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Hiking in Schuyler County
New York State Lands
The 9085 acre Sugar Hill State Forest is located about seven miles west of Watkins Glen, near the hamlets of Tyrone and Bradford, in the towns of Orange, Tyrone, and Reading in Schuyler County.
The Sugar Hill Fire Tower was built in 1941 by the CCC, and was used until the mid 1980's when aerial detection became more efficient and economical. It is 68 feet tall and sits at an elevation of 2,096 feet. It is open for those wishing to climb up to the level just below the cabin. The observation cabin is closed. The views are still spectacular. Look below for a video of climbing the fire tower.
Six Nations Trail System
Among Sugar Hill State Forest's many attractions is the Six Nations Recreation Trail System. This well used trail system is just shy of 40 miles long. A portion of the trail system is located in nearby Goundry Hill State Forest. It is open for horse use in the summer months, and snowmobile use when there is sufficient snow cover. Hiking on the trails is encouraged anytime.
The main trail head for the trail system is the Sugar Hill Fire Tower and Recreation Area located near the north end of the Sugar Hill State Forest, off of Tower Hill Rd. At that location you will find parking, water, flush toilets, the fire tower, rangers cabin, picnic area and pavilion, 16 horse stalls, rec building, kiosks with sign-in sheets, an accessible horse mounting ramp, two radio towers, a couple of archery targets and field area for camping.
Sugar Hill Fire Tower
Camping and picnicking are first come-first serve for the prime locations. Large groups need to contact the DEC Bath Sub-Office and get a Temporary Revocable Permit (TRP). There are usually four or more large, organized gatherings each year, so check the kiosk or call the DEC Bath sub-office.
Lower Evergreen Parking Lot, a secondary trail head, is located near the south end of the state forest, off of Evergreen Hill Rd. At that location you will find four horse stalls, a one-hole outhouse, picnic tables, fire rings, and a kiosk with sign in sheets. Water is available from a nearby stream, but is not potable, so treat it before drinking it.
There are eight other parking areas which hold from two to six cars and from which the trail system can be accessed. There are numerous other access spots where the trail system crosses a road without a parking lot. There are numerous loop options available utilizing the numerous trails.
Also located in Sugar Hill State Forest is a portion of the white blazed Finger Lakes Trail / North Country National Scenic Trail that travels through the forest. Nearly eight miles of the trail passes across the forest. The North Country Trail, when finished, will travel 4600 miles from North Dakota to Crown Point, NY. The Finger Lakes Trail covers 560+ miles from the NY/PA state line in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskills.
View from the Sugar Hill Fire Tower
The route to the Fire Tower area of Sugar Hill State Forest which is longer, but with fewer turns and gentler hills, would be to follow NY 17/I-86 to the Savona exit, and then take NY 226 north to Co. Rt. 23. Turn east on Co. Rt. 23, take the third right onto Tower Hill Rd. and the entrance to the tower area is the third right on Tower Hill Rd.
The route from Watkins Glen is: from NY 14 in downtown take NY 409 west, take a right onto Co. Rt. 28, then a left onto Co. Rt. 23, then a left onto Co. Rt. 21, the first right onto Tower Hill Rd, and then a left into the tower area.
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