When we got the Peakquest fire tower challenge card we were so excited! We could not wait to go out there and do the challenge. After doing some research, we decided to do the three located in Catskills first. In one day, we were able to complete three out of five Catskills Fire Tower Challenge hikes.
Red Hill Fire Tower
The first tower we completed was the Red Hill. This was the shortest climb but it was a complete uphill. The terrain was composed of rocks and tree roots. Even though the climb was only a mile and a half, I was completely exhausted and couldn’t wait to get to the top.
After finally reaching the top and catching up to my hubby, I breathes a sign of relief. When you reach the tower, you also pass by a little cabin, which was closed. I wish it was open but due to Covid-19 it was closed. Once we climbed up the tower, the last part of the tower was locked. We could not go in to check the view from the very top.
As for the views, they were beautiful but not the best. The pine trees are tall and in a few years the view will be pretty much non-existing. If you want to check the tower out before the view is gone, I suggest you go in the next seven years or so.
Overall, the hike was good and challenging. While it was short it was a good morning workout and I couldn’t wait to get back to the car and drive for an hour to the next Catskills fire tower challenge location.
Balsam Lake Fire Tower
After the GPS took us the wrong way and added extra time to resting, we got to the Balsam Lake parking. We actually missed it and kept going thinking it was further down, only to realize we were looking at the wrong place on the map. Thanks to Avenza Maps app we were able to pinpoint where we actually were.
Once we crossed the street from the parking lot, the trail entrance was there. And right off the bat, it starts with an uphill. Yay, for uphills (she said sarcastically)! This trail was a little longer this time, being at around 3 miles hike. The terrain of the trail was rocks and gravel, with some grass and dirt along the way. Unlike the Red Hill Tower which has a very narrow one-two people path, the Balsam Lake fore tower path was wider. It was also busier with a lot more people coming up and down the trail.
While the trail is still an uphill, it’s less of an incline and you do get to catch your breath in some places. A woman was carrying a child and made the climb, just take your time and be careful where you step.
Once we finally reached the top of the mountain and got to the tower cabin, we were swarmed by flies! I thought they were wasps so I ran through it. The views from the tower were beautiful, but again the top of the tower was closed. We were unable to see the view from the very top.
Overall, the hike was a good challenge and coming down was easier. We did run out of water and snacks. Having an empty backpack was not fun and we couldn’t wait to eat.
Mount Tremper Fire Tower
After making the wrong turn, again, and stopping at a gas station to get some snacks and water, we went to our third hike of the day. The last Catskills Fire Tower Challenge of the day was Mount Tremper and it was the hardest. This is supposed to be around 3 miles hike up and three back but it felt a whole lot longer!
The trail for this tower was a straight uphill. When you finally think you’re done with the hills more uphills emerge. It was already late in the day and when we started it and I thought we wouldn’t be able to finish but we did.
You start the trail at around 800ft elevation and end up at 2700 feet, so it’s an uphill and a half! we ended up taking a long bread right before the first Lean-To. After the break we started walking and realized the Lean-to was actually just up the “corner” so we went and checked it out. The lean-to had your basics for cooking and an outhouse. If we ever decide to sleep outdoors one day, I would do it here.
After exploring the lean-to we continued with the trail and finally reached the tower. We were thinking about doing the trail to the natural spring as well, but were pressed for time.
Once we got to the tower, there was another lean-to. It also had the basics but I didn’t see another outhouse. One thing I did like was that the tower was actually open. It was the last tower and only one that we were able to go all the way to the top. The views were beautiful of the Catskills. Coming down the hill was another story of its own.
I never thought I would do three hikes in one day, but we did. We did a total of 18 miles with all the three towers and extra hiking. Long story short, someone lost their shirt and we did the hardest part at Tremper again, looking for it. Every turn I kept “seeing” the shirt, only to realize it was a shadow of the rock. In the end, we found the shirt by the first lean-to entrance and were able to go home knowing we didn’t leave any trace behind.
Since we forgot our Peakquest scratch off card, we didn’t scratch off any of the hikes. We hope to do them again soon and hopefully make better time.
You don’t have to do three crazy hikes in one day but you should always challenge yourself. Take plenty of breaks and make sure to enjoy the scenery.