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Pulpit Rock State Forest

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Pulpit Rock State Forest locator map

This 1,603-acre state reforestation area consists mostly of a granite plateau ranging in character from bare rock outcrops to relatively fertile valleys. A sheer stone cliff over 100 feet high rises from Payne Lake to overlook the Payne Lake Public Fishing Access Site to the east. This state forest was named for a unique nearby rock formation that once served as an outdoor podium from which traveling clergy preached to the local pioneers.

Featured Activities



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

The 0.9 mile long Root Trail is a hiking trail and public right-of-way with access to this state forest. The trail leads westerly from the Vrooman Creek Road (Jefferson County Route #22). An additional 0.7 mile of hiking access from the west is provided by way of the Watson Trail.


primitive camping

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

Primitive camping is 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.



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

Payne Lake offers tranquil scenery and views of the sheer stone cliff that rises from the lake and provides the namesake for the property. There is a hand launch located to the east of the property.



General information on boating includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations and lists of DEC boat launches by county.

There is a hand launch available and there is a 10-horsepower limit on watercraft accessing Payne Lake through the Public Fishing Access Site.



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

Payne Lake, on the eastern edge of this forest, is not only a favorite fishing spot in the summer, but is also a very popular spot for ice fishing. Yellow perch can be caught here year round. There is a fishing access site located off of Vrooman Creek Road (County Route 22).

North Central NY Fishing provides information on fishing in the area and links to top fishing waters, stocking lists, public fishing access and waters open to ice fishing listed by county.

Hunting & Trapping


Wildlife Management Unit: 6A

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


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

Resident wildlife includes white-tailed deer, turkey and small fur bearers.


Map of Pulpit Rock State Forest

From Theresa, take County Route #22, proceed 8 miles northeast

  • Payne Lake parking area and fishing access site (44.276033°N, 75.650116°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Watson Road trailhead (44.306929°N, 75.664821°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 Pulpit Rock 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.

Specific Rules

Mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and horseback riding are all permitted on the property; however, there are no currently maintained trails for these activities.

Planning and Managment

view of State Forest from Payne Lake

The Ontario Plains Unit Management Plan (PDF) for these lands 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

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Where to Find Nearby Amenities

  • Gas, lodging, dining opportunities, food and other supplies may be found in the nearby communities of Gouverneur, Antwerp, Theresa and Redwood.

Jefferson County Tourism (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.