Public Lands for Recreation
A guide to federal, state and local forests and parks
There's something for everyone on
public lands (Photo: Wayne Jones)
There are more than 4 million acres of land open to the public for recreation. These lands are managed by different federal and state agencies, as well as municipal entities. Below is an explanation of who manages what lands.
DEC recreation lands
DEC manages the most public recreation land in New York State. These lands include:
- The Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve *
- State Forests
- Wildlife Management Areas, and
- State-operated campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.
*A note about the Adirondack and Catskill regions: While these two regions are called "parks", they are not State Parks (see below), and approximately half of each park remains in private ownership.
How to find DEC recreation lands
Visit the Places To Go page for locations and descriptions of these lands as well as recreational opportunities.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP)
OPRHP is responsible for State Parks and State Historic Sites. These sites are located throughout the state, with the exception of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Many State Parks also have campgrounds.
Most of New York City's reservoirs and
water supply lands are open to the public
for recreation (Map: NYC DEP)
For more information on State Parks and Historic Sites, follow the links to OPRHP's website in the right column.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP)
DEP is responsible for managing lands within the New York City Watershed that provide drinking water to city residents. These lands fall within two regions: East of Hudson, which includes portions of Westchester and Putnam Counties, and West of Hudson, which falls within the Catskill Region. New York City allows recreational activities on most of their lands, but a permit may be required.
For more information, follow the link to DEP's website in the right column.
Federal Recreation Land
New York also has public recreation land that is managed by federal agencies.
- The National Park Service oversees the National Parks, National Historic Sites, National Monuments, National Scenic Trails, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, National Memorials and more.
- The National Forest Service manages the Finger Lakes National Forest, located in Seneca and Schuyler Counties.
- The National Fish and Wildlife Service oversees ten National Wildlife Refuges, the majority of which are on Long Island.
For more information on these areas, follow the links to the National Park Service, National Forest Service, and National Fish and Wildlife Service in the right column.
County and Local Parks
Many counties, towns, and cities operate public parks throughout New York. To locate a county or municipal park near you, contact your local municipality.