Morgan Hill State Forest
Morgan Hill State Forest (Cortland #4 and Onondaga #1) encompasses 5,284 acres of land located in the towns of Fabius, Truxton and Cuyler in the Northeastern portion of Cortland County and the Southeastern portion of Onondaga County. It offers excellent opportunities for recreational activities such: as hunting, hiking, fishing, camping, bird watching, informal cross-country skiing, informal mountain biking, informal horseback riding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.
Morgan Hill State Forest was originally used by the Iroquois for extensive hunting. Later the land was cleared for farming by Revolutionary War Veterans and early European settlers. The area's soils, however, are thin, relatively steep and acidic, and the growing seasons are short with long, harsh winters. This combination of factors resulted in land that was mostly unproductive and that would eventually be abandoned in pursuit of more productive lands in the Midwest.
The State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 were created by the Roosevelt Administration as a means for the state to take over the responsibility of managing abandoned farms, making them productive once more. Morgan Hill State Forest was one such area. The forest was established in the early 1930's by state foresters and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) with the planting of 4,840,424 conifer seedlings. Today, the approximately 70 year-old conifer forest covers more than forty-five percent of the area. The forest provides diverse ecological, economic, and recreational services to hundreds of people each year.
Morgan Hill State Forest is a very popular area because of its exquisite scenic beauty and excellent hunting opportunities, as well as its easy accessibility from the Syracuse and Cortland area. The upland forests range from 1,200 to 2,000 feet in elevation, with several small valleys and creeks intermittently bisecting the almost completely forested landscape. Because of the nature of its location, the 11.5 miles of Public Forest Access Roads that run through the forest are best accessed during the summer and the fall.
As mentioned previously, conifers comprise a significant portion of the forest. Native hardwoods and hemlock trees, however, dominate the remainder of the landscape, contributing a vast array of potential habitats for many different species. This is the backdrop which provides for great hunting, camping, hiking and bird-watching. There is a wide variety of mammals, song birds, raptors, and amphibians which make the forest their home. Spruce Pond is a favorite recreational site in the forest. Camping is allowed at the pond, by permit only. Fishing and camping are popular activities at the pond, which is regularly stocked with trout. Many people also find this a favorite site for viewing nature and taking photographs of wildlife and wild flowers. For camping at Spruce Pond a permit is require and one must camp only at one of the 12 designated sites. Land management actions will be guided by the Hill and Hollow Unit Management Plan which is currently being developed.
Morgan Hill State Forest is part of the Hill and Hollow 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.
Morgan Hill State Forest Multiple Use Trail System has been designed to offer many different opportunities for family-based recreation. There are 11.2 miles of marked foot trails which connect the western part of the forest with Labrador Hollow Unique Area, and then continue east as part of the Finger Lakes Trail System. Winter recreation is encouraged with over 18.7 miles of snowmobile trails. There are two trail sections denoted for ATV use for individuals holding Department permits for mobility impairments.
***Stay Safe- Bring A Friend When Out on the Trails***
From NY 80 or NY 91, Morgan Hill State Forest may be accessed from Shackham Road, which runs north and south through both Cortland #4 and Onondaga #1 . The forest may also be accessed by taking NY 13 toward Truxton, NY, and RT. 91. Continue past RT. 91 about 1.0 mile and then turn left onto Morgan Hill Road which runs into the southern portion of the forest and becomes a Public Forest Access Road.
Tips for Using State Forests
Anyone enjoying the use of this State Forest must observe the following rules which protect them and the forest environment:
- Do not litter. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
- If you build a fire, do so with care and use wood from dead and downed trees only. Never leave a fire unattended. Three foot radius must be cleared around fire.
- All motorized vehicles are restricted to access roads posted as motor vehicle trails. Off road use of motorized vehicles, such as, trail bikes and four-wheel drives is not allowed, except where specifically permitted by signs, posted notice or by DEC Permit.
- 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.
- Permanent structures, including tree stands or blinds, are not allowed.
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