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Morgan Hill State Forest

hikingcamping sitescamping, lean-toprimitive campingPaddlingfishingBikinghuntingtrappingsnowmobilingCross Country SkiingSnowshoeingaccessible trailDirectionsicon key

Morgan Hill State Forest locator map

Morgan Hill State Forest is a popular area because of its accessibility from the Syracuse and Cortland areas. The forest spans 5,284 acres, and includes Morgan Hill State Forest Multiple-Use Trail System, which was designed to offer many different opportunities for family-based recreation.

As of September 2020, a section of North Country National Scenic Trail was re-routed between the Hemlock Glen lean-to and Morgan Hill public forest access road. The trail now takes a northerly course and no longer crosses the stream gorge at the lean-to. Please follow the blue blazes to continue along the new route.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

A view of the pond in the Morgan Hill State Forest

There are 13.1 miles of marked foot trails which connect the western part of the forest with Labrador Hollow Unique Area, and then continue east as part of the Finger Lakes Trail System (leaves DEC website) and is also the North Country National Scenic Trail (leaves DEC website) in this portion of NY. In addition, there are 11.5 miles of Public Forest Access Roads that run through the forest. These are best accessed during the summer and the fall.

Construction and stewardship of these trails is through a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement with the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and the dedicated individuals from the Adirondack Mountain Club-Onondaga Chapter

Camping

camping with sites
camping, lean to
camping, primitive

General information on primitive camping includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Primitive camping at Spruce Pond requires a permit from the Cortland Lands and Forests office. Please call (607) 753-3095 ext. 217, M-F 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM to obtain a permit.

Site-specific rules for Spruce Pond Camping Area include:

  • Camping is only permitted at one of the 12 designated sites.
  • Maximum number of people per permit is 9, with exception for special "group" camping.
  • No camping permit will be issued to individuals under 18 years of age.
  • All sites are tent camping only.
  • Cutting, defacing injuring in any manner, any live tree, shrub or plant is prohibited .
  • Campfires are permitted for cooking, warmth or smudge. Use wood from dead and down trees only. Use fire ring when available. Fires must not be left unattended until fully extinguished.
  • Throwing glass, cans, aluminum foil, food wastes other non-burnable rubbish into the fire pit is prohibited.
  • Camping sites must be kept in a clean and sanitary condition. What you carry in, carry out. All garbage and refuse must be removed from camp site.
  • No motorized vehicles are allowed on the forest or campsites.
  • All pets must be on a leash.
  • Swimming in the pond is prohibited.
  • Fishing is allowed at Spruce Pond only with valid fishing license.
  • No motorized boats are allowed on Spruce Pond.
  • No camping or overnight parking at the Fisherman's Parking Area.
  • Target shooting, whether with gun or bow, is prohibited.

Two drive-up, accessible camping sites are available on a first come, first served basis. The sites are located in close proximity to the forest's accessible trail. See map above and directions below.

At large primitive camping is also allowed. Campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

Paddling

paddling

General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Morgan Hill State Forest

Fishing

fishing

General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Fishing is a popular activity at the pond, which is regularly stocked with trout. Fishing access information and fishing easement information is available.

Biking

Biking

General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips with links to rules and regulations.

There are currently 9.5 miles of primarily single-track multiple-use trail, with an additional 5+ miles planned for construction during the mid 2020s. Construction and stewardship of these trails is through a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement with the local mountain bike group CNY D.I.R.T.

Hunting & Trapping

hunting
trapping

Wildlife Management Unit: 7M

General information on hunting and general information on trapping includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Snowmobiling

snowmobiling

General information on snowmobiling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Winter recreation is encouraged with over 18.7 miles of snowmobile trails.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

snow shoeing
cross country skiing

General information on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all hiking trails.

Wildlife

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

The forests boasts a wide variety of mammals, song birds, raptors, and amphibians.

Accessible Features

accessible features

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

There are two trail sections that allow motorized access for people with mobility impairments. A permit is required through the Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities.

Two drive-up, accessible camping sites are available on a first come, first served basis and located in close proximity to the accessible trail sections. Follow the directions and coordinates below for MAPPWD parking to locate the sites.

Directions

From NY 80 or NY 91, Morgan Hill State Forest may be accessed from Shackham Road. The forest may also be accessed by taking NY 13 toward Truxton, NY, and Route 91. Continue past Route 91 about 1.0 mile and then turn left onto Morgan Hill Road which runs into the southern portion of the forest and becomes a Public Forest Access Road.

  • MAPPWD parking off Morgan Hill Road (42.767846°N, 75.997552°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Herlihy Road parking (42.799217°N, 76.025689°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

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.

All users of Morgan Hill State Forest must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Planning and Management

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the management activities described in the Hill and Hollow Unit Management Plan (UMP). 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.

If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email us at R7Forestry@dec.ny.gov.

Forest Management

Morgan Hill's upland forests range from 1,200 to 2,000 feet in elevation, with several small valleys and creeks intermittently bisecting the almost completely forested landscape. Conifers comprise a significant portion of the forest. Native hardwoods and hemlock trees dominate the remainder of the landscape, contributing a vast array of potential habitats for many different species.

History

Morgan Hill State Forest was originally used by the Iroquois for hunting. Later the land was cleared for farming by Revolutionary War Veterans and early European settlers. The area's soils, however, are thin, relatively steep and acidic, and the growing seasons are short with long, harsh winters. This combination of factors resulted in land that was mostly unproductive and that would eventually be abandoned in pursuit of more productive lands in the Midwest.

The State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 were created by the Roosevelt Administration as a means for the state to take over the responsibility of managing abandoned farms, making them productive once more. Morgan Hill State Forest was one such area. The forest was established in the early 1930s by state foresters and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) with the planting of 4,840,424 conifer seedlings. Today, the approximately 70 year-old conifer forest covers more than forty-five percent of the area.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Where to Find Nearby Amenities

  • Gas, food, dining and lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Tully and Cortland.

Cortland County Tourism Webpage (leaves DEC website) and Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guidebooks 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.