From (roughly) the early to late 1900’s, forest fire observers watched over many areas of the Northeast United States from towers perched on the top of peaks around the region. While in most places the observers are no longer scanning the landscape looking for signs of fires, some of the towers remain and have been preserved/restored for the enjoyment of the public. From long treks to half mile meanders, fire tower hikes offer a little something for everyone to enjoy. With the right planning, they can be a perfect sunrise/sunset destination, and some even offer camping in the tower. Here are a few fire tower hikes in the Northeast to get you started – as well as some great resources to find many more!
Mount Arab, Tupper Lake New York
The Adirondack and Catskill regions of upstate New York are home to 30 fire towers accessible to hikers, so you really can’t go wrong if you are looking for a lookout hike in the area. One to try out if you are in the Lake Placid or Saranac regions is Mount Arab. A 1 mile uphill hike (elevation gain of 760 feet) brings you to the summit of Mount Arab, which offers panoramic views. This is a great sunrise/sunset hike, as the trail is easy to follow (don’t forget a headlamp!). The towers can be quite windy at the top, so dress accordingly and enjoy the scenery.
Hadley Mountain, Hadley New York
A round-trip hike of 3.6 miles brings you to the summit of Hadley Mountain in the southern Adirondacks. On a clear day, the views from the top of the tower extend to the Green Mountains of Vermont in the East and the high peaks of the Adirondacks to the North.
Belfry Mountain, Port Henry New York
Belfry Mountain is the perfect fire tower hike for anyone looking for a nice easy stroll. At 0.6 miles round trip and only 120 feet of elevation change, the hike to Belfry is a pleasant walk in the woods for all ages. Enjoy the views from the summit, and on a clear day climb the tower for views of Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and Whiteface Moutnain.
Kearsarge North, North Conway New Hampshire
At 6.2 miles round trip, the hike to Kearsarge North (located a few miles north of North Conway in the White Mountains) is a steep and somewhat challenging hike to a fire tower with panoramic views of the surrounding peaks. Soak in views of the presidential range and neighboring mountains from inside the enclosed tower or from the deck surrounding it.
Pawtuckaway South Mountain, Nottingham New Hampshire
Pawtuckaway South Mountain’s fire tower can be accessed from a number of trails throughout the park, including a quick 0.5 mile walk from a parking area accessible by dirt road. Enjoy views of the surrounding forest and lakes, and then head back down to take advantage of all the park has to offer. Camp onsite at the campground (with some stellar waterfront sites) and enjoy the lake as well as miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Mount Ascutney, Windsor Vermont
A variety of trails lead to the summit of Mount Ascutney at Ascutney State Park. Varying from a few miles to a 0.5 mile hike from the top of the paved auto road, there is something for all abilities to enjoy. Climb to the top of the tower to take in 360 degree views of the surrounding Vermont and New Hampshire peaks. Camping is available right at the park
Stratton Mountain, Vermont
This ski mountain also houses a fire tower on its peak. Hike the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail to the summit (7.6 mile out and back). Not in the mood for a strenuous trek? A gondola ride up the mountain will leave you a less than one mile hike from the fire tower on the summit.
Elmore, Lake Elmore Vermont
A 2 mile hike will take you to the top of Elmore Mountain in Lake Elmore state park. Enjoy the views of the lake below and neighboring mountain ranges. The state park also offers campground camping and water sports on the lake.
Mount Pisgah, Winthrop Maine
West of Augusta, a 2 mile loop hike will take you over the summit of Mount Pisgah in Maine. Climb the tower on a clear day for views that can extend to the coast in the east, and to Mount Washington in the west.
Beech Mountain, Acadia National Park Maine
Acadia National Park is a must-do New England destination. Take a side trip while enjoying the rugged coastline and miles of carriage roads and hike Beech Mountain, home to the only fire tower in Acadia. The tower is not open to the public all of the time so check with rangers if you have your heart set on climbing the tower. Various trails can take you there, the shortest is 1.2 mile round trip.
I hope these ideas inspire you to get out there and explore! There are many more fire tower hikes out there, so get going and find your favorite. Some good resources for fire tower hikes in the Northeast include:
- Firelookout.org website – a listing of fire towers all around the country
- Views from on high: Fire tower trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills – guidebook covering fire towers in New York
- Green Mountain Club’s guide to Vermont Fire and Observation Towers