This area was settled beginning in approximately 1802. As noted in other state forest descriptions, agricultural abandonment occurred relatively early, (1910-1929) on the hilltop lands occupied by this state forest.
Starting in the 1930's, these lands were subsequently purchased by the people of New York State under the Hewitt Reforestation Laws of 1929 for the purposes of timber production, recreational use, watershed protection and wildlife habitat.
During that same time period, the United States was entering the Great Depression. The administration of then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933 to provide employment opportunities for the thousands of unemployed men at the time. Sugar Hill State Forest and other state forests were the sites of many work projects carried out by the CCC, including the planting of thousands of pine and spruce trees, the construction of roads, the Sugar Hill Fire Tower, and water holes between 1934 and 1941. The earliest plantings were done by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).
The CCC was quite active on this state forest in the early days. In 1935 camp S-123 was established on Pine Creek Rd, and the records indicate they did an experimental seeding of pin cherry, choke cherry, birch and white ash seeds that first year. In 1936 they planted 1,266.1 acres of red pine, Japanese larch, Norway spruce, black locust, and/or white pine, for a total of approximately 1,719,650 trees. They also seeded 30.5 acres to black walnut, black cherry, birch, red oak, and/or hickory. That camp was later closed on October 31, 1941, with the pending start of WW II, so later plantings were done by inmates and/or DEC staff. Additional acres were planted between 1937-1940, 1958-1967, 1969, 1972, 1974-1976, the most recent in 1986.
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 above sea level.
In 1958, the State Department of Corrections opened Camp Monterey Conservation Work Camp. The prison camp was built on Evergreen Hill Rd. because the old CCC camp was located on a busy road. Initially, the prison had 50-60 inmates and 30-40 employees. Today, it has the capacity for 300 inmates and provides employment for up to 200 people. The inmates provide labor for numerous projects on the state forest land and to neighboring towns and parks.
State forests now provide opportunities for many informal outdoor recreational activities. They also provide wood for New York's forest products industry, a major part of New York's economy.