Catskills Fire Tower Challenge 2024

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is hosting the Catskills Fire Tower Challenge 2024. If you hike all six Catskills fire towers in a year you will receive a patch. All you need to do is hike the towers, track your miles, fill out the time sheet and email it to

This year is actually our 4th time hiking the fire towers. The first time we just did the towers for the sake of doing them. The second time we completed the challenge in two days and received our Catskill Fire Tower Challenge patch. The third time we took a friend to complete the Fire Towers Challenge but didn’t think to submit the sheet for ourselves as well. This year, we completed all six towers in 5 days, starting January 1st to the 5th of 2024.

Red Hill Fire Tower Challenge 2024

First on the list for our tower challenge was Red Hill. I chose this one because it was the shortest and I wasn’t feeling my best. While this was the 4th time we did the hike, on this day it was cold, I was tired and sleep deprived but I wanted us to start the year strong and with a hike.

If you’ve ever hiked Red Hill from Denning Rd parking lot, you know that it’s a continuous uphill until you reach the tower. There are a few switchbacks as you go up the hill and a few spots where you think you’ll have a straight path. Alas, it just keeps going up. While the hike was short, and there was only a small coating of snow, going up felt like a challenge. It put me back to the first time that we did the hike where Nihad flew by me while I took my sweet time getting up there. This time my excuse was that I was sick.

After taking a short break and eating some chocolate and chickpea puffs, I got my energy back. I didn’t realize just how close we were to making it to the top but I needed that break. A nap would have been nice as well, but you take what you can get. Once we got to the top, we put on our extra layers and walked up the tower with our picture of Koko. She climbed those tower stairs with us, enjoyed the freezing cold views, and walked down the steps with me. After taking more pictures by the tower and enjoying a little snack break, we headed back down the mountain. It is always easier to go down the mountain and exciting to see the car waiting for you.

Hiking Balsam Mountain Fire Tower

One of my favorite fire tower trails is Balsam Mountain. The first time we climbed Balsam Mountain Fire Tower it was hot, muggy, I was tired and hungry, and the trail just kept dragging on. The second and third time we climbed it, I realized just how easy it was and loved it. It was also winter the second time, which helped. January 2nd was the 4th time we climbed Balsam Mountain. I was expecting it to be all ice, but it wasn’t. Instead, we got to enjoy snow and later on even some sunshine and flurries.

The first mile of Balsam Mountain is a pretty good uphill. Then you reach the top and plateau for another good mile. Once you reach the intersection, you take a right turn, past the gate, and start the uphill. The third mile is the most interesting one since you’re going up, into the woods. Just as you think there are no more uphills, there is one more, and then another.

Catskills Fire Tower Challenge 2024 Photo Galleries

Red Hill Fire Tower Hike Video

Balsam Fire Tower Hike Video

Overlook Fire Tower Hike Video

2024 Catskills Fire Tower Challenge

Coming soon, the 2024 Fire Tower Challenge! 

  • Visit all six Catskill Fire Towers between January 1, 2024 and December 31, 2024.
  • Fill out the log of completed hikes along with one favorite photo via SurveyMonkey or by downloading and emailing the 2024 Catskills Fire Tower Challenge Survey (PDF) to This can also be submitted via mail to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Outdoor Recreation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-1020. Entries must be postmarked by January 6, 2025
  • All finishers will receive a commemorative patch and be entered into the grand prize drawing*. The first 1,000 finishers will also receive a one-year subscription to DEC’s Conservationist magazine. Finishers who have completed the challenge in multiple years will receive an additional commemorative Catskills Fire Tower Challenge prize!
  • To receive a bonus prize entry, submit a photo showing yourself practicing Leave No Trace ™ while participating in the Catskills Fire Tower Challenge (e.g., picking up litter, carrying out, planning and preparing for their hikes, staying on trail). 

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