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Otter Creek Trail System

Horse Trails

a senic view

The Otter Creek Horse Trails are a series of interlocking horse trails comprising about 65 miles. They are located on both the Independence River Wild Forest Unit of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and on the Independence River and Otter Creek State Forests on the western border of the Adirondack Park in Lewis County.

The DEC sign at Otter Creek Horse Trail System

The trail system uses a series of old, sandy roads and woods trails to traverse a beautiful diverse area with the trails winding their way along spirea flats and wooded areas, accessing picturesque Adirondack ponds and following or crossing Otter, Little Otter, Beaver Meadow, Chase, Burnt and Crooked Creeks and the Independence River.

There is an Assembly Area, which is located in the Independence River State Forest. This area is basically primitive camping with no electricity, no reservation system (a first-come, first-serve basis), a trailhead register (which you should sign in on for search and rescue, and funding purposes), a trailhead parking area, 100 roofed tie stalls, two stud stalls, potable water system for the horses and bathroom with sink and toilets, but no showers. (Please note the water is shut off the day after Columbus Day (USA) weekend in October.)

Immediately upon arrival at the Assembly Area each camping party shall complete all required information on a self-issuing camping permit (PDF) (170 KB). The Department portion of the camping permit shall be placed in the provided drop box. The camping party's portion of the camping permit shall be displayed on the dashboard of the vehicle identified on the camping permit at all times. The form can be downloaded from this page ahead of time, but cannot be fully completed until arrival at the Assembly Area to determine site availability. This is not a reservation!

The water is turned on in mid-May and turned off after Columbus Day every year. Port-a-johns are also on-site for use during the summer season. You have to bring your own horse care utensils, and what you bring in, you take out.

Accessible Features

Streamside wheelchair loading platform
Universal symbol of accessible site

Otter Creek Horse Trail system features accessible bathroom facilities and mounting platforms at the Assembly Area. In addition there are 3 accessible mounting platforms at scenic overlooks to allow users to dismount and enjoy the view. There is a newly constructed (2007) accessible picnic pavilion at the main lot with reserved parking provided.

Full listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations.

Field Notes

The entire area is populated with wildlife, and with the trail passing through a variety of habitats you are likely to see deer, bear, coyote, fox, grouse,wild turkey, snowshoe hare and wide variety of bird life. Catspaw Lake and Pitcher Pond often have resident or migratory wild fowl on them.

You can expect to find brook trout in Otter, Little Otter, Beaver Meadow and Crooked Creeks; with Otter having the occasional bonus of brown trout. Catspaw Lake and Upper Chases Lake contain chain pickerel, brown bullhead and pumpkinseeds. Pitcher Pond and Payne Lake contain brook trout. Little Otter Lake contains brown trout, brook trout, pumpkinseeds and brown bullheads.

Guidelines for Equestrians and Campers

Our forest and mountain environment offers opportunities for recreational pleasure, appreciation of nature, and a rejuvenating escape from the urban world. Help care for our forest environment and enhance the enjoyment of it for yourself and those that follow by observing these simple guidelines:

State Forest Regulations

Anyone enjoying the use of this State Forest must observe the following rules which protect them and the forest environment:

  1. Do not litter. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
  2. If you build a fire, do so with care and use wood from dead and downed trees only. Never leave a fire unattended.
  3. All motorized vehicles are restricted to access roads posted as motor vehicle trails. Off road use of motorized vehicles, such as ATVs, trail bikes and four-wheel drives is not allowed, except where specifically permitted by signs, posted notice or by DEC permit.
  4. Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger. Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of water, roads or trail.
  5. No permanent structures should be established, including tree stands or blinds.

(The special restrictions on camping on Otter Creek State Forest do not apply to the Otter Creek Horse Trail assembly area, which is located on Independence River State Forest.)

Use of Horses

Catspaw wheel chair loading platform

You may use horses almost anywhere on DEC land. Exceptions are that you may not use horses in intensively developed areas (such as campgrounds) or on foot trails (unless they are specifically designed as horse trails). Snowmobile and cross-country ski trails may be used except when covered with ice or snow. Private in-holders often object to horses on their roads so please stay on marked trails. Horses may not be run, galloped or cantered in the assembly area. Horses remaining in the assembly area overnight must be tethered in a DEC covered tie stall, with the exception that those horses remaining overnight in an area designated as overflow and day use may be tethered to, or harbored in their trailers.

In accordance with Agriculture and Markets Rules and Regulations Part 64, horse owners may be required to produce a current negative Coggins certificate. In addition, out-of-state horse owners may be required to produce a 30-day health certificate. A physical address that is required for the veterinarian paperwork is 6498 Chases Lake Road, Glenfield, NY 13343.

Location and Directions

The Otter Creek Horse Trail system is located approximately 48 miles north of Utica and approximately 7 miles east of Route 12. Take NYS Route 12 to Glenfield. Turn into the hamlet of Glenfield. In Glenfield, turn east onto Greig Road. Go across the Black River and in approximately 1.9 miles the road will make a T-connection with Pine Grove Road. Turn left. Proceed 1.2 miles and take a right turn (east) onto Chases Lake Road. The entrance to the trail head parking will be approximately 3.4 miles on the right hand side of the road.

The Forestry and Operations staff hope that you will have a rewarding and safe time on the Otter Creek Horse Trail System. We have put much time, effort and pride into this facility and the surrounding trails. Enjoy them and come back soon.

Important Telephone Numbers

During regular business hours, contact: DEC Lowville office (315) 376-3521

Emergencies or on evenings, weekends and holidays, contact:

  • Lewis county Sheriff: 911
    ***Please tell 911 operator the Assembly Area address of 6498 Chases Lake Road in order to help ensure law enforcement response to this location.
  • NY State Police: (315) 376-6513
  • NYS Forest Ranger 24-hour dispatch line at Ray Brook (518) 891-0235

More about Otter Creek Trail System: