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Tug Hill State Forest

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Tug Hill State Forest locator map

This 12,242-acre state forest is so named because it is located entirely on the Tug Hill Plateau, an area that is renowned for its harsh winters and heavy snowfalls.The trails along Inman Gulf on the northern edge of the state forest provide spectacular vistas into the 200- to more than 300-foot deep canyon. John Young's Trail, Oak Rim and Inman Glide Trails follow the top of the gulf for 4.6 miles.

picture of rainbow falls

Rainbow Falls can be seen on the opposite side of the gulf where it drops about 100 feet and is often completely frozen in the winter.

Because of the heavy snow cover that this area endures for nearly half of the year, it is no surprise that winter sports such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dogsledding, and cross-country skiing dominate the local recreational scene. The area is highlighted by the well-known 13.2 miles of Barnes Corners Cross-country Ski Trail System. Fall and winter activities include white-tailed deer and snowshoe hare hunting, spring and summer activities include hiking, biking, and brook trout fishing. Access to the area is provided by more than 16 miles of graveled forest roads.

Featured Activities

Cross-Country Skiing


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

View a map of ski trails in Tug Hill State Forest (PDF). Traversing this 12,000 acre woodland are a number of cross-country ski trails with skill levels varying from novice to intermediate. These trails run through a variety of terrain from level and slightly uphill/gentle downhill to more challenging climbs and downhill runs on intermediate trails. The land cover types range from northern hardwoods and conifer plantations to open wetlands. Trails pass through deer yards (used by over-wintering deer), and cross over Fish Creek (by bridge). Some trails provide spectacular views of Inman Gulf.

Ski Trail Information

The following trails are located in the Tug Hill State Forest. Access to these cross-country ski trails is from the north side of N.Y.S. Route #177, about two miles west of Barnes Corners and 0.75 mile east of the intersection of N.Y.S. Route 177 and County Route 189.

Skiers should use caution when crossing roads used by automobiles. Also watch out for snowmobiles because some of the trails allow both uses. It should also be noted that Oak Rim Trail is for snowshoe use only.

Home Run Trail (Novice Skill, 1.0 mile)
This trail starts at the parking area in a stand of European larch and red pine. You pass Snowbird Loop on the left and, further on, Whiteway Trail to the right. Proceeding northerly, there is a slight uphill slope for 200 yards, followed by a half-mile run through a fine northern-hardwood forest. Snowbird Loop then intersects from the left. When you go downhill, after crossing a tributary of Fish Creek, you pass through a hemlock stand used by over wintering deer. The Home run Trail ends at Times Square, one mile from the access point.

Snowbird Loop (Intermediate Skill, 1.7 miles)
This loop runs westerly from the parking area and parallels Route 177 for .5 mile. You will pass through plantations of red pine, larch and white pine and then turn northerly, reaching a knoll of hardwood overlooking a bridge over Fish Creek. A short steep pitch to the bridge is followed by a long stretch of hardwoods, that includes black cherry, white ash and beech. You then climb a long grade, followed by a gentle downhill run, before intersecting the Home run Trail again. If you reverse your direction on this loop (not recommended for most skiers) you will have a challenging downhill run. Some maintenance to Snowbird and Linkup is done by the Black River Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

Electric Loop (Novice Skill, 2.2 miles)
This loop traverses plantations of red pine, white pine and white spruce. The westerly section parallels the Lighthouse Hill transmission line. Completed in 1925, this electric line carries 115,000 volts from Black River generating plants to Altmar, N.Y. No matter which direction you take on the Electric Loop, you will circle back to Times Square. The entrance to Explorer Trail is adjacent to the lean-to built in 1982 by Steve Wood of Boy Scout Troop 7, with help from the Black River chapter ADK.

Zigzag Trail (Novice Skill, 0.8 mile)
Does just that, it zigzags! The trail turns north off Snowbird Loop, bypasses some hills and joins Snowbird again, where a bridge crosses Fish Creek.

Whiteway Trail (Novice Skill, 2.0 miles)
The trail leaves Times Square in an easterly direction and passes through stands of white spruce, red pine and native hardwood. It also crosses two open wetlands. Williams Public Forest Access Road, a DEC maintained access road, lies just to the north. A short 10 percent slope, about .25 mile from the intersection with Home run Trail, gives an exciting downhill run to skiers going clockwise around the loop. Turn left here to return to the parking lot, 700 feet away.

Linkup Trail (Intermediate Skill, 1.6 miles)
Connecting to the County Trail system, this trail runs easterly from the parking area and soon turns south, crossing Route 177. Watch out for vehicles! You will ski through stands of Japanese larch, northern hardwoods, young white spruce and mixed conifers, up two steep hills, and across a bridge built by ADK over a tributary of Grunley Creek. Cross Denning Road, then ski through some scotch pine and across Grunley Creek. Proceeding through white spruce, hardwood, and red pine, you reach Loomis Road, where the county trail system starts. Before crossing the road, watch out for snowmobilers.

John Young Nature Trail (Intermediate Skill, 1.4 miles)
This trail winds along Inman Gulf. It was constructed by the Black River Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club in memory of a beloved member who spent many volunteer hours building and maintaining recreational trails. You will pass many interpretive nature signs and a picnic area with a swing and picnic table donated by relatives of John Young.

Inman Glide Trail (Intermediate Skill, No Beginners, 1.9 miles)
Cut by Forest Ranger Dave Larrabee, with help from Bill Blodgett, this trail runs along the edge of Inman Gulf and through some hilly sections. Scenic Rainbow Falls may be seen on the north side of the rim and gulf. The stream courses along the bottom of Inman Gulf. Be cautious when crossing Williams Public Forest Access Road because it is a main snowmobile route. In summer, five parking areas along Williams Public Forest Access Road allow people to choose loops of different length.

Explorer Trail (Intermediate Skill, 1.7 miles)
This trail was constructed in 1990 by the Explorer Scout Troop of Sackets Harbor. The trail allows skiers on the Electric Loop to increase the trail by .9 mile and experience different scenery. Located in the northwestern section of the ski complex, this trail runs through numerous stands of white spruce.

Snowshoeing and Hiking


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

Oak Rim Trail (Intermediate Skill, snowshoe and hiking only, 2.2 miles)
Built by Joe Coughlin Sr. and other volunteers, this trail is for snowshoers only (no skiers) in the winter and hikers (no bikers) in the summer. The trail runs along the edge of Inman Gulf, with spectacular views and a scenic waterfall. Chickadee Loop and Joe's Ridge are two side trails adding to the gorge experience. Connecting John Young Nature Trail and Inman Gulf Glide, this trail of approximately four miles makes an enjoyable outing.



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

The nearby hamlet of Barnes Corners is a major hub for snowmobiling and brings numerous snow sleds thru these state forest trails.

  • Williams Road (C5A) - 2.9 miles of a main snowmobile trail leading east out of Barnes Corners
  • Mile Strip (C5) - 2.5 miles from Denning Road to Horace Forward
  • Horace Forward (S57) -3.3 miles from 7 by 9 Road to Fork Road
  • Denning Road (S56A) - 2.8 miles from 7 by 9 Road to Grunley Road
  • Lighthouse Hill Trail (C5A) - 1.2 miles from Route 177 to Grunley Road



Wildlife Management Units: 6G, 6K & 6N

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

Accessible Features

access for people with disabilities

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

Clydes Trail, off County Route 93 (0.63 mile) is a designated motorized access route for people with qualifying disabilities for hunting and wildlife viewing. A permit from Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD) can be obtained from the local DEC office in Lowville. The John Young Nature Trail is an accessible trail from the Williams Road to the edge of the Gulf. There is also an accessible parking area at the trailhead.

Map of Tug Hill State Forest


From Watertown, take US Interstate 81 south to exit 42. Make a left onto State Route #177 east and proceed 10 miles.

There are eight maintained places to park on Tug Hill State Forest:

  • 30 car Route 177 plowed parking (N43.818881, W75.853687) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • 3-4 car unplowed parking for Oak Rim Trail (N43.838146, W75.876779) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • 2-3 car unplowed parking for John Link Trail (N43.835239,W75.853610) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • 2-3 car unplowed parking for Cigar Trail (N 43.829981, W 75.842978) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • 2-3 car unplowed parking for Inman Glide Trail (N 43.823124, W 75.832095) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • 2-3 car unplowed parking on Home Run public forest access road (PFAR) (N 43.826575, W7 5.852420) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • 10 car parking on corner of Waite and 7 By 9 Road (N 43.767542, W 75.817363) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Unpaved parking on Grunley Road (N 43.803996,W 75.874275) 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.

All users of Tug Hill State Forest must follow all State Land Use Regulation and should follows 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 Tug Hill North Unit Management Plan (PDF, 7.9MB). 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

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 Adams, Adams Center and Watertown.
  • Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Adams, Adams Center and Watertown.
  • Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Adams, Adams Center, Lorraine and Watertown.
  • Lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Adams Center and Watertown.

The Jefferson County website (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.