Chautauqua Gorge State Forest
- Open for Recreation: Year-round
- Fee: Free
- Contact Information:
- DEC Region 9 Dunkirk Office (M-F 8:00AM - 4:00PM): (716) 363-2052; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Emergency, Law Enforcement & Rangers: (518) 408-5850 or 911
- Location: Town of Chautauqua, Chautauqua County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 9J
- Map: View Chautauqua Gorge State Forest Map || View Same Map in PDF (188 KB) || View Campsite & Day Use Area Map in PDF (127 KB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
The 538-acre Chautauqua Gorge State Forest provides opportunities for informal outdoor recreation such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and hunting. This state forest also offers a day use area with picnic tables and fire rings, out house facilities, and a public parking area.
This property is part of the Chautauqua Gorge watershed area, and part of the reason for the property's purchase is for watershed protection. The northern portion of the property borders the Chautauqua Gorge itself. Hannum Road used to be a through road that crossed the gorge. Now it abruptly ends in the creek bed. This old abandoned road bed is popular as an access to the gorge area. The State owns very little of the creek bed and the public should be aware they are trespassing if they use the creek bed beyond this point.
Day Use Area
On Hannum Road there is a day use area for picnicking that has pavilions, picnic tables, fire rings and a walking trail. An accessible ¼-mile loop trail circles around a larch and spruce plantation. The trail is made of crushed stone and is accessible to people of all abilities. This trail can be used for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. There is one pavilion with a fire ring and one trash bin that meets accessibility standards as well.
There is one port-a-john facility on site in the day use area that's in place during peak season in the summer months only. Camping is not permitted in the day use area and may only be done elsewhere on the unit - see Camping section below. This is a carry-in carry-out facility. Please take all garbage with you when you leave the day use facilities.
Fires are allowed in the designated fire rings only. All fire rings in the day use area are equipped with a hinged cooking grate for grilling. Only dead or downed wood can be used. Please do not transport fire wood in to the area due to the recent outbreak of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) beetle in New York State. New York State is implementing a plan to address the EAB. Obeying the firewood transport regulations will help prevent the spread of this devastating beetle.
General information on primitive camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
There are 8 designated camp sites on Hannum Road adjacent to the day use area. Seven of the sites are primitive tent sites with a rock fire ring. Site #8 is upgraded with a picnic shelter and steel fire ring as well as a gravel parking pad large enough for a small self-contained camper unit. The sites are designated with a yellow camp disk - see picture at right. All camp sites are first come, first serve. See the Camp Map for general site locations.
At-large backcountry camping is also allowed throughout the unit, except in the day use area. 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 hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
The day use area has an accessible ¼-mile loop trail that leads around a larch/spruce plantation planted by the CCC. The trail is easy to walk and takes about 10 to 15 minutes. There are two stopping areas to observe scenery along the trail. In the fall when the leaves become sparse, a view of the gorge can be seen.
The end of Hannum Road is the beginning of the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail (leaves DEC website) that crosses through public and private land within Chautauqua County. Only non-motorized recreation is allowed on the trail.
Coordinators of organized trail events need to obtain a Temporary Revocable Permit for use of the trails prior to the event. These can be obtained at the Dunkirk Office at (716) 363-2052.
Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing
General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
The Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail can be used for skiing and snowshoeing. In the winter, access to this trail is only from Summerdale Road as Hannum Road is not plowed. However, you can park near the snowplow turn around and access the trail by walking down Hannum Road about 1/2 mile to the trailhead.
General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
Biking is allowed on the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail and on all forest access roads.
General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
There are no designated trails on this state forest but a public snowmobile trail borders the south end of the property. This trail is part of the county-wide snowmobile trail system and can also be used for cross-country skiing and hiking.
Hunting and Trapping
Hunting and trapping are allowed on the property. Please be sure to abide by all game laws.
General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules and regulations.
Chautauqua Creek borders the northern part of the state forest for about one mile and fishing is available on the creek for wild brown trout and for steelhead (rainbow trout), which make seasonal runs up the creek from Lake Erie. There's an unmarked trail that leads to the creek that is very primitive. Upgrades are planned for this trail but have not been made yet.
General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.
The abundance of different habitat types created by forestry management practices make this forest an ideal area for various wildlife sightings. Numerous wildlife species can be found here, including white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, raccoon, and turkey. There are also occasional fox, mink and bear sightings. A variety of songbirds can be found, especially near heavily harvested areas where there is thick seedling-sapling cover.
General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.
Improvements to picnic facilities and construction of a new trail in 2009 have enhanced recreational opportunities and improved access for people of all abilities at the day use area. Improvements include picnic shelters renovated with new metal flashing, new green metal picnic tables, new fire rings, crushed stone around each shelter and better drainage. Also, there is one port-a- john that is accessible in the day use area adjacent to the accessible parking.
The area also features a new picnic shelter complete with a fire ring, picnic table, and trash bin, and two parking spaces - all of which are accessible.
In addition to picnic facility improvements, DEC constructed an accessible ¼-mile loop trail made of crushed stone. The trail head is located at the picnic area and can be used for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
From Mayville, take Route 430 west and turn right on Hannum Road. Continue to the end of the road to the parking area and day use area. The road will turn into a dirt road eventually.
All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.
- Parking area and trailhead for Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail (42.239951°N, 79.585262°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
- Parking area for day use area with accessible spaces (42.239986°N, 79.587203°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 Chautauqua Gorge State Forest
DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Chautauqua Unit Management Plan. 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 us at email@example.com.
Conifer and hardwood timber management is practiced at Chautauqua Gorge State Forest. The conifer stands of pine and spruce were planted in old farm fields as they need open areas with direct sunlight to thrive. They are usually managed by a series of partial harvest thinning, which have created openings for sunlight to encourage natural regeneration of native hardwoods. The removal of the conifer overstory in the final harvest allows the hardwood seedlings to grow to maturity.
Hardwood trees are not usually planted as they spread vast amounts of seed and regenerate naturally. Periodic thinning of the forest through the sale of forest products gives the residual trees adequate growing space. This practice helps to keep the forest healthy and provides openings for new seedlings, a revolving supply of food and cover for wildlife, and source of future crop trees. Some hardwood stands contain large trees, giving an illusion of old growth. These stands were actually harvested prior to state ownership.
Active Timber Sales
Currently there is one active sale on this unit off of Lyons Road. It is a removal of Norway Spruce trees.
Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information
State Lands & Facilities
Gas, food and other supplies as well as dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Sherman, Mayville and Westfield.
Lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Mayville and Westfield.
Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.
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.