees not only created new job opportunities for hundreds of young men, but the forest products themselves would restore the hope to hundreds.

The forest is said to have been named as such because it was a place that people only wanted to be in the summer. Whereas the winter brought extremely cold temperatures, a retreat into the hills during summer provided cool relief to the sun's intense heat.

Field Notes

Summer Hill State Forest is comprised of several different cover types, including northern hardwood, hardwood-hemlock, white pine, red pine, Norway spruce, and white spruce. Almost completely forested, the area provides protection and solace for an estimated 51 mammal species, 126 bird species, 20 species of reptiles, and 23 species of amphibians. A full listing of wildlife species confirmed or likely to be present in Summer Hill State Forest and surrounding areas can be found in the Hewitt-Cayuga Highlands Unit Management Plan which is available for review at the Lands and Forests Office in Cortland

Hardwood stand in Summer Hill State Forest

The heavily wooded landscape of Summer Hill State Forest is what makes it ideal for hunting and trapping. It is also a perfect place to enjoy the soul soothing sensation of being surrounded by the sounds and smells of the forest.

DEC foresters are charged with the responsibility of managing State Forests to enhance and maintain a diverse and healthy forest ecosystem for society and wildlife. As such, forest management is strategically employed to develop a balanced mix of young, middle-aged, and old (late successional) forest types, as well as to provide the public with compatible recreational activities.

Summer Hill State Forest is part of the Hewitt-Cayuga Highlands Unit Management Plan. A Unit Management Plan (UMP) guides the DEC's land management activities on several geographically related forests for a ten-year period, although a number of goals and objectives in the plan focus on a much longer time period. Each UMP addresses specific objectives and actions for public use and forest management.

***Stay Safe- Bring A Friend When Out In The Forest***


Summer Hill State Forest may be accessed by taking NY Route 90 to Toll Gate Road, Lick Street, Salt Road or Dresser Road.

State Forest Regulations

For your safety and protection of the resource, the following regulations are in place:

  • All State Forests are Carry-In-Carry-Out facilities.
  • Unauthorized cutting of live trees or new trail building is prohibited.
  • Horse Back riders may not ride during wet conditions.
  • Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger
  • Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of water, roads or trail.
  • Camping groups of ten or more persons, or for stays longer than three nights must obtain a permit from a DEC Forest Ranger.
  • Use only dead, fallen wood for camp fires.
  • All fires must be extinguished with water and the coals must be raked until cool to the touch.
  • Human waste should be buried in a shallow hole 4-6 inches deep and at least 150 feet from water, trails, and campsites and covered with leaf litter and dirt.
  • Keep pets under control and on leash while other forest users are around.

Unauthorized use of motorized vehicles is prohibited! This includes cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATV's.

Important Numbers:

State Forest Office (M-F 8 am-4 pm): 607-753-3095 ext. 217

Forest Ranger (Law Enforcement/Emergencies): 607-283-1159

DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: 518-408-5850

Emergencies: 911