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Crystal Lake Wild Forest

Crystal Lake Wild Forest locator map

Crystal Lake Wild Forest is 497 acres, and includes a 32-acre man-made lake, seeps and streams, wetlands and an old beaver pond. The lake shore and surrounding moist woodland provide habitats for trilliums, wild leeks, Jack-in-the-pulpits and Dutchmens britches. The lake is surrounded by rolling hills (highest elevation 1,980 feet), quite steep along its eastern shore. This wild forest is in the Town of Fremont in Sullivan County.


view of Crystal Lake including boat launch on right

Passive recreation - hiking, boating (no gasoline motors), and hunting for small game, deer, and turkey - is compatible with area rules. The lake, which DEC manages for brook trout, is very popular for fishing. There is a boat launching area for car top or trailored boats.

Visitors to the Crystal Lake Wild Forest should be properly prepared and equipped for a remote, wildlands experience. Visitors should expect to assume a high degree of responsibility for their own welfare and for environmentally sound use of the area. Know safe hiking practices, camping rules, how to avoid getting lost (191 kb PDF) and state land use regulations.

Report back country emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Emergency Dispatch at 1-877-457-5680.


A 1.3 mile yellow-marked foot trail circles the lake.


Camping is allowed at three locations within 150 feet of the lakeshore. No permits for groups of 10 or more will be issued for designated lake shore campsites. No temporary camping permits will be issued to individual under 18 years of age. There are also seven other campsites available away from the water.

Back country camping is allowed in most areas of the Catskill Preserve. Please see below for some of the rules for primitive camping. Information on DEC Campgrounds in the area is available on DEC's Camping page.

  • To protect back country resources, state law requires all campsites to be at least 150 feet from any road, trail or water source, except at sites designated by DEC. A designated site is either a lean-to or a campsite marked with a yellow "camp here" disc.
  • Camping permits are required when camping 4 or more nights or with a group of 10 or more. Contact the Forest Ranger for a permit at 845-240-6792.
  • Campfires are permitted below 3,500 feet in elevation, but only dead and down wood may be used. In a designated campsite, use the existing fire ring and burn wood no larger than that which can be snapped in your hands-it's sure to be dead, dry and will burn down to ash. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure your fire is cold before breaking camp.
  • Bear Precautions - Using nylon cord, hang all food, garbage and toilet articles a minimum of 15 feet above the ground and an additional 10 feet from any adjacent tree trunks or overhead limbs and a distance of 150 feet from camp.
  • Keep a clean camp. Wastewater should be taken a minimum of 150 feet from any water source and gently sprayed into the underbrush as against pouring it into a sump hole. Cooking water should be strained of any food particles and treated in a similar fashion. This distributes rather than concentrates the dirty water, dispersing both the impact and related odors that attract wildlife. All food waste should be packed out.
  • Human Waste - If available, use the privy. If not, dig a "cat-hole" 6-8 inches deep, a minimum of 150 feet from any water source. Cover waste with soil and leaf litter. Minimize the use of toilet paper and burn or pack it out. When appropriate, use leaves instead. Treat feminine products as you would all other garbage and pack out as well.
  • Drinking Water - The department cannot ensure the purity of any water source. Giardia lamblia is a water borne parasite which can cause severe and prolonged intestinal disorder and has infected the water supply as a result of poor human sanitation habits. Boil all water for 2 minutes, filter or treat chemically.
  • If you Bring Your Pet - Your pet must be under your control at all times. When others approach, particularly small children and other animals, leash your dog. Keep your pet quiet. Remove droppings from the trail and camping areas.

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 also useful in wet rainy weather.

Firewood Alert - Don't Move Firewood

There is a regulation that prohibits the import of firewood into New York unless it has been treated to kill pests. The regulation also limits the transportation of untreated firewood to less than 50 miles from its source. Read more about firewood and invasive insects.

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.

To help stop the introduction and spread of invasive plant species, always check clothing, shoes, tires (of bikes and other vehicles), and animal companions for burs seeds and insects before using and leaving the area. Remove hitchhikers if found.


view of Crystal Lake from the boat launch
view of Crystal Lake from the boat launch

Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

INSPECT your fishing and boating equipment and remove all mud, plants and other organisms that might be clinging to it.


In 1987, a partial dewatering of the impoundment provided an opportunity to remove smallmouth bass from the lake and attempt to establish a brown trout population. Currently, there is a 10 inch size limit and three fish daily bag limit for trout. Brown bullhead and golden shiner are also in the lake. Anglers should check the current fresh water fishing regulations for and know the statewide regulation and the regulations pertaining to specific waters.

Hunting & Trapping

Hunting and trapping is allowed on all forest preserve lands. All hunters and trappers much comply with all applicable State laws and regulations.

Other Recreational Activities:

  • Skiing & Snowshoeing are allowed on the property.
  • Mountain biking is not permitted on the property.
  • Horseback Riding is not permitted on the property.
  • Snowmobiling is not permitted on the property.

Recreational Facilities

A stone and concrete dam forms Crystal Lake, which has a small parking lot and boat launching area.

Field Notes

Crystal Lake Wild Forest area is a detached parcel of the Forest Preserve. That is, the land is classified as Forest Preserve, but is located six miles outside the "Blue Line" which encloses the great bulk of Forest Preserve lands in the Catskills.

Most of the land is heavily forested with second growth hardwood species, though hemlock has been an increasing component of the understory and forms dense stands along parts of the lakeshore

Several old fields, former lawns and pasture areas, once part of a summer camp, are slowly reverting to brush and young forests. Other open areas remain in grassy or unvegetated condition as a result of heavy public use. An area several acres in size is covered by blueberry bushes.

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 regulation. Both are state law enforcement officers and, as such, can and do enforce all state laws.

Driving Directions

view of the Crystal Lake dam
view of the Crystal Lake dam

From Route 17, take County Road 92 to County Road 96 (Tennanah Lake Road) to Crystal Lake Road (the entrance to the property, lake and parking area).

Other Sources of Information

Sullivan County Tourism (1-800-882 CATS) provides information about recreating in this area and other amenities. Use the link provided near the bottom of the right column to access their website. I Love New York Travel Guides are also available.

Numerous guide books are available with information on the lands and waters in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

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.


Crystal Lake was acquired by New York State in 1963 under the 1960 Park and Recreation Land Acquisition Bond Act. Please see "Field Notes."


DEC manages these lands in accordance with manage activities described in the Crystal Lake Wild Forest Unit Management Plan.

Important Phone Numbers

Forest Fire, Search and Rescue: 1-877-457-5680 (24 hours a day) or dial 911
State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement: 1-877-457-5680 or 845-256-3026
Environmental Law Enforcement: 1-877-457-5680
Turn in Poachers and Polluters: 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267) to report suspected environmental violations or report it online.