Visiting the Catskills Fire Towers is a terrific way to enjoy the fall, Catskills history, and views of the region from a scenic high point. Some of the towers require a hike, and two of them are a short distance from a parking area (Upper Esopus and Mount Utsayantha).
To maintain public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, please wear a face mask when visiting a tower, and use hand sanitizer before and after climbing a tower to protect other hikers and Catskill Center volunteers.
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.
Fall 2020: The staircase is open and the top cab of Hunter Mountain Fire Tower is opened by a Catskill Center volunteer interpreter on weekends and holiday Mondays.
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. Note that this year the Hunter Mountain Sky Ride is closed that normally takes you to Colonel’s Chair and the yellow-marked trail.
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.
Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower – 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.
Fall 2020: The staircase is open at Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower, and a Catskill Center volunteer interpreter is present on weekends and holiday Mondays through Columbus Day to talk about the history of the tower and the Catskill Park.
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.
Mount Tremper Fire Tower – Town of Shandaken – Elevation 2,740′
History: The Mount Tremper 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.
Fall 2020: The staircase and top cab of Mount Tremper Fire Tower are both open through the fall! Please follow best COVID practices and socially distance, wear a mask, and please use hand sanitizer before and after climbing the tower. Please do not try to open the windows as they are in fragile condition! Learn more about the Catskill Fire Tower Project on Catskill Center’s website.
Hiking Directions: Take the red-marked Phoenicia Trail from the trailhead parking lot on Ulster County Route 40 to the Mount Tremper 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.
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.
Fall 2020: The staircase is open at Overlook Mountain and a Catskill Center volunteer interpreter is present on weekends and holiday Mondays through Columbus Day to talk about the history of the tower and the Catskill Park.
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 problem.
Upper Esopus Fire Tower at the Catskills Visitor Center – Town of Shandaken – Elevation 670’
History: The Upper Esopus Fire Tower was a fire tower used for fire surveillance in Venice, Florida that was completely restored for its new home in the Catskills. It was rebuilt on the grounds at the Catskills Visitor Center in the fall of 2019. This 80-foot steel tower is a great way for hikers, casual and advanced, to enjoy a reward and view of the area for only about a quarter of a mile of walking from the parking area.
Fall 2020: The staircase is open every day at the Visitor Center’s fire tower. The top cab of the Upper Esopus Fire Tower is open through the fall on Fridays and Saturdays from 10-3 staffed by a Catskill Center volunteer interpreter. Call the Catskills Visitor Center to confirm: (845) 688-3369
Bramley Mountain – Towns of Bovina and Delhi – Elevation 2816′
View the site that was home to the Bramley Mountain Fire Tower until 1975 and will hopefully be the home of the restored Bramley Mountain Fire Tower in the not too distant future! Footings and anchor hardware can be found at the summit of the mountain. Learn more about the effort to restore the Fire Tower here.
Mount Utsayantha – Village of Stamford – Elevation 3214′
Located just outside of the Catskill Park, the Mount Utsayantha Fire Tower is wonderful to visit for a hike, or a short walk from the parking area.
Directions: NY 23 east from the village of Stamford, right on Mountain Avenue. This road will be steep. There is a dirt road on the left as you crest the ridge, which is Tower Road. You’ll see a sign for the park on the corner. Park in this area if you are planning to hike the road as there are a few private driveways’ prior to the main climb up to the Fire Tower.