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Cliffside State Forest

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Cliffside State Forest locator map

Cliffside State Forest encompasses 977 acres. It is a perfect place for activities that can be enjoyed in a primitive forest setting, such as hunting, fishing and trapping. There are no formal trail networks within the forest.

As the name suggests, much of the Cliffside State Forest is actually on the side of a fairly steep cliff. Cliffside State Forest is part of a block of nearly 14,000 acres of public open space owned and managed by the DEC. Cornell University also owns and manages about 4,000 acres adjacent to Cliffside State Forest.

Featured Activities


primitive camping

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.

Cayuta Creek, a popular trout stream that can be fished year around, is on the western edge of the property and public fishing access is available along the abandoned railroad bed which crosses State Route 224.

Fishing Access information is available. Fishing Easement information is available.

Cliffside State Forest in Tompkins County

Hunting & Trapping


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

Many game species, such as white tail deer, fox, turkey, raccoon, and squirrels are found to be quite abundant within the forest's boundaries, making hunting a popular use.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross country skiing

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


General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

Cliffside State Forest is part of the Connecticut Hill Important Bird Area as mapped and described by Audubon, New York and provides habitat for birds that use large blocks of forest cover such as the sharp-shinned hawk, black billed cuckoo, scarlet tanager, black-throated blue warbler, blue-gray gnatcatcher, wood thrush, Northern goshawk, Northern flicker, Canada warbler and Louisiana waterthrush.


From Ithaca, take State Route 13 south for about 14 miles to Cayuta Road, turn left onto Cayuta Road and travel southeast for about 2 miles into the hamlet of Cayuta. Turn left on State Route 224 and head southeast for about 1/4 of a mile; turn left on Johnson Road and walk down the railroad tracks for public fishing access along Cayuta creek and to access the State Forest. (42.25596°N, 76.67333°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

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 Cliffside 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.

How We Manage Cliffside State Forest

Primitive and undeveloped, Cliffside State Forest is a great place to enjoy a relatively undisturbed forest setting. The forest is dominated by red maple, aspen, northern red oak, chestnut oak and American beech. In the future Cliffside State Forest will be part of the Newfield 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 info.r7@dec.ny.gov.


Prior to European settlement, the lands within and surrounding Cliffside State Forest were Native American hunting and fishing grounds, and the neighboring Cayuta Creek was used for transportation to the Susquehanna River. In fact, the word Cayuta is believed to be of Native American origin. Cliffside State Forest was originally cleared and farmed by European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans. The neighboring hamlet of Cayuta was formed in March of 1824. Lumbering has always been an important part of the local economy. The first water powered sawmill was built in 1816 on Cayuta Creek. In 1928, Burton J. Cotton and Howard A. Hanlon built a sawmill in the hamlet in Cayuta. The sawmill, now owned by Wagner Lumber Company, continues to produce locally grown hardwood lumber.

Originally part of the Watkins and Flint purchase, about 891 acres of the Cliffside State Forest (nearly 90%) was acquired from the federal government in January of 1956. From 1933 to 1937, as part of the Roosevelt Administration's New Deal, the federal government purchased about 8 million acres in the Southern Appalachians through what was called the "submarginal" land purchase program. The program purchased land with limited crop production capacity such as the Cliffside State Forest and in some cases promoted the resettlement of farm families whose lands had been bought by the federal government. The remaining 86 acres of the Cliffside State Forest was acquired from the Lehigh Railroad in 1985.

Today, article 9, Titles 5 and 7 of the Environmental Conservation Law give DEC the authority and responsibility to manage state forest lands outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Management, as defined by these laws, includes watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, recreation and kindred purposes. As the forest has regrown over the past 70 years, Cliffside State Forest has been transformed into a landscape that provides many different ecological, economic and recreational products, services and values for the people of New York State. These products and services include clean water, carbon storage, nutrient recycling and wildlife habitat and locally grown forest products such as pulpwood, firewood and sawtimber.

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.

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