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Hill Higher State Forest

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Hill Higher State Forest locator map

Hill Higher State Forest totals 1,156 acres. This forest provides opportunities for many outdoor recreational activities and is home to a variety of wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, rabbit, and turkey. There are no designated trails but hiking is allowed throughout the property.

In the 1930s, the land occupied by this state forest was purchased by the people of New York State for the purposes of timber production, recreational use, watershed protection, and wildlife habitat. In the 1930s, the state forest was the focus of numerous projects 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. CCC projects included the construction of roads and the planting of thousands of pine and spruce trees in open areas on the property.

Sign marking Hill Higher State Forest

Featured Activities

Hunting and Trapping


Wildlife Management Unit: 9J

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

Hunting and trapping are allowed on the property. Make sure to abide by all game regulations. Hunters with disabilities can access specific roads on the state forest by motor vehicle by getting a special use permit. See below for more information.

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 hunting access trails open for use off of Wilcox road, by permit only, by people with disabilities under the non-ambulatory hunter program. The permit allows people with disabilities to hunt with a firearm from a motorized vehicle during hunting seasons. Otherwise these access roads are closed to public traffic.

  • Zeitler Access Road - 0.75 miles
  • Swanson Access Road - 0.75 miles

The two access roads are also open for motorized access by people with mobility impairments for wildlife viewing. A permit is required through the Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD) program.

Coordinators of organized trail events need 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 listed at the top of the page.


To reach Hill Higher State Forest, take County Route 33 south from the village of Panama for 2.2 miles. Turn left on Wilcox Road and continue east for 1 mile to the gate on Hill Higher Forest Road.

There are no designated parking areas on the unit, however roadside parking is available. The state forest is located at 42.041873°N, 79.459788°W - Google Maps (leaves DEC website). 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 Hill Higher 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 Chautauqua 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.

Timber Management

The forest is a source of raw material for New York's forest products industry which provides employment and income for many New Yorkers. Conifer and hardwood timber management is practiced within this forest. The conifer stands of pine and spruce were planted in old farm fields as they need open areas with direct sunlight to thrive. They are usually managed by a series of partial harvest thinnings, which provide openings for sunlight to encourage natural regeneration of native hardwoods. The removal of the conifer overstory in the final harvest allows the hardwood seedlings to grow to maturity.

Hardwood trees are not usually planted as they spread vast amounts of seed and regenerate naturally. Periodic thinning of the forest through the sale of forest products gives the residual trees adequate growing space. This practice helps to keep the forest healthy and provides openings for new seedlings, a revolving supply of food and cover for wildlife, and a source of future crop trees. Some hardwood stands contain large trees, giving an illusion of old growth. These stands were actually harvested prior to state ownership.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Where to Find Nearby Amenities

  • Gas can be found in the nearby communities of Lakewood and Stow.
  • Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Lakewood and Stow.
  • Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Chautauqua, Lakewood and Panama.
  • Lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Ashville, Chautauqua and Lakewood.

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.