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Hiking in Onondaga County
Morgan Hill State Forest
Labrador Hollow Unique Area
HIGHLIGHTS: Shackham Pond, Old Family Cemetery, Hemlock Glen, Hemlock Lean-To, Footbridge over Shackham Brook, Labrador Hollow Unique Area, Tinker Falls, Jones Hill scenic vista (see picture above), Spruce Pond and the North Country National Scenic Trail.
DIRECTIONS: From Tully, NY 80 EAST past Apulia. Turn right on Bailey Rd, then veer right on Shackham Rd. Just past the 4 way junction of a seasonal dirt road, reach the Shackham Pond Trailhead on Shackham Rd. Park on the side of the road. Start your hike by heading toward Shackham Pond. The GPS coordinates are N42 47.400 W76 00.618 for those who have a GPS devise in their vehicle.
HIKE NOTES: This 12.2 mile loop hike utilizes 2.8 miles of seasonal dirt roads and 9.4 miles of the North Country Trail. A majority of this hike is in Morgan Hill State Forest, however a part of the hike takes you into Labrador Hollow Unique Area with short portion over private property and a small section on county property.
This loop hike is difficult/strenuous and has a total elevation change of 2095 feet. Give yourself at least six to eight hours to complete this hike, depending on your speed and how much time you want to spend at each of the scenic spots along the way. This has become a very popular loop hike in the Central New York area.
HIKE DESCRIPTION: Starting at the Shackham Pond trailhead, hiking east soon takes you past Shackham Pond and a side trail that leads to an old 1840's family grave site. Soon your crossing seasonal dirt Onondaga One Road and heading over a newer section of the NCT built in 2007. After winding through the woods you'll soon pass a section of the forest that was logged in 2006-07 before reaching seasonal dirt Rowley Hill Road.
Old family cemetery near Shackham Pond
Turn right and follow the seasonal dirt road for the next 2.8 miles. Shortly there is a yellow gate, then an intersection and you'll continue straight ahead, but the road is now called Morgan Hill Road. Soon you'll pass a stream with the sounds of waterfalls on the right. In 1.25 miles you'll enter Cortland County (no markers or signs) and the highest point along this hike. In another 1.25 miles you will reach the NCT crossing of Morgan Hill Road.
Hemlock Glen Lean To
From here you'll turn right and follow the NCT's blue blazes downhill into scenic Hemlock Ravine & Hemlock Glen. Soon you'll cross Hemlock Brook a couple of times and see Hemlock Lean-To. The trail continues to descend to Shackham Brook and a fantastic footbridge built in 2007 by the Onondaga Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club. Now you'll ascend and cross Shackham Road (paved). The trail soon passes a trail register and continues it's ascent.
Bridge over Shackham Brook
The trail reaches Labrador Hollow Unique Area and begins a steep descent toward the top of Tinker Falls, where a stone bench has been placed for a break. A wooden staircase eases the last steep descent toward Tinker Falls Creek. Now you get to begin another steep ascent up Jones Hill. The trail follows the ridgeline and there are views to your left through the trees every so often. Then you reach an opening and the views are spectacular. This is Jones Hill Vista aka the "hang glider spot" and is a very popular spot, so don't expect to be alone.
Jones Hill vista
From here the trail leaves the unique area and enters private property for a short time before reentering Morgan Hill State Forest. The trail has another steep descent as it makes its way toward Spruce Pond. Another popular location for fishing and picnics. This pond is one of the most scenic in Onondaga County. You'll also notice the orange blazed Fellows Hill Loop Trail. The trail skirts the pond and passes a North Country Trail kiosk.
The trail crosses a seasonal dirt road, descends to cross a small creek, passing a register before ascending again, only to begin another descent toward Shackham Road and the end of this loop hike. This section of the trail is another of the newer sections of the NCT that was finished in 2007. Below there is a topo map and a description of key points along this loop hike.
Guide to the Hiking Trails at Morgan Hill State Forest
includes Labrador Hollow Unique Area
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Mile Elevation Description 0.0 1538 feet From Shackham Road, head east on the North Country Trail & follow blue blazes.
Shoulder parking. GPS N42 47.400 W76 00.618
0.1 1500 feet Enter a stand of pines and turn right as you pass by an old family cemetery. Shackham Pond earthen dam. 0.2 1510 feet Reenter woods and turn left. 0.7 1507 feet
Cross seasonal dirt Onondaga One Rd. Continue on NCT (blue blazes) and soon pass trail register.
1.1 1509 feet "Scrappy Campsite" about 50 feet off trail to the left next to a small stream. 1.9 1541 feet Reach seasonal dirt Rowley Hill Road.Turn right and follow dirt road up hill. No blazes. Next 2.8 miles are on seasonal dirt roads. 2.2 1646 feet
Pass yellow gate and then reach unsigned 3-way intersection. Continue straight on seasonal dirt Morgan Hill Rd.
3.45 1998 feet
Enter Cortland County, highest point along this hike.
4.1 1934 feet
Pass season dirt Eaton Hill Rd on your left (unsigned intersection). Continue straight.
4.7 1927 feet
Reach North Country Trail crossing. Turn right on NCT & follow blue blazes.
5.0 1813 feet
Enter Hemlock Ravine, cross Hemlock Brook, ascend & turn right on old woods road (blue blazes).
5.1 1834 feet Turn right off old woods road and begin steep descent into Hemlock Glen. 5.5 1559 feet
Cross Hemlock Brook, then reach side trail on right that leads 150 feet to Hemlock Lean-To.
5.7 1447 feet Waterfalls & cascades on your left. Campsite on your right. 6.2 1290 feet
Cross Shackham Brook on footbridge and reach the Shackham Brook Camping Area.
6.35 1358 feet
Cross Shackham Rd (early exit option - turn right 1.5 miles to vehicle). Trail Register & then ascend.
7.0 1830 feet
Trail begins to level after steep ascent.
7.6 1732 feet
Enter Labrador Hollow Unique Area. Begin steep descent.
7.7 1676 feet Stone bench and soon staircase that leads toward Tinker Falls Creek. 7.95 1422 feet
Reach the top ledge/rim of Tinker Falls. Begin steep ascent.
8.1 1545 feet Junction of orange blazed Skyline Trail. Turn right and continue to follow blue blazes. 8.4 1718 feet
Reach old dirt road, turn right and follow BLUE BLAZES.
8.7 1862 feet
Leave dirt road, turn right following NCT (BLUE BLAZES).
9.1 1903 feet
Reach opening with spectacular views to west (Jones Hill Vista aka hang glider spot).
9.7 1746 feet
Cross logging road & small stream.
10.0 1904 feet
Re-enter Morgan Hill State Forest and soon begin steep descent .
10.3 1700 feet Junction of the orange blazed Fellows Hill Loop Trail. 10.4 1694 feet
Reach North Country Trail Kiosk & Spuce Pond. (Parking 150 feet to left) Spruce Pond Camping area along east side of pond (FREE permit from DEC needed to camp). Orange blazed Fellows Hill Loop Trail goes left here.
10.8 1687 feet
Cross seasonal dirt Herlihy Road.
11.2 1576 feet
Cross small stream and pass trail register.
11.8 1718 feet
Reach a high point, then begin descent to Shackham Road.
12.2 1538 feet
Reach Shackham Rd and end of loop hike.
Shackham Pond from along the North Country Trail
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