While not part of the Hamilton County Fire Tower Challenge, Bald Mountain is part of the Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge and is a great “bang for your buck” outing. With a long rocky spine and unbeatable views, this fire tower peak is sure to impress and is totally worth the short ride over from the Inlet area.
Bald Mountain is a place of many names. Early settlers called it Pond Mountain and then it was called Bald Mountain later on, due to its rocky (bald) appearance. However, in 1912, state officials changed the name to Rondaxe Mountain to avoid confusion with another Bald Mountain with a fire tower in nearby Lewis County. Rondaxe is derived from the word Adirondacks. Today, most people refer to this mountain as Bald Mountain still.
The fire tower atop the mountain has been there since 1917. It has been a popular hike for a long time. In 1965, 18,242 people visited the tower. Not long after the fire observation station closed in 1990, a group of volunteers began restoration work and continue to maintain the tower today.
How to get there
From Inlet, travel south on Route 28 for 6.2 miles, then turn right onto Rondaxe Road. Travel just over 0.1 mile to the trailhead parking on the left.
By the numbers
- Distance: about 1 mile
- Elevation gain: 400 feet
- Mountain elevation: 2,350 feet
Of the fire tower hikes, this is one of the easier ones. From the trailhead, the route starts out quite flat over easy terrain, but wastes no time in starting the climb. You will soon find that the footing may get tougher as the grade steepens. As you climb higher, a rock spine will be under you, possibly unnoticed, but you should notice the trail narrowing.
At 0.4 miles, views come into sight. You’ll see Second, Third, and Fourth lakes from cliffs on the left. The last couple hundred feet before you reach the tower are along a rock spine and the views will be continuous and breathtaking. At just around 1 mile, the fire tower is reached. Climb to the top to enjoy 360-degree views or take in the sights from the rocks below. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Blue Mountain and the Fulton Chain of Lakes will stretch out before you as one of the most stunning views in the area.
Bald Mountain in winter
Parking and the trailhead do not change in winter. The tower remains open, but visitors should remove snowshoes or traction devices before climbing the stairs. The steps can be very icy and the wind quite powerful, so be prepared. Otherwise, this makes for a nice snowshoe when conditions allow. Cross-country skiing is not recommended. Under low snow conditions, it may be best to use snow spikes for traction. Ice tends to build up on the steeper slope near the summit when ample snow is not available.
This is an easy hike to combine two activities: hiking and birding!