Bluestone Wild Forest
- Open for recreation: Year-round
- Fee: Free
- Contact information:
- DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office: (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Law Enforcement, Emergency & Ranger: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
- Location: Towns of Hurley, Kingston, and Ulster in Ulster County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 3C
- Maps: View Bluestone Wild Forest Map (PDF, 3.3 MB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
Onteora Lake in autumn
Located at one of the most popular gateways to the Catskill Forest Preserve, just three miles west of historic Kingston, the 3,000-acre Bluestone Wild Forest, has something for everyone. Its lake, ponds, trails, old quarries, hemlock and oak forests on gently rolling hills - and an occasional cliff- are ideal for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting and cross-country skiing. There is developed access to Onteora Lake off State Route 28, one of the few publicly accessible lakes in the Catskills.
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
Starting at the trailhead parking lot, off State Route 28 on the west shore of Onteora Lake, an old woods road connects to three trail loops (1.1 mile to the first yellow loop) through upland oaks, moist hemlock forests, and many abandoned bluestone quarries. The yellow trail loop passes near Pickerel Pond before returning to the place of beginning (about 2 miles), the red trail loop ascends a ridge with 2 large vernal pools and upland forest with scattered pitch pines (2.25 miles), and the blue trail loop traverses some relatively rough mixed topography (1.5 miles) before meeting up with the red trail on an old woods road. Please stay only on the marked trails. Some old roads and paths lead onward to private land, which should not be entered without the permission of the owner.
An accessible trail at Onteora Lake.
From a trailhead on the Old Dump Woods Road, take the old road 0.9 mile to its intersection with the Jockey Hill-Wintergreen Ridge Trail (4.5 miles total).
General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules & regulations
Onteora Lake is a warm water lake with a maximum depth to the north of 20 feet. The lake is a popular ice fishing destination and is known for its panfish (white and yellow perch, largemouth bass, bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish, golden shiner, brown bullhead, black crappie, chain pickerel, alewife). A large wetland to the south of Onteora Lake is drained by Prayermaher Brook, which flows to the Esopus Creek through several waterfalls on a 265-acre parcel of state land (with poorly defined access) south of Route 28. Anglers should check the current fresh water fishing regulations for and know the statewide regulation and the regulations pertaining to specific waters.
Southeastern NY Fishing provides information on fishing in the Catskills and links to top fishing waters, stocking lists, public fishing access and waters open to ice fishing listed by county.
General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
Bluestone Wild Forest features paddling opportunities on Onteora Lake with a hand launch on the west side of the Lake. Non-motorized boats and cartop boats with electric motors may be used at Onteora Lake.
General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
Mountain biking is permitted on the main trails, which consist of the main trail, starting at the trailhead parking to the west of Onteora Lake connecting to three trail loops (Yellow trail loop past Pickerel Pond ( 3 miles), red trail loop on the ridge with vernal pools (2.25 miles) and the blue trail loop ( 1.5 miles). Also on the Jockey Hill-Wintergreen Ridge Trail ( 4.5 miles). Pedestrian use of trails takes precedence over all other uses.
An accessible picnic area by the lake.
General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.
Onteora Lake provides opportunities for fishing and picnicking. An accessible trail starts at the parking lot next to an informational kiosk. The path first leads to an accessible picnic table and then an observation area. The path ends at the edge of the water, where there is an accessible fishing platform. There is accessible parking and a seasonal accessible portable toilet located in the parking lot.
To reach trails at Onteora Lake Parking Area and Hand Boat Launch: Take New York State Thruway (I-87) to Exit 19 (Kingston), then State Route 28 west 3 miles to the Onteora Lake entrance sign on the right. (41.984094°N, 74.082791°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
To reach the Jockey Hill-Wintergreen Ridge Trail Parking Area: Take Route 209 to the Sawkill Road exit towards Woodstock. Take Sawkill Road past the Town of Kingston offices and a bridge continuing onward to a Jockey Hill Road. Make a left onto Jockey Hill and continue straight onto unpaved Old Dump Woods Road. Stay on the Woods Road to a small 5 car trailhead parking lot with a gate over the road. (41.977744°N, 74.05011°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety
Practice Leave No Trace (leaves DEC website) principles when recreating in the Catskills to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other backcountry users.
- Clean your boat and equipment -- help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.
- Don't move firewood - protect our forests from invasive insects.
- Observe all campfire safety practices. Use only dead and down wood. Don't leave garbage in the fire pit.
How We Manage Bluestone Wild Forest
DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Bluestone Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP). In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.
May 2015 Amendment - Trail Construction and Designation, Fisheries Management, and Land Classification
This amendment proposes four projects within the Bluestone Wild Forest:
- Construct and mark a new 2.5 mile mountain bike trail to be located within the Jockey Hill section of the unit.
- Update the official trail network of the unit by designating appropriate trails and re-routing or closing inappropriate trails
- Manage Onteora Lake as a warm water recreational fishery
- Classify 33 acres of Forest Preserve land to be included in the Bluestone Unit
Download the Amendment: Bluestone Wild Forest UMP Amendment - PDF (2.82 MB)
Nearby Areas and Attractions
DEC Lands & Facilities
Lodging and dining opportunities, as well as gas, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Woodstock and Phoenicia.
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.