On Thursday, we hiked Balsam Lake Fire Tower and Red Hill Fire Tower with our friend. She only has 2 more towers to complete before getting her Catskill Fire Tower Challenge patch. The first tower we did was Balsam Lake Mountain. For us, this was the third time hiking this trail and it felt the easiest. To me, it still ranks as the easiest of the five towers. (Not counting Upper Esopus for obvious reasons.)
For Balsam Lake Fire Tower we parked at Dry Brook Ridge Trailhead. You can also park at Balsam Lake Trailhead on Turnwood Road. This is a four mile loop but the trail is steeper. We did not want to tire out our friend too much before completing Red Hill tower so we went to the other parking lot. If you want to challenge yourself more, go to Balsam Lake Trailhead instead. Once we parked our car, we crossed the street and started the hike. This trail is a wide carriage road and what makes it easy. While the trail continues to go uphill, there are no challenges or obstacles that make it too difficult.
When you get to the intersection with the gate, this is where you can turn right and take the red trail to Balsam Lake Fire tower. This is the section that’s probably the hardest with loose rocks and a few hills. The path is also more narrow here in the woods but it doesn’t take too long before you make it to the tower. At the tower, we took a nice, long break since the sun was shinning and the sky was blue. Once the people started coming, we grabbed our gear and headed back down the 3 miles to the car.
Hiking Red Hill Fire Tower
It took us an hour to go from Balsam Mountain fire tower to Red Hill fire tower. This is because you have to keep going around the Catskill mountains to get from one tower to the next. Once we came to the parking lot, there were at least four other cars in the lot. After signing in, we went for the hike. Our friend took on to the challenge well. While this is only a two mile hike, it’s a continuous uphill. The trail starts off narrow with a lot of stone stairs in between. For the first mile or so, you’re walking up the stairs and dirt trails. Then the second half is just looping around until you are at the tower.
Red Hill fire tower trail is narrow but beautiful. I love how it goes from one forest to the next and how vastly they differ in such a short time. We took a few short breaks going up the hill but made it in decent time. After eating our snacks, enjoying the views from the tower, and enjoying more snacks by the cabin, we went back to the car. The two mile hike down felt very fast as we were all on autopilot.
The one hour drive back home was breathtaking with the alluring foliage. While fall means saying goodbye to longer, sunnier, warmer days, it makes the forests even more magical. It didn’t hurt that it was the perfect day to hike Balsam Lake Fire Tower and Red Hill. The total ten mile hike did the body and soul some good.