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Potato Hill State Forest

hikingprimitive campingfishinghuntingtrappingsnowmobilingcross country skiingsnowshoeingparkingicon key

Potato Hill State Forest locator map

Potato Hill State Forest encompasses 915 acres of land. It is a popular retreat for recreational activities including hunting, hiking, snowmobiling, camping, bird watching, and fishing. The 6-acre pond located on the northern portion of the forest offers peaceful scenery as well as valuable habitat for waterfowl, various mammals, snakes, salamanders, frogs, and aquatic invertebrate insects such as dragonflies.

Potato Hill State Forest provides a variety of different cover types and habitats that allows for a wide variety of plants and animals to flourish. Nature observation and hunting opportunities are abundant, with more than 53 species of mammals predicted or confirmed in the area, including red and gray fox, snowshoe hare, white tailed deer, fisher and northern flying squirrel.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

marshy area with mixed tree species

Potato Hill offers 1.2 miles of marked hiking trails and approximately 0.75 mile of snowmobile trails maintained by Volunteer Stewardship Agreement (VSA) partners. Potato Hill also contains a portion of the Finger Lakes Trail (leaves DEC website).

Camping

primitive camping

General information on primitive camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

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.

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Fishing access information and fishing easement information is available.

Hunting & Trapping

hunting
trapping

Wildlife Management Unit: 7R

General information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Snowmobiling

snow mobiling

General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross country skiing
snowshoeing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.

Wildlife

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.

Directions

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)

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.

All users of Potato Hill State Forest must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Planning and Management

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Tri-County Unit Management Plan(UMP). In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email R7Forestry@dec.ny.gov.

Forest Management

early successional growth plants

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.

History

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 (now DEC) 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.

Since 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 State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Where to Find Nearby Amenities

  • Gas, food, dining and lodging may be found in the nearby community of Ithaca.

Tompkins County Tourism Office (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guidebooks 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.