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McDonough State Forest

hikingfire towerprimitive campingpaddlingmountain bikingfishinghuntingtrappingsnowmobilingcross country skiingsnowshoeinghorseback ridingaccessible picnic tableacessible trail and picnic tableparkingicon key

McDonough State Forest locator map

McDonough State Forest is located 10 miles west of Norwich, in the gently rolling hills of the Allegheny Plateau. Both the Finger Lakes Trail (leaves DEC website) and the New York State Corridor Snowmobile Trail pass through the forest, and many of the unpaved town roads are ideal for mountain biking and horseback riding.

Bowman Lake State Park (leaves DEC website) adjoins McDonough State Forest, and both the Finger Lakes Trail and the snowmobile trail cross from the state forest into the State Park. Bowman Lake State Park provides camping, swimming and other developed recreational activities and facilities.

As of September 2021, Berry Hill fire tower is open to the public for recreation from sunrise to sunset. The fire tower is located just north of McDonough State Forest on Tower Road, also a section of the Finger Lakes Trail, which passes through both the state forest and park. The viewshed from the fire tower stretches into the counties of Broome, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Otsego, and Tioga.

Featured Activities



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

The Finger Lakes Trail (leaves DEC website) passes through the property.

Berry Hill Fire Tower

fire tower

General information on fire towers includes historic and current uses of fire towers and links to other locations with fire towers.

Now open for recreation! Following the recent rehabilitation of Berry Hill fire tower, which included upgrades to enhance safety and accessibility, the tower is now open to the public year-round from sunrise to sunset. Berry Hill is the only fire tower on public lands in Central New York open to the public, and at an elevation of 1,960 feet, is one of the highest points in Chenango County.

Off-road parking is available for approximately eight vehicles at the base of the fire tower's driveway. The driveway is about 1,000 feet long and open for pedestrian access with a moderate uphill climb. Through an agreement with DEC, the New York State Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association will provide volunteer stewardship services at Berry Hill. Volunteers will help maintain the facility and provide educational information to visitors. On days when a steward is on site, motor vehicle access to the upper parking area may be permitted.

The tower is a 59-foot, 3-inch tall International Derrick tower, originally erected in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps for fire protection. The tower served as an active fire look-out station until the end of the 1988 season. In 1993, it was placed on the National Historic Lookout Register (US#54). The 1999 McDonough State Forest Unit Management Plan identified an objective of rehabilitating the fire tower to allow for public access. Before making the structural improvements, it was necessary to remove and relocate communications equipment from the fire tower.


primitive camping

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

At-large 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.


mountain biking

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

CCC Chimney at McDonough State Forest



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

Whaley's Pond, Bowman Creek, Mill Brook and some of their smaller tributaries offer good fishing opportunities.

Fishing information for Central NY is available.

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.



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

A picture of the CCC Interpretive Map

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 and regulations.

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

Horseback Riding

horseback riding

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

Proof of current negative Coggins certificate is required for all horses and out-of-state horse owners are required to produce a 30-day health certificate.

Picnic Area

accessible picnic table

The picnic area is located within the historic remains of a Civilian Conservation Corp encampment in McDonough State Forest. The site includes an accessible picnic table and a large interpretive sign with a map of the state forest that shows the way to Kopac Pond accessible trail.


Kiosk at the Kopac Pond accessible trail

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

Accessible Features

accessible trail and picnic table

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

A short (less than one mile) trail in the southwestern portion of the forest off Sort Cut Road allows motorized access for people with mobility impairments. A permit is required through the Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities.

There are accessible picnic tables and an interpretive sign at the Civilian Conservation Corp Historic Site.

Kopac Pond

Located on Bliven-Sherman Road, this site features a smooth, hard-packed 1/5-mile accessible trail that loops through the hemlock forest. The trail is very shaded and cool on a hot summer day. The trail maintains interest as it crosses level but rolling ground that is broken by very small, rounded hillocks, originally lifted by tree roots. At the end of the trail, there is an accessible observation deck that overlooks the pond. Officially the pond is unnamed; it lies immediately south of Whaley Pond and there is a stream that connects the two.


To gain access to this historic State Forest, from Oxford, take State Highway 220 heading West. The entrance to the forest will be located to the north.

  • CCC Parking Area and historic site with stone chimney (42.503381°N, 75.725149°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Kopac Pond Parking Area: In East McDonough, head north on Bowman Road and continue for 1 mile, then turn left on Bliven-Sherman Road. The parking area will be on your right. (42.514135°N, 75.698992°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
  • Short Cut Road Parking Area with access to the MAPPWD trail (42.488632°N, 75.710485°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

To locate Berry Hill fire tower, take County Road 10 to Tower Road, north of McDonough State Forest. Coordinates bring you to the parking area and driveway (42.549989°N, 75.686328°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 McDonough 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 McDonough Unit Management Plan. 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

Forest Management

Today, McDonough and all State Forests in New York are managed for multiple benefits to serve the needs of the people of New York. Sustainable forestry practices will ensure a perpetual supply of timber, a diversity of wildlife habitats, compatible recreational opportunities and clean water. The underlying State Forest management philosophy is to consider today's natural resource demands while not compromising opportunities for future generations.


Beginning in 1804, settlers began to arrive from New England and were quick to exploit the region's wealth of natural resources. Timber, stone and water were cut, mined and harnessed and within fifty years most of the pre-settlement forest had been transformed into agricultural land. By the late 19th century, however, many things led to increasing rates of farm abandonment. These included declining productivity of upland farms, the lure of the city and its industrial jobs, and the availability of what were advertised as more fertile lands in the American frontier.

Concern was growing over the local economic impact of migration and agricultural abandonment and as early as 1920 the Norwich Chamber of Commerce and Chenango County Fish, Game and Gun Club were advocating public land acquisition for conservation purposes. Following passage of the Hewett Amendment and the State Reforestation Act in 1929, Chenango County became an early focus of state land acquisition efforts.

Chimney at the site of former CCC camp

McDonough State Forest has the distinction of being the first reforestation area in Chenango County, and soon after acquisition, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) were dispatched to plant millions of trees, construct bridges, roads and ponds and conduct other forest improvement activities. The first Chenango County CCC camp was a tent barracks located near Steers Pond that provided temporary accommodation for 180 African American enrollees. A more permanent camp was established in McDonough in June 1933 and could accommodate 200 men. Camp # 3 was active through 1941 and during its eight year history 1,500 men passed through its gates. A stone chimney located southeast of Bliven Pond along State Route 220 marks the site where Camp # 3 once stood.

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 McDonough and Norwich.

Chenango 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.

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