With each step, you get a little higher and the feeling of exposure and air becomes slightly more real. As wind whips through the rickety staircase, you begin to wonder, “How long has this tower been here, enduring the changing seasons?”
Historically, there were over 100 fire towers scattered throughout the mountains of New York State. Over time, new technologies expanded in the region and the years of scouting for forest fires from high above the mountain peaks slowly fizzled out. Lucky for us recreationists, we are fortunate enough to still be able to visit the select few that remain in the region.
If you’re seeking to gain a bit more elevation than just the summit of the mountain, here are three climbable fire towers you don’t want to miss out on:
Just on the outskirts of Woodstock, Overlook Mountain is an ideal hike for a view of the Ashokan Reservoir and surrounding Hudson River Valley. The trail going up Overlook is an old carriage road that leads to an abandoned 19thcentury hotel, so the path is wide and well-worn, but is entirely uphill. The tower itself is located about two miles up from the trailhead and is one of the newest in Catskill Park it was erected there in 1950. It rises an additional 60 feet from the elevation of 3,140 feet, and is open most weekends from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.
View from Hunter Fire Tower Photo by Thomas First @thomas_first
Talk about really working hard for a view. Towering 4,040 feet above sea level, this hike is not for the faint of heart. The steep and unforgiving trails will keep you on your toes for the entirety of your adventure. The payoff is incredible, however: 360-degree views of the rolling mountains that extend into the Berkshires, Connecticut, and, on clear days, even southern Vermont. This fire tower is the tallest among all the remaining fire towers in New York, and is the second highest in the entire Northeast region.
mohonk mountain house fire tower
If a treacherous hike is not your idea of fun, this option could be for you. From top to bottom, this historic stone fire tower will not disappoint. You can choose to stroll up to the base of the “Sky Top Tower” on an easygoing carriage road, or take the hiking trail through the rocky caves of the “lemon squeeze.” Views of the historic castle sitting on Mohonk Lake below are like something out of a fairytale. Note: A day fee is required to gain access, as this is private property.
"Historically, there were over 100 fire towers scattered throughout the mountains of New York State."
As you enjoy the gorgeous views that our region has to offer, please remember to practice Leave No Trace! nything you wouldn’t find out in nature shouldn’t be left there.
This includes banana peels, orange peels, all food waste, and certainly all types of packaging. Pack essential gear for the mountains: plenty of water, snacks, and a flashlight.
You never know when you will need a first aid kit, and you surely don’t want to get stuck in a storm without your rain jacket. See you out there!