Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Camillus Forest Unique Area

hikingfishingcross country skiingsnow shoeingicon key

Camillus Unique Area locator map

The Camillus Forest Unique Area encompasses 350 acres. It is approximately eight miles west of the city of Syracuse with elevations ranging between 400 and 710 feet. Camillus Forest Unique Area is a popular area for a variety of recreational activities such as: hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, bow hunting and fishing. The forest's grasslands were once nearly all managed for crop product. Now the grassland habitat is being managed to remain in grassland for the many species that depend upon that cover type. One might even see the less common Bobolink or Savannah sparrow.

As a designated unique area, this site has restrictions not found on state forests. Camping, shot gun and rifle hunting and trapping are prohibited. Bow hunting is permitted. Please see all restrictions below.

Camillus State Forest

Featured Activities



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

There are a series of looping trails throughout the unique area that make for excellent hiking. At present there are six different designated trails with a combined distance totaling almost 4 miles.



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

The southeastern portion of the parcel provides fishing and canoe access to Ninemile Creek, one of the most popular trout streams in Onondaga County.

Fishing Access information is available. Fishing Easement information is available.

Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing

cross country skiing

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

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


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


Take NY Route 173 (Warners Road) from Route 5 and head northwest. Turn left onto Thompson Road to enter the property.

  • Thompson Road parking area (43.069764°N, 76.277365°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).
  • Ninemile Creek parking area on Thompson Road (43.06773°N, 76.27877°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 Camillus Forest Unique Area 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.

Restrictions Specific to Camillus Forest Unique Area

For your safety and protection of the resource the following apply:

  • The Unique Area closes one half hour after sunset and reopens after sunrise.
  • Camping is prohibited.
  • Fires are prohibited.
  • Horseback riding is prohibited.
  • Bicycle and mountain bike riding is prohibited.
  • Dog training is prohibited. Dogs must be kept on a leash.
  • Snowmobiling is prohibited.
  • ATV use is prohibited.
  • Motorized vehicle use outside of the parking area is prohibited.
  • Use and possession of firearms is prohibited. Bow hunting is allowed during appropriate seasons commensurate with state fish and wildlife law.
  • Littering is prohibited. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
  • The construction and use of permanent tree stands or blinds is prohibited.
  • Cutting, defacing or removing trees or vegetation is prohibited.
  • Permanent structures, including tree stands or blinds, are not allowed.

How We Manage Camillus Forest Unique Area

The Camillus Forest Unique Area has been designed to offer as many family based recreational opportunities as are sustainable on the land. The Unique Area is managed by the Onondaga Unit Management Plan. A Unit Management Plan (UMP) guides DEC's land management activities on several geographically related forests for a ten-year period, although a number of goals and objectives in the plan focus on a much longer time period. Each UMP addresses specific objectives and actions for public use and forest management. If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email us:

The property's unique composition of 145 acres of open fields, 135 acres of early successional trees and shrubs, 38 acres of old forest, and 18 acres of mature sugar maple, American beech and bitternut hickory make it one of the most beautiful and diverse areas in the Syracuse region.

Within the 38 acres of old forest area, several very large sugar maple (New York State's official tree) and American beech trees can be found that have 36 inch diameters at breast height (d.b.h.). The estimated age of the largest dominant trees in the forest is between 120 and 200 years, with one 42-inch d.b.h sugar maple being the largest.

Factors such as tree age, size, height, and diversity, as well as excellent soils, no immediate past history of timber cutting, and various ecosystems all contribute to this forest's ability to provide a variety of different habitats for all the wildlife and plants native to the area. It also enables many people to enjoy the richness of this resource and partake in a variety of recreational activities.


The land now known as Camillus Forest Unique Area was originally settled in 1796 by John and Sarah Vacher. The property was transferred to the Hopkins family in 1810 and continued to be used for farming purposes until the late 1880's. Agricultural statistics from 1855 describe the property as crop land, meadow, and pasture. Crops that were grown included potatoes, winter wheat, barley, oats and corn. The dominant livestock were swine, dairy cows and sheep; sheep significantly outnumbering all other livestock. Once the Erie Canal was opened in 1825, the transportation of grains and wool from this area contributed significantly to the growing economy. Land ownership records dating back to 1852 also reveal that there were two sawmills located within a mile of the property, one at the base of the parcel along Nine Mile Creek.

Although the forest is old, it is not considered undisturbed pre-settlement "old-growth" forest. Recently data collected by DEC foresters and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) confirms that the stand was harvested in the distant past. It is thought to have been managed as a sugar bush for maple sap production.

The Camillus Forest parcel has been under state ownership since 1926. It was managed by the Syracuse Developmental Center until 1997 when a transfer of jurisdiction brought it under the auspices of the New York State DEC. The intent of the transfer was to protect and preserve the land for public enjoyment and education, ensuring that present and future generations would be able to enjoy the great natural beauty the area offers. Today, the forest is comprised of old forest, mature forest, riparian areas, former crop land, and pasture. It provides diverse ecological and recreational services to many New York residents and visitors alike.

Nearby Amenities and Attractions

State Lands and Facilities

Gas, food, dining and lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Syracuse and Camillus.

Onondaga County Tourism Office (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.