Bluestone Wild Forest
- Open for recreation: year-round
- Fee: free
- Contact information:
- DEC Region 3 Office: (845) 256-3000 email
- Forest Rangers: (845) 256-3026
- Law Enforcement: (845) 256-3013, after hours and weekends: 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267)
- Location Ulster County
- Size: 3,000 acres
- Wildlife Management Unit: 3C
- Maps: View Bluestone Wild Forest Map (PDF) (3.25 MB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
Onteora Lake in autumn
Located at one of the most popular gateways to the Catskill Park, 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.
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).
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 port-a-john located in the parking lot.
Boating and Fishing
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. Non-motorized boats and cartop boats with electric motors may be used at Onteora Lake. Anglers should check the current fresh water fishing regulations for and know the statewide regulation and the regulations pertaining to specific waters. Read more about boating and fishing.
Biking and Mountain Biking
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.
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
The public must abide by all state land use regulations when recreating on the forest preserve or conservation easement lands open to the public.
Clean your boat and equipment -- help stop the spread of aquatic invasives.
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.
To reach trails at Onteora Lake: 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.
To reach the Jockey Hill-Wintergreen Ridge Trail: 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.
How we manage Bluestone Wild Forest
The Department completed a Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Bluestone Wild Forest in 1997. If you would like to obtain a copy of the UMP, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearby Areas and Attractions
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.
The 47,500-acre Slide Mountain Wilderness, encompassing over 47,500 acres, is the largest and most popular wilderness area in the Catskills and easily accessed from Phoenicia.
Ulster County Tourism (800-342-5826) and the Rondout Visitors center (800-331-1518) can provide information about recreating in this area and other amenities. Use the links at right to access their websites.