Potato Hill State Forest
- Open for recreation: Year-round
- Fee: Free
- Contact Information:
- DEC Region 7 Cortland Office: (607) 753-3095 M-F 8 am- 4 pm, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Emergency, Law Enforcement & Rangers: (518) 408-5850 or 911
- Location: Caroline, Tompkins County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 7R
- Map: View Potato Hill State Forest Map || View Same Map in PDF (262 KB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
Potato Hill State Forest encompasses 915 acres of land. It is a popular retreat for recreational activities such as hunting, hiking, snowmobiling, camping, bird watching, and fishing. The 5.2-acre pond located in the northern portion of the forest provides scenic relief as well as additional valuable habitat for waterfowl, various mammals, snakes, salamanders, frogs, and aquatic invertebrate insects such as dragonflies.
Potato Hill State Forest provides a matrix of different cover types and habitats that allows for a wide variety of plants and animals to flourish. Nature observation and hunting are easy and exciting with over 53 species of mammals predicted or confirmed in the area, including the red and gray fox, snowshoe hare, white tailed deer, fisher and northern flying squirrel.
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
There are two miles of marked hiking trails and approximately .75 miles of snowmobile trails maintained by Adopt-A-Natural-Resource partners. There is also a Public Forest Access Road that provides an additional 0.4 miles of recreational access into the forest.
General information on primitive camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
At-large primitive camping is allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.
General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules & regulations.
Hunting & Trapping
General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing
General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.
General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.
Watching the many different species of birds in the forest is also a favored pastime, as both common and rare species have been identified. Some of these include the cerulean warbler, Louisiana water-thrush and yellow-bellied sapsucker.
General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.
The 0.4 mile Forest Access Road is denoted for ATV use for people holding Department permits for mobility impairments.
Potato Hill State Forest may be accessed by taking NY Route 79 to Level Green Road, which runs along the western border of the forest. There is also access to the forest by taking Level Green Road to Blackman Hill Road. Parking is limited, but available from the shoulder of the road.
Blackman Hill Road (42.3565987°N, 76.2628574°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety
Practice Leave No Trace (leaves DEC website) principles when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.
How We Manage Potato Hill State Forest
Potato Hill State Forest is part of the Tri-County 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. If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email us email@example.com.
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 that will continue to provide ecological, economic and recreational services for many generations.
Originally cleared for pastureland by European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans, the land that is now Potato Hill State Forest offered limited reward for most farming attempts. The upland soils of the Allegheny Plateau are characteristically thin, steep and acidic. When combined with harsh winters and short growing seasons, the land proved unproductive and farms were abandoned as settlement was attempted elsewhere. The State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 set forth new legislation that authorized the Conservation Department to acquire land, by gift or purchase, for reforestation areas. These state forests, consisting of no less than 500 acres of contiguous land were to be "forever devoted to reforestation and the establishment and maintenance thereon of forests for watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, recreation and kindred purposes" (Article 9, Title 5, Environmental Conservation Law).
The majority of Potato Hill State Forest was acquired in 1938 and 1940, with two additional purchases in 1975 and 1980. The name of this forest attests to the large scale planting of potatoes in the area by early Irish Immigrants. The highest Tompkins County production recorded was 316,334 bushels in 1845. By 1865, Tompkins County production had dropped to 166,300 bushels, but potatoes were still raised on a decreasing scale until the 1960's. Previous owners of the land included the Kendall, Hotaling, Royce, Cortright, Delola and Michaud families, as well as the Federal Land Bank.
Because soil erosion was a serious problem on the newly acquired farmlands, a massive tree planting campaign began. The labor used to create these tree plantations was provided by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a work program established by the Roosevelt Administration to create jobs. The Slaterville Springs Camp S-125, hand planted more than 602,000 tree seedlings on Potato Hill State Forest between 1939 and 1941. In 1965, the Caroline Center Youth Camp hand planted an additional 2,000 trees. Almost all the seedlings planted were softwood species, with Norway spruce, red pine and white pine being the most frequently planted species.
Nearby Amenities and Attractions
Tompkins County Tourism Office (Leaves DEC website)
Gas, food, dining and lodging may be found in the nearby community of Ithaca.
Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.
Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.
Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.