Elm Ridge Wild Forest
The 1,355-acre Elm Ridge Wild Forest is located in the town of Windham, Greene County and is situated at the northern boundary of the Catskill Park. The Wild Forest area is just to the west of Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness area and is in the northeast corner of the great eastern escarpment of the Catskill Mountains which rise abruptly to high elevation from the Hudson River and Catskill Creek valleys. Elm Ridge is 2,480 feet in elevation and lies southwest of 3,520-foot Windham High Peak.
The most popular activities include hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and snow-shoeing. Small game and big game hunting is another popular activity in the area. Visitors to the Elm Ridge Wild Forest should be properly prepared and equipped for a remote, wilderness experience. Visitors should expect to assume a high degree of responsibility for their own welfare and for environmentally sound use of the area. People should know safe hiking practices, camping rules, how to avoid getting lost, state land use regulation and current trail conditions.
Report backcountry emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Emergency Dispatch at 518-891-0235, or call 911.
The northern end of the Escarpment Trail (blue markers) is located in the Elm Ridge Wild Forest. It follows the escarpment south for 23 miles, from the East Windham trailhead to the North/South Lake Campground. Nearly 4 miles of new multi-use trails (red markers) join the Escarpment Trail near its northern end. They were completed in 2010. Trailhead parking is located in East Windham at Cross Road and Route 23 for these trails. The Elm Ridge Trail (yellow markers) is 1.1 miles long from the trailhead parking at the end of Peck Road to its junction with the Escarpment Trail. The Long Path, a long distance trail that extends from the George Washington Bridge to Altamont, NY, follows the Escarpment Trail in the Elm Ridge Wild Forest. It continues north for 0.7 mile from East Windham, crosses the state land boundary on Old Road, and continues north on Jenny's Notch Rd.
Primitive camping is permitted although no designated campsites are located on the Wild Forest. The Elm Ridge lean-to is located near the junction of the Elm Ridge Trail and Escarpment Trail and is within the boundary of the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness. Observe all campfire safety practices. Use only dead and down wood. Don't leave garbage in the fire pit.
Better yet, carry a portable stove. Stoves heat more quickly, are easier to clean and do not leave blackened rocks and partially burned firewood. They are useful in wet rainy weather.
FIREWOOD ALERT- Don't Move Firewood!
DEC Regulations prohibit the import of firewood into New York unless it has been treated to kill pests. The new regulation also limits the transportation of untreated firewood to less than 50 miles from its source.
Bringing your firewood with you? Most people don't realize they move bugs along with their firewood. You could be spreading diseases or insects that can quickly kill large numbers of trees. Our forests are at risk from the transport of firewood infested with tree killers.
Here's how you can help STOP THE SPREAD of these pests:
- Leave firewood at home-do not transport it to campgrounds or parks.
- Only purchase firewood that has been harvested in New York State or treated for pests.
- Burn all firewood brought to the campsite.
See Frequently Asked Questions for more information on firewood regulation.
Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Invasive Species
Volunteer to help control invasive species.
- Inspect and remove soil, plant parts, and seeds from the coat and feet of animals and their clothing/gear before and after recreating.
- Properly dispose of soil, seeds, plant parts, or invertebrates found during inspection and cleaning.
- Stay on designated trails, roads, and other developed areas.
- When off trail, avoid areas that appear to be infested with invasive species; "when in doubt, stay out!"
- Report infestations of invasive species to the appropriate land manager or property owner.
- Learn to recognize invasive species common to the areas where you enjoy outdoor recreational activities.
- Wear clothing and footwear that are not "seed-friendly."
- Inspect and clean hair, clothing, footwear, and gear for soils, seeds, plant parts, or invertebrates before and after recreating.
Hunting & trapping
The area is a popular destination for hunting small game and big game. Ruffed grouse, wild turkey and woodcock are popular species pursued by upland game hunters. White-tail deer and black bear are hunted during the archery and firearms seasons.
Hunting and trapping is allowed on all forest preserve lands. All hunters and trappers must comply with all applicable State laws and regulations.
All trails within the Elm Ridge Wild Forest are open to mountain bikes. The loop trails (red markers) off the Escarpment Trail are suitable for riders with beginning and intermediate skill levels. Both the Elm Ridge Trail and Escarpment Trail require greater skill levels because of uneven trail surfaces with exposed roots and loose rocks.
No trails are open to horseback riding on the Elm Ridge Wild Forest.
Skiing & Snowshoeing
All trails are open to skiing and snowshoeing. The loop trails (red markers) off the Escarpment Trail are all relatively gentle slopes and suitable for beginning to intermediate skiers.
No trails are open to snowmobiling on the Elm Ridge Wild Forest.
Neighboring DEC Lands & Facilities
The Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness covers 17,100 acres and borders the Elm Ridge Wild Forest, Colgate Lake Wild Forest and North/South Lake Campground. The Escarpment Trail traverses the wilderness area from its northern end to its southern border with the campground.
The Elm Ridge Wild Forest ranges in elevation from 1,760 feet on the Windham Kill to 2,480 feet on Elm Ridge. The forest covering this area includes young, early succession stage through older, late succession climax forest. Nearly all of the forested area on the Elm Ridge Wild Forest has been harvested for timber or cleared for cropland and pasture. Beavers have been active along the Windham Kill, cutting trees, building dams and flooding low-lying portions of the former cropland. Much of this is visible from the highway. Beavers have also been active on the low-lying areas south of Elm Ridge where they have made two impoundments.
The forest cover has been impacted by a number of natural forces, including Forest Tent Caterpillars which defoliated sugar maple trees and heavy snows which caused broken tree tops along the highest elevations of Elm Ridge. Some of the sugar maples have died from these natural events, creating openings in the forest canopy. This has changed the formerly open shaded understory of the ridge top into a thick understory of shrubs, vines and tree seedlings. While not as pleasant to wander through before those natural disturbances, the plentiful blackberry plants offer forage for wildlife and refreshment to hikers during late summer.
Rules and Regulations
The public must abide by all state land use regulations when recreating on the forest preserve or conservation easement lands open to the public.
DEC Forest Rangers are primarily responsible for search and rescue, wild land fire suppression and enforcing state land use laws and regulations. DEC Environmental Conservation Officers are primarily responsible for enforcing hunting, fishing, trapping and pollution laws and regulations. Both are state law enforcement officers and, as such, can and do enforce all state laws.
The Escarpment Trail/Long Path North Trailhead is in East Windham, at Route 23 and Cross Road, about 19 miles west of Exit 21 of the NYS Thruway near Catskill, and 11 miles west of the intersection of Routes 23 and 145 near Cairo.
The Elm Ridge Trailhead is located at the end of Peck Road. This trailhead may be reached from East Windham by continuing west on Route 23, 1.3 miles to the village of Windham. Turn left onto Route 296, and continue 1.5 miles to Hensonville where Route 296 turns into Greene County Route 40. Follow Route 40 for 1.9 miles to Maplecrest and turn left on County Route 56. Peck Road is 1.8 miles east of Maplecrest. Turn left onto Peck Road and travel approximately 0.6 miles to the trailhead.
Other Sources of Information
Numerous guidebooks are available with information on the lands and waters in this area, which can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores and on-line booksellers.
Maps are available for downloading from this web page. Use the links at the top of the page to view the map or download a map for printing. The DEC State Land Interactive Mapper can be used to print maps showing state lands, trails and facilities for this area or any location within New York State.
There are also excellent printed maps and computer map programs from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Geographic and other sources. These are sold in outdoor retail shops, bookstores and on the internet. The Hensonville Quadrangle published by USGS covers the full geographic range of the Elm Ridge Wild Forest and portions of the neighboring Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness.
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.
The area within the Elm Ridge Wild Forest was acquired by New York State in by 1937 for addition to the Forest Preserve. Agriculture, logging and quarrying dating to the early 19th century have affected the land within those boundaries. As mentioned above, forest cover is still being established on land that was once cultivated as cropland. Stone foundations and walls are connected or crossed by sunken roads, which serve as reminders of the agricultural past. Several old bluestone quarries are located on the crest and slopes of Elm Ridge. Many old roads passing through the Wild Forest have been converted to recreational use. The Elm Ridge Trail and Escarpment Trail pass over portions of the old Ridge Road. Both trails were established in 1962.
DEC manages these lands in accordance with manage activities described in the Elm Ridge Wild Forest Unit Management Plan.
Important Phone Numbers
Forest Fire, Search and Rescue: (518) 891-0235, (877) 457-5680 (24 hours a day) or dial 911
State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement: (518) 897-1300
Turn in Poachers and Polluters: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) - call the TIPPs hotline to report any environmental violations or report it online.