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Cliffside State Forest

View Cliffside State Forest Map || View Same Map in PDF (270 KB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper

Recreational Activities

  • Primitive Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hunting, Wildlife Management Unit 7R
  • Nature Photography/Observation
  • Trapping

Background Information

Cliffside State Forest locator map

Cliffside State Forest encompasses 977 acres and is located in the towns of Newfield in southwestern Tompkins County and in the town of Cayuta in northeastern Schuyler County. 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 also 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. 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. 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 SR 224

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.


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.

Cliffside State Forest in Tompkins County

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.

Field Notes

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.

***Stay Safe- Bring A Friend When Out In The Woods***


From Ithaca, take SR 13 south for about 14 miles to Cayuta Rd., turn left onto Cayuta Rd. and travel southeast for about 2 miles into the hamlet of Cayuta. Turn left on SR 224 and head southeast for about 1/4 of a mile; turn left on Johnson Rd. and walk down the railroad tracks for public fishing access along Cayuta creek and to access the State Forest. The State Land access point is located at geographic coordinates 42.25596 (N) and -76.67333 (W).

State Forest Regulations

Anyone enjoying the use of this State Forest must observe the following rules which protect them and the forest environment:

  1. Do not litter. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
  2. If you build a fire, do so with care and use wood from dead and downed trees only. Never leave a fire unattended. Three foot radius must be cleared around fire.
  3. All motorized vehicles are restricted to access roads posted as motor vehicle trails. Off road use of motorized vehicles, such as, trail bikes and four-wheel drives is not allowed, except where specifically permitted by signs, posted notice or by DEC Permit.
  4. Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger. Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of water, roads or trail.
  5. Permanent structures, including tree stands or blinds, are not allowed

Important Numbers:

State Forest Office (M-F 8 am-4 pm): 607-753-3095 ext. 217

Forest Ranger (Law Enforcement/Emergencies): 607-798-1797

DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: 518-408-5850

Emergencies: 911

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