Catskill Fire Towers
Historically more than a hundred fire towers, some built nearly a century ago, were used for early detection of forest fires throughout New York State because of their extensive views of the surrounding countryside and forests. Today, just five towers remain in the Catskill Park and they are maintained with assistance from a dedicated group of volunteers and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation through the Fire Tower Project.
During the summer months Fire Tower Project volunteers open up the tower cabins for visitors to enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the region. The five towers make for some of the best hiking destinations in the Catskills, offering unparalleled 360-degree views of the surrounding Catskill Park and mountains. They are well worth the time and effort it takes to hike to each tower.
Free Fire Tower Maps and Guides: Click on the fire tower names below for detailed trail map and hiking guide, courtesy of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower
BALSAM LAKE MOUNTAIN – TOWN OF HARDENBURGH – ELEVATION 3,723′
History: The first fire tower on the top of a mountain in New York State was placed at the summit of Balsam Lake Mountain in 1887. The existing 47-foot tower was erected in 1919, closed in 1988 and reopened by the Catskill Fire Tower Project and the NYSDEC in 2000.
Hiking Directions: Follow the blue-marked Dry Brook Ridge Trail located on Mill Brook Road outside the hamlet of Arkville 2.2 miles to the intersection with the Balsam Lake Mountain Trail. Follow the red-marked Balsam Lake Mountain Trail 0.75 miles to the Fire Tower and the summit of the mountain. Return via the same route for a moderate, six-mile, round trip hike.
HUNTER MOUNTAIN – TOWN OF HUNTER – ELEVATION 4,040′
History: The Hunter Mountain Fire Tower has the unique distinction of being located at the highest elevation of any fire tower in New York State - on the summit of Hunter Mountain at 4040 feet. The original tower was constructed from logs and the current, 60-foot steel tower was constructed in 1917 about a third of a mile from the present location. In 1953 the tower was relocated to its current location on the summit of Hunter Mountain
Hiking Directions: Take the blue-marked Spruceton Trail from Greene County Route 6 (Spruceton Road) in the hamlet of Spruceton for a seven-mile moderately difficult roundtrip hike. Or take the yellow-marked Colonel's Chair trail from the top of the Hunter Mountain Sky Ride, open select summer weekends--a moderate four-mile roundtrip hike.
TIP: Be sure to have a good trail map for your Hunter Mountain Fire Tower climb. There are a number of trails that crisscross Hunter Mountain and it can be easy to get turned around and end up at the wrong trail head a long way from your vehicle if you aren't paying attention.
Hunter Mountain Fire Tower
OVERLOOK MOUNTAIN – TOWN OF WOODSTOCK – ELEVATION 3,140′
History: The Overlook Mountain Fire Tower is the newest of the five remaining fire towers in the Catskill Park, having been built in its present location in 1950. The tower closed in 1988 and was reopened in 1999, making it the first tower to re-open to the public in the Catskills. The 60-foot tower offers incredible views of the Hudson River Valley across to the Berkshires, Taconics and Litchfield Hills, the Ashokan Reservoir and the Devil's Path Range.
Hiking Directions: Take the red-marked Overlook Spur Trail from the trailhead on Meads Mountain Road to the Overlook Mountain Fire Tower and return via the same trail for a 4/6 mile, moderate to difficult hike. Note that the parking area at the trailhead fills quickly. Parking is only available in the parking area, please observe all posted traffic and parking signs, otherwise your vehicle may be ticketed.
Caution! Timber Rattlesnakes have made much of the rocky higher elevations of Overlook Mountain their home. Be on the lookout and be sure to keep your pets under close supervision and on a leash to avoid any problems.
Overlook Mountain Fire Tower
Red Hill Fire Tower
RED HILL – TOWN OF DENNING – ELEVATION 2,990′
History: This 60-foot fire tower was constructed in 1921 and is listed on the National Historic Lookout Registeer and has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. The Red Hill Tower offers an unsurpassed view of the Catskill High Peaks to the west and north, along with the Roundout Reservoir to the southeast. The tower was reopened to the public in 2000.
Hiking Directions: Follow the yellow-marked Red Hill Tower Trail from the trailhead on Coons Road (formerly Dinch Road) just outside of Claryville. Return via the same route for a moderate, three-mile, round trip hike.
Tremper Mountain Fire Tower
TREMPER MOUNTAIN – TOWN OF SHANDAKEN – ELEVATION 2,740′
History: The Tremper Mountain Fire Tower is believed to be the original structure that was built in 1917 and used for fire observation until 1971. It was reopened to the public in 2001. The 47-foot tower offers a spectacular 360-degree view that includes the Burroughs Range, Stony Clove, Deep Notch and the Devil's Path Range.
Hiking Directions: Take the red-marked Phoenicia Trail from the trailhead parking lot on Ulster County Route 40 to the Tremper Mountain Fire Tower. Return via the same route from a 3.4 mile, moderate to difficult hike. Note that the parking area at the trailhead fills quickly. Additional limited parking is available on pull offs along County Route 40, but please observe all posted traffic and parking signs as illegally parked vehicles can be ticketed.
Caution! Timber Rattlesnakes have made the rocky areas of Tremper Mountain their home. Be on the lookout and be sure to keep your pets under close supervision and on a leash to avoid any problems.
Need More Information? Contact the Catskill Center at 845-586-2611 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and they would be happy to help you with your Catskill Fire Tower adventures and information. You can also stop in at the Catskill Interpretive Center and our staff and volunteers will be happy to help you plan your Fire Tower hike!
Let us know you visited a Fire Tower! Be sure to tag your photos with #CatskillFireTower and #CatskillCenter and follow the Catskill Fire Tower Project on Facebook and the Catskill Center on Twitter (@CatskillCenter) to get the latest news, information and events from the five fire towers of the Catskill Park and on all the work that the Catskill Center does on behalf of the Catskills!
Get the Gear! After you finish your Fire Tower hikes and climbs, get the official Catskills Fire Tower Patches! The Catskill Center's online shop offers Fire Tower Patches, T-shirts and Caps and all proceeds benefit the Fire Tower Project and the Fire Towers of the Catskills!
Support the Catskill Fire Tower Project and the Catskill Center! Generous support from donors and members like you make our work on the Catskill Fire Tower Project possible. Please become a member today so we can continue this work!