Sugar Hill State Forest
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Sugar Hill State Forest is located about 7 miles west of Watkins Glen, near the hamlets of Tyrone and Bradford, in the Allegheny Plateau. It covers approximately 9,085 acres in the towns of Orange, Tyrone, and Reading in Schuyler County.
Six Nations Trail System
Among its many attractions is the Six Nations Trail System, approximately 35 miles long. A portion of the trail system is located on Goundry Hill State Forest. It is open for horse use in the summer months, and snowmobile use when there is sufficient snow cover. Foot travel is encouraged all year round.
The main trail head for the system is the Sugar Hill FireTower and Recreation Area located near the north end of the Sugar Hill State Forest, off of Tower Hill Rd. At that location you will find parking, water, flush toilets, the fire tower, rangers cabin, picnic area and pavilion, 16 horse stalls, rec building, kiosks with sign-in sheets, an accessible horse mounting ramp, two radio towers, a couple of archery targets and field area for camping. The trails and Sugar Hill State Forest are open for use, but due to funding reductions, some trails and DEC roads on this and other state forests, may receive minimum or no maintenance.
Lean-to on Sugar Hill
The rangers cabin and rec building are usually closed for public use. The fire tower observation deck is closed, but the stairs up to the top landing are open for climbing at your own risk. It is currently one of the last fire towers in New York State readily accessible to the public and affords a 15-mile vista in all directions. On a clear day the view is spectacular.
Camping and picnicking are first come-first serve for the prime locations. Large groups (20 or more people) need to contact the DEC Bath Sub-Office and get a Temporary Revocable Permit (TRP). There are usually four or more large, organized gatherings each year, so check the kiosk or call the DEC Bath sub-office.
The 16 horse stalls are also first come-first use. After these are full, horses may be tied to vehicles or to stakes firmly implanted in the ground. Horses may also be held in small portable paddocks. Horses may not be tied directly to a tree, to minimize damage to the tree.
Lower Evergreen Parking Lot, a secondary trail head, is located near the south end of the state forest, off of Evergreen Hill Rd. At that location you will find four horse stalls, a one-hole outhouse, picnic tables, fire rings, and a kiosk with sign in sheets. Water is available from a nearby stream, but is not potable, so treat it before drinking it.
There are eight other parking areas which hold from two to six cars and from which the trail system can be accessed. There are numerous other access spots where the trail system crosses a road without a parking lot.
Maps to the Trail System
The brochure of the trail system can be found in the kiosk located at the Fire Tower Recreation Area, the parking lot on the south end of Evergreen Hill Rd, from the Bath DEC office, or by printing this pdf of the brochure. It is 11 inches by 17 inches, double sided, and 1.4 MB in size. Additional maps may be found on the Six Nation Trail System or Goundry Hill State Forest web pages or create your own with the State Recreational Lands Interactive Mapper.
Include a horse-mounting platform, restrooms, and picnic tables located at the Fire Tower Recreation Area. Picnic tables are available at the Lower Evergreen parking lot. The only ATV trails that exist are for persons with disabilities - pursuant to DEC Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD). Individuals with qualifying disabilities may apply for a permit to operate an ATV on trails designated by the DEC, a permit must first be obtained from the DEC. (The trails are open for walking at any time.) Do to the multi-user nature of the trails on Sugar Hill State Forest the designated trails are only open for ATV use from October 1 to December 31. One of these trails runs south from the Fire Tower Recreation area on Seneca Trail and ends at the parking lot on the east end of Tower Hill Rd. The other is a section of A-Trail, starting at the intersection of Maple Lane and Sugar Hill Rd. and ends about two miles to the south.
Full listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations.
Also located on the area is a portion of the Finger Lakes/North Country Trail (foot traffic only), the Sugar Hill Recreation Area, and the Sugar Hill Archery Course.
Town and county roads provide mountain biking opportunities.
Hunting and trapping are permitted on the property in accordance with all game regulations, unless otherwise posted. Traps may not be set on public road right of ways. Body gripping traps set on land must be at least 100 feet from public trails. Permanent tree stands are prohibited. However, a tree stand or blind is allowed, provided that it does not injure any trees, is properly marked or tagged with the owner's name and address or valid hunting or fishing license number, and is placed and used during big game season, migratory game bird season, or turkey season, but no more than thirty days in one location per calendar year.
Geo-caching is allowed although caches must be marked with the owner's contact information and may not be placed in dangerous or ecologically sensitive locations.
State Forest Regulations
Anyone enjoying this property must observe the following rules which protect both 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. All fires must be extinguished with water, and the coals must be raked until cool to the touch.
- Do not bring firewood from home because this may also transport dangerous invasive pests to the state forest.
- Unauthorized cutting of live trees or new trail building is prohibited.
- Camping for more than three consecutive nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a DEC Forest Ranger.
- Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of any road, trail, spring, stream, pond or other body of water except at camping areas designated by the department.
- Human waste should be buried in a shallow hole 4-6 inches deep, and at least 150 feet from water, trails, and campsites. Cover with leaf litter and dirt.
- Motorized vehicles are permitted only on access roads posted as open to motor vehicles. Off road use of motorized vehicles is prohibited, except where specifically permitted by signs, posted notice or by DEC permit.
- No permanent structures should be established, including tree stands or blinds.
- ATV and UTV use is generally prohibited on State Forests.
- Individuals with disabilities can apply for a Motorized Access Permit (MAPPWD) to use a motor vehicle on designated roads.
- Horses must have Negative Coggins Test. Please remove manure and place in the wagon next to the horse stalls. Keep horses out of camping and picnic area. Do not tether horses to live trees.
Please abide by the above rules and regulations governing state land for the safety of the forest and the public.
This area was settled beginning in approximately 1802. As noted in other state forest descriptions, agricultural abandonment occurred relatively early, (1910-1929) on the hilltop lands occupied by this state forest.
The State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 set forth the legislation which authorized the Conservation Department to acquire land by gift or purchase for reforestation purposes. These state forests consisting of not 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 for recreation and kindred purposes". This broad program is presently authorized under Article 9, Title 5, of the NYS Environmental Conservation Law.
In 1933, under the 1929 State Reforestation Law, the first 27 proposals for Sugar Hill State Forest were purchased, for a total of about 2,050 acres. They ranged in size from about one acre to over 200. With the exceptions of the war years of 1943 and 1944, additional acres were added every year up until 1950, all for $4 per acre. Two proposals totaling about 60.7 acres were added under the Park and Recreation Land Acquisition Act in 1964 and 1965. Most of the proposals were purchased from individuals or families, but the proposal that the Fire Tower and Sugar Hill Recreation Area was constructed on was purchased from the Glen National Bank in 1936.
During that same time period, the United States was entering the Great Depression. The administration of then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933 to provide employment opportunities for the thousands of unemployed men at the time. Sugar Hill State Forest and other state forests were the sites of many work projects carried out by the CCC, including the planting of thousands of pine and spruce trees, the construction of roads, the Sugar Hill Fire Tower, and water holes between 1934 and 1941. The earliest plantings were done by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).
The CCC was quite active on this state forest in the early days. In 1935 camp S-123 was established on Pine Creek Rd, and the records indicate they did an experimental seeding of pin cherry, choke cherry, birch and white ash seeds that first year. In 1936 they planted 1,266.1 acres of red pine, Japanese larch, Norway spruce, black locust, and/or white pine, for a total of approximately 1,719,650 trees. They also seeded 30.5 acres to black walnut, black cherry, birch, red oak, and/or hickory. That camp was later closed on October 31, 1941, with the pending start of World War II, so later plantings were done by inmates and/or DEC staff. Additional acres were planted between 1937-1940, 1958-1967, 1969, 1972, 1974-1976, the most recent in 1986.
The Sugar Hill Fire Tower was built in 1941 by the CCC, and was used until the mid-1980's when aerial detection became more efficient and economical. It is 75 feet tall and sits at an elevation of 2,096 feet above sea level. In a 1991 ceremony, celebrating its 50th year in existence, the tower was designated a historic landmark by the American Forestry Association, and listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.
In 1958, the State Department of Corrections opened Camp Monterey Conservation Work Camp. The prison camp was built on Evergreen Hill Rd. because the old CCC camp was located on a busy road. Initially, the prison had 50-60 inmates and 30-40 employees. Today, it has the capacity for 300 inmates and provides employment for up to 200 people. The inmates provide labor for numerous projects on the state forest land and to neighboring towns and parks.
State forests now provide opportunities for many informal outdoor recreational activities. They also provide wood for New York's forest products industry, a major part of New York's economy.
As many of the plantations established by the CCC and inmates reach the end of their natural life (75-100 years of age), it is reasonable to assume that it will all begin to decline at nearly the same time, and in the process convert to natural hardwood stands. As this decline intensifies, salvage timber sales of some of these areas will probably be necessary.
This forest also has mineral resources, and a history of mineral extraction. In 2001 a deep natural gas well was drilled west of Evergreen Hill Rd. It successfully hit gas, and visitors should expect to see natural gas wellheads and pipelines. The pipeline and power line corridors provide additional access to the interior of the forest. Except for a short section parallel to Mohawk and A Trails, this is for foot travel only, please!
Today, Sugar Hill and all state forests in New York are managed for multiple benefits to serve the needs of the people of New York. Sustainable management practices ensure a perpetual supply of timber, a diversity of wildlife habitats, compatible recreational opportunities and clean water.
The route to the Sugar Hill Recreation Area of Sugar Hill State Forest which is longer, but with fewer turns and gentler hills, would be to follow Rt. 17/86 to the Savona exit, and then take 226 north to Co. Rt. 23. Turn east on Co. Rt. 23, take the third right onto Tower Hill Rd. and the entrance to the tower area is the third right on Tower Hill Rd.
The route from Watkins Glen is: from Rt.14 in downtown take 409 west, take a right onto Co. Rt. 28, then a left onto Co. Rt. 23, then a left onto Co. Rt. 21, the first right onto Tower Hill Rd, and then a left into the tower area.
Comments and Suggestions
State forest lands are owned by all New York State Residents and represent a significant natural heritage for future generations. The Department of Environmental Conservation strives to manage these lands for the best long-term interests. We appreciate your help. If you have suggestions on how we can improve the management of these lands, please let us know. Address your concerns to the Lands and Forests DEC Region 8 Bath Sub-Office.
For further information on management activities:
Contact State Land Management Working Group, DEC Bath Sub-Office 607-776-2165. (M-F; 8:30 am to 4:45 pm)
Important Telephone Numbers
Fire and Law Enforcement : 585-226-6706 or 911
State Forest Office (M - F; 8:30 am to 4:45 pm) 607-776-2165