Harris Hill State Forest
- Open for Recreation: Year-round
- Fee: Free
- Contact Information:
- DEC Region 9 Dunkirk Office: 716-363-2052 (M-F, 8:00AM - 4:00PM); email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Emergency, Law Enforcement & Rangers: 1-877-457-5680 or 911
- Location: Towns of Ellington and Gerry, Chautauqua County
- Wildlife Management Unit: 9K
- Map: View Harris Hill State Forest Map || View Same Map in PDF (130 KB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
Harris Hill State Forest encompasses 2,271 acres. These lands were purchased in the 1930s for timber production, recreational use, watershed protection and wildlife. These areas now provide opportunities for many informal outdoor recreational activities. They are also a source of raw material for New York's forest products industry, which provides employment and income for many New Yorkers.
In the 1930s, Harris Hill was the site of work projects carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC, established by the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, provided employment opportunities for young men during the Depression. The projects on this unit included the planting of thousands of pine and spruce trees in open areas, along with protection activities such as blister rust control and boundary line identification.
Hunting & Trapping
Hunting and trapping are allowed on the property. Be sure to abide by all laws in effect.
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
The Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail (leaves DEC website) crosses the state forest from Old Chautauqua Road in the north to 28th Creek Road in the south. There are 4.1 miles of the trail on the State Forest which are maintained by Chautauqua County. The trail corridor navigates the State's various aesthetically pleasing woodlots, marsh dikes and access trails. Mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are allowed on the trail. Motor vehicles are prohibited. When the trail leaves public lands, it only follows roads and highways.
Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing
General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
Skiing and snowshoeing are allowed on the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail.
General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
Biking is allowed along the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail. There are also 6 miles of bike trail off Rigby Forest Road in the south end of the state forest, an area known as Harris Hill Extension, that connects into the Overland trail. There are 3 loops trails: Nodab, Rib Tickler and Humpty Dumpty. This trail is maintained by the Western New York Mountain Biking Association (WNYMBA). The trail system may be closed due to wet and muddy weather, so make sure to check WNYMBA's Harris Hill webpage (leaves DEC website) for updated trail conditions before you visit.
This trail system is a work in progress, and was made possible by an Adopt-a-Natural Resource Agreement program with some local riders. If you are interested in volunteering for this trail system, please contact DEC's Dunkirk office at the number at the top of the page.
General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
A snowmobile trail runs through the property and connects to other snowmobile trails that travel off state property. Please be respectful of adjacent landowners. This trail also can be used for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding in the off season. It has been adopted and is maintained by the Lake Effect Trailbreakers snowmobile club (leaves DEC website).
Coordinators of organized trail events are required to obtain a Temporary Revocable Permit for use of the trails prior to the event. These can be obtained through DEC's Dunkirk office at the number at the top of the page.
General information on horseback riding includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.
Horseback riding is allowed on the property but there are no designated trails. Horses are not allowed on the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail.
Horses are not allowed on the bike trail system unless approved by the land manager. If you have questions or are hosting a horse ride in the area, please be aware of where you can and cannot go by contacting DEC's Dunkirk office at the number at the top of the page.
General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.
A variety of wildlife can be found on the property, including white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, raccoon, and turkey. There are occasional sightings of fox, mink, and bear. The abundance of different habitat types created by forest management in the area make it ideal for wildlife sightings. There is also a good mix of songbirds, especially near heavily harvested areas where there is thick seedling-sapling cover.
General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.
The Rigby Forest Road in the southern part of the forest is open for motorized access by people with mobility impairments for hunting and wildlife viewing. A permit is required through the Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD) program.
From the town of Gerry, take Route 50 east approximately 3.8 miles to the intersection with Harris Hill Road.
- Route 50 and Harris Hill Road parking area (42.218776°N, 79.183317°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
- Bike trail parking area on Harris Hill Road (42.206301°N, 79.183760°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety
Practice Leave No Trace principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.
How We Manage Harris Hill State Forest
DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Chautauqua Unit Management Plan. In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.
Stands of introduced pine, spruce or larch were planted in old farm fields as they need open areas with direct sunlight to thrive. They are usually grown to an approximate age of 80 to 100 years depending on species and soil conditions. They are usually managed by a series of partial thinnings. These thinnings provide sunlight openings in the canopy to encourage natural regeneration of the native hardwoods. The removal of the conifer overstory in a final harvest allows the hardwood seedlings to grow to maturity. There may be areas where the stand could be replanted with conifers if certain conditions exist.
A number of these conifer stands are currently being harvested using a clear cut method. This is due to many trees blowing down within the stand. The root bases of these mature trees no longer support the trees against strong winds. Clear cutting a part of the stand where this is occurring frequently is the best method to maximize economic return and preserve forest health. This type of harvest also results in natural hardwood regeneration and early successional habitat for songbirds and white-tailed deer.
Hardwood trees are not usually planted because they spread vast amounts of seed and thereby naturally regenerate. Periodic thinning of these forest stands through the sale of forest products give the residual trees more growing space. This helps to keep the forest healthy and provides openings for new seedlings. They grow into new trees, provide food and cover for wildlife, and eventually yield crop trees for the forest industry. These stands are managed in either of two silvicultural styles: uneven aged or even aged. Under uneven aged management, trees of all sizes are maintained at all times throughout the stands and will generally contain large trees, giving an illusion of old growth. In reality, these stands were harvested prior to state ownership. With even aged management, all of the trees within the stand are maintained at approximately the same age.
Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information
State Lands and Facilities
Gas can be found in the nearby communities of Gerry and Jamestown.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Sinclairville and Jamestown.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Cherry Creek, Gerry, Jamestown and Sinclairville.
Lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Cherry Creek and Jamestown.
Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau (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.