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Bluestone Wild Forest

B/W icon of two hikers withbackpacks and walking sticksB/W icon for accessible recreation featuresB/W primitive camping icon of a tent B/W Fishing icon showing a fish and a hookB/W hunting icon showing a person aiming a gunB/W trapping icon of trapper with basketpaddlingB/W icon for a hand launch with a person lowering a boat into the waterB/W bicycling icon of a bikeB/W icon of a cross-country skiierB/W icon of a person on snowshoesB/W icon for picnickingB/W icon for parkingportable toiletfishing platform icon key

Maps showing the location of a state forest within NY State and Ulster County
A view of Onteora Lake in fall
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.

Featured Activities

Hiking

B/W hiking icon of two hikers with walking sticks and back packs

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.

A view of a trail in Onteora Lake
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).

Fishing

B/W fishing icon of a fish and hook

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.

Paddling

paddling

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.

Biking

B/W bicycling icon of a bike

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.

Accessible Recreation

B/W icon for accessible recreation features

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.

History

An accessible picnic area by a lake
An accessible picnic area by the lake.

By 1850, bluestone was being quarried throughout the area. The stone was loaded into iron-rimmed wagons pulled by teams of horses and sent to trading towns along the Hudson River. There, the stone dealers cut and shaped the bluestone into steps, curbing and sidewalks and shipped it by river sloop to cities all over the country. The stone was prized because it was hard, long lasting, dried quickly after a shower and didn't become slippery with wear. The industry collapsed in 1880 with the discovery of Portland Cement.

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.

All users of Bluestone Wild 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.

Directions

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)

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. 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. If you would like to obtain a copy of the UMP, please contact us at r3.ump@dec.ny.gov.

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 and Facilities

The village of Woodstock, less than 10 minutes away to the north, offers art galleries, craft shops, golf course, fine restaurants, entertainment, antiques, and shopping among other attractions.

The village of Phoenicia, less than 30 minutes to the west, offers tubing on the Esopus Creek (which is famous for its trout fishing), a railroad museum, train rides on the Catskill Mountain Railroad, fine shops, antiques, and restaurants.

Catskill Regional Tourism Office (leaves DEC website) and Ulster County Tourism (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.