Catskills Fire Tower Challenge

Catskills Fire Tower Challenge 2022

If you’re looking for a fun adventure this year, join the Catskills Fire Tower Challenge! We did the challenge last year in the summer and completed it in two days. This time we did it in the winter but took our time completing them. So, what exactly is this fire tower challenge? For almost a hundred years, forest watchers would observe and look out for fires in the NY State forests. This includes the Catskills and Andirondacks. Fire observers were also given a new duty during WWII. Their new role was being Enemy Aircraft Spotters. By 1980s the DEC started to phase out fire spotters. By 1990, all the 19 Catskill fire towers were closed.

Once they started to deteriorate, volunteers started to initiate a move to keep the towers restored. Not only would they help keep the history alive, they would help boost tourism in the communities. Thanks to the efforts of these people, including DEC staff and local government officials, a lot of the towers in the Catskills and Andirondacks were restored. Now, we can all enjoy the six Catskill fire towers and 25 in the Andirondacks.

The Six Towers

Right now, there are six Catskill Fire Towers that you can visit and need to complete in order to get your badge. Once you complete all six towers between the first of January until December 31, 2022, you need to fill out the form and send it in by January 7, 2023. The six Catskills Fire Tower Challenge are:

Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Observation

This was the first fire tower that was built in the Catskills in 1887. It was a wooden tower which was rebuilt in 1905. Then in 1919 it was replaced by a steel tower that we see today. It was closed in 1988 and reopened to the public in 2000. Balsam Lake Mountain fire tower has elevation of 3,723 feet. In my opinion, this was one of the easier tower challenges. Round trip was a little over six miles.

Hiking Balsam Fire Tower YouTube Video

Hunter Mountain Tower

Hunter Mountain fire tower was built in 1909 out of logs and stood at 40 feet tall. In 1917 it was rebuilt out of steel, standing 20 feet higher than the previous tower. The tower was originally placed at 4,000 ft elevation but it was moved in 1953, and stands at 4,040 ft now. This was probably the hardest of the fire tower challenges for me. We climbed from the camp site parking lot and our round trip was a little over eight miles.

Hiking Hunter Fire Tower YouTube Video

Tremper Mountain

Tremper Mountain fire tower was built in 1917 and used until 1971. The 47 foot tall tower sits at 2,740 feet in elevation and is a little over six miles hike, round trip. In the summer I complained about this hike but it was a steady and easy incline during winter.

Hiking Mt. Tremper Fire Tower YouTube Video

Red Hill

The Red Hill fire tower is an impressive 60 feet tall structure and was built in 1921. It stands at 2,990 feet elevation and was a nice short four mile hike round trip. We parked at the new parking area and climbed the steep climb up into the woods. The trail is challenging and we chose a really cold day but it was fun.

Hiking Red Hill Fire Tower YouTube Video

Overlook Mountain

Overlook Mountain tower was first constructed in 1927 and placed on Gallis Hill. It was moved to it’s resting location in 1950 and stands at 3,140 feet. I feel like these three miles to Overlook tower are challenging since it’s all an uphill. But the good news it’s all downhill and you get to walk through what could have been a magical hotel, once again-again.

Hiking Overlook Fire Tower YouTube Video

Upper Esopus

Upper Esopus is a newly reconstructed tower. It was complete and open to the public in 2019 at Catskills Visitors Center. While not a lot of information is known about the tower, it came from Venice, Florida. It’s estimated that the tower was built around 1940s. This Catskill fire tower challenge does not require any mountain climbing. You could enjoy the short loop trail across the visitors center or climb up the steep trail to the picnic tables and sunset views.

Hiking Upper Esopus Fire Tower YouTube Video

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  1. I would really LOVE to hike the Catskills! The area looks amazing so hiking in the fall when the weather is cool and colors spectacular!

  2. Love the Catskills. I wish I could go up in the towers but physically unable to do steps. I’m sure the view up there would be phenomenal.

  3. I was just talking about how one of our field trips in the 6th grade was to a fire tower. From the ground, the tower looked easy enough to scale and I puffed out my chest telling myself that it would be nothing for me to scale down it. As soon as I got to the top and looked over the edge I was done for. That day I found out I was scared of heights. I would love to watch others going down Red Hill’s 60 ft tower and pretend that it is me.

  4. You did not list the fire tower in Stamford New York which is one of the highest that you can see the Adirondacks on a clear day from the Catskills

    1. I had no idea there was a fire tower there and first time hearing that part of New York. That is really cool, I will need to check it out and add it to our hiking list. Thanks again for sharing that information with us.

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