"To complete the Challenge and receive the official full-color patch, hikers must climb and document, by date, ascents of at least 23 fire tower summits: 18 of 23 Adirondack Park summits and all 5 Catskill Park summits. Climbing each tower itself is not required, nor in fact recommended, for those towers that have not been restored for safe public use. The mountain should have a standing fire tower on the date of your ascent." (Information from adk-gfs.org.)
Now doesn't that sound like an absolutely fantastic challenge? Well it is. As a finisher I have to admit, this challenge is one of my favorites. While climbing the 46 High Peaks was also a fun challenge, this one offers something new and unique, and it gets you out and about in the entire park. This goes without saying; Hamilton County is home to some of the best and most challenging on the list. Below please see a bit of an overview of the fire tower peaks in the Hamilton County Region, and then get out there and play, you'll be surprised what you find.
Owls Head Mountain
Owls Head is located on the Shores of Long Lake off Endion Road. This fire tower gives you the best view of Long Lake you will find anywhere. While Owls Head Mountain is not the most challenging peak on the list - it is not a mountain to underestimate. Enjoy your hike through an attractive mixed forest and plan to take a side trip to Lake Eaton. You'll climb steeply up through the "horns" of the owl and top out on a rocky summit with views everlasting. The fire tower is in great condition and open for all to enjoy.
Blue Mountain is possibly the most popular fire tower peak on the entire list; its easy access and short distance appeals to the masses. Located in the Hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake you can have a great time climbing the steep slabs of the upper trail, sitting by a clear babbling brook, and soaking in the warm sun on the open summit. The fire tower doubles as a radio tower so the cab is not open, but feel free to take in some killer views from the stairs.
Wakley has the tallest remaining tower in the Adirondack Park. With no pun intended, it towers over everything around. Climb the open tower and feel this giant swaying in the breeze. This trail starts out by following an old woods road for quite some time as it accesses the foot trail at the base. Then climb over a challenging trail layout and pass by an old helicopter landing pad just below the summit. The observer's cabin sits near the tower – can you imagine spending your week at work living here?
Snowy is one of the most deceiving hikes on the list. This trail starts out so mellow - passing through a forest with sun beams falling on you through the canopy. It saves all the climbing for the end, with a steep trail that will challenge you for a good portion of the remaining climb. Then as you pass through a steep cleft you'll emerge out onto a plateau with outstanding views. The tower will set high above you, only slightly further up the trail.
Pillsbury is the third mountain in a row located in the Indian Lake Region. Pillsbury is possibly the least challenging of the fire tower peaks in Hamilton County, but the road to its trail-head is not. Accessing a maze of dirt roads you will eventually come to the trail-head for Pillsbury. A short descent from the trail-head will bring you to a crossing of the Miami River, which at this point is more of a "Miami Stream." Once over the river you have to start climbing. While a bit steep in areas, and equally as muddy in others, you will make short work of this mile and a half trail. The tower offers the best view, but a small window view from the summit area will afford one as well, if you don't like heights.
So, as you can see there are five towers that lie within the borders of Hamilton County, that's a quarter of the entire list. However, within a stone's throw of those borders are a couple more. Keep these gems in mind as well if you are staying in Hamilton County.
Located just outside of Inlet, say 10-minutes or so, is Bald Mountain. This peak is also called Rondaxe Mountain, but no matter what you call it, you will love the reward. At 2-miles in length this trail will bring you over steep terrain to a long rock spine that runs the length of the upper ridge, before it exits you out onto the rocky summit. The tower is in great shape, but a climb up is not needed for fantastic views out over the Fulton Chain Lakes.
Goodnow is located just over the Hamilton County border between Newcomb and Long Lake. This family-friendly fire tower hike will bring you over easy to moderate terrain to a fire tower that has been restored and is in perfect climbing condition. Along the way be sure to stop at the old carriage house and have a snack before you press on to the summit. Outstanding views from the summit floor are awarded, but the true beauty is from the fire tower looking into the High Peaks Region.
Ready for the Fire Tower Challenge?
So now you know where to start your challenge from: Hamilton County, of course. How can we help take care of you? Need a place to stay and rest your tired feet? Maybe a place to eat after you've worked up a huge appetite from hiking? I know, now you're hooked and you want to get some cool hiking gear, well one of our outfitters can help you with that, too.