14 Hudson Valley Hikes With Fire Towers for Jaw-Dropping Views
With treks ranging from beginner to pro, these upstate New York trails lead to fire towers that offer vistas of the Valley unlike any you’ve seen before.
Imagine you’re on a hike in the Hudson Valley. The day is a glorious one, with a blue, sunshine-filled sky above and earthy terrain at your feet. As you trek along a trail filled with all manner of flora and fauna, you can’t help but admire the paradise that surrounds you.
But that’s just the beginning.
For there’s a certain point along your journey when, as if by magic, the tree line clears to reveal a towering metal structure that soars sky-high. It’s a fire tower, of course, and it’s likely the reason you chose this particular trek in the first place.
In the Hudson Valley, fire towers hold a special place in the hearts of hikers. Not only are they local landmarks in the region, but they’re also unofficial finish lines for explorers in search of the most picturesque vistas the region has to offer. Rest assured, the views are truly incredible at the top.
What’s more, avid adventurers can take on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Catskills Fire Tower Challenge. To complete the challenge, hikers must snap a photo of the fire towers at Overlook Mountain, Hunter Mountain, Red Hill Mountain, Balsam Lake Mountain, Upper Esopus, and Tremper Mountain. The first 1,000 finishers will receive a year-long subscription to the DEC’s Conservationist magazine, and a bonus prize is available to hikers who snap a picture of themselves observing the #LeaveNoTrace policy. For more information about the challenge, visit the DEC’s website.
So, what are you waiting for? Pack up your bag, lace up your sneakers, and grab an energy bar for the road. It’s time to tackle one of these hikes in search of the fire towers of the Hudson Valley.
Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower
One of six fire towers inside Catskill Park, the Balsam Lake Mountain tower stands tall at an elevation of 3,723 feet. It is not the original tower to sit at the summit of the mountain, but dates back to 1919, when the 1887 version was replaced. Nowadays, the 47-foot structure is accessible from the Dry Brook Ridge Trail just outside of Arkville. The round-trip trek is six miles, making it a doable exploration for both beginner and expert hikers in the Hudson Valley.
Beebe Hill Fire Tower
A lesser-trekked trail in the Hudson Valley, the pathway to Beebe Hill Fire Tower is surprisingly doable for a hike that ascends to a 1,726-foot summit. The trail runs for about a mile before opening up to the tower, which was built in 1928 and moved to East Chatham in 1964 after sitting atop two other peaks. From the top, the views include scenes of the Berkshires, the Catskills, and the ever-changing landscape below.
Dickinson Hill Fire Tower
Built in 1924, then restored in 2012 and added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, Rensselaer County’s fire tower is a delight for anyone on the hunt for prime panoramas of the Adirondacks, Green Mountains, and Taconic Range. The tower extends 60 feet upward and is reachable via a 1.5-mile hike from the parking area. It’s part of Grafton Lakes State Park, which features six ponds and spans close to 2,500 acres.
Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower
Tucked in an idyllic corner of Rhinebeck just minutes away from the center of town, Ferncliff Forest hides forested trails and one of the most picture-perfect fire towers in the Hudson Valley. The walk to the fire tower is a breeze and, in no time at all, a short incline leads to a tower that overlooks the entirety of Dutchess County. The yellow trail gets visitors there quickest, while the red trail offers a roundabout journey when linked up with the blue or green walkways.
Hunter Mountain Fire Tower
Only thrill seekers need apply for this Hudson Valley hike. The Hunter Mountain Fire Tower sits at the highest elevation of any fire tower in New York State (a whopping 4,040 feet), so it’s not one for those who fear heights. The tower itself is 60 feet tall and was built in 1917 before being transported a third of a mile to its current location at the summit of Hunter Mountain in 1953. Anyone adventurous enough to make the journey should get started along the Spruceton Trail off Spruceton Road. The hike extends seven miles round-trip and is moderately difficult. Don’t let that deter you, though! The views from the top of the tower are truly something else.
Jackie Jones Fire Tower
The four-mile hike to the Jackie Jones Fire Tower might be moderate in intensity, but the views from the top of the tower are undoubtedly worth the effort. The tower sits inside the Harriman State Park Complex and resides on the 1,276-foot summit of the Jackie Jones Mountain. It was built in 1928, restored in 2018, and sits at 60 feet tall. For local explorers, this tower is a real treat. From the top, it delivers snapshots of Lake Welch to the north, the Hudson River to the southeast, and, on a clear day, the New York City skyline all the way south.
Mount Beacon Fire Tower
Part of Scenic Hudson’s protected lands, Mount Beacon is one of the most popular hikes in Dutchess County (and for good reason). It’s a tough trek, to be sure, but the views from the top of the mountain are well worth the effort. While the first stop on the hike, an observation platform that overlooks the Hudson River, is a wonderful stopping point, the truly determined will want to continue the journey to the tower that’s a mile away. Sure, it looks far in the distance. Yet the trek itself is manageable and leads to a fire tower atop a smooth rock mountain. From the height of the tower, hikers can see from Manhattan to Albany on a clear day.
Mount Tremper Fire Tower
Mount Tremper & Willow
Dating back to 1917, the Mount Tremper Fire Tower is an awe-inspiring rig that rises 47 feet in the air. From the top, the tower overlooks the “teacup of the Catskills,” where the Ashokan Reservoir and the arching hillsides meet. As for getting there, the fire tower can be reached via two main trailheads on the eastern side in Willow or the western side in Mount Tremper, respectively. The latter pathway is slightly shorter (6.1 miles compared to 7.6 miles), although the elevation gain is higher.
Nimham Mountain Fire Tower
Putnam County’s signature tower rises high to nearly 83 feet and dates back to 1940. A landmark in the Hudson Valley, it appears on the National Historic Lookout Register. The hike to get there is an easy one, with a low incline that takes about half an hour to ascend. As for the view, it’s all about rolling treescapes that transform into a rainbow of citrine and ruby hues come fall.
Overlook Mountain Fire Tower
As the newest fire tower to join the collection of towers in Catskill Park, the Overlook Mountain Fire Tower only dates back to 1950. It stands 60 feet tall, with a total elevation of 3,140 feet. Because it sits on mountainous terrain, this tower offers standout views of the Valley that span the Berkshires, Taconic Mountains, and Litchfield Hills, not to mention the Ashokan Reservoir and the Devil’s Path Range. Begin a hike here on the Overlook Spur Trail along Meads Mountain Road. The trek itself is somewhat harder than other hikes on this list, so only attempt this one if you’re in the mood to break a sweat.
Red Hill Fire Tower
Red Hill is one of the tallest fire towers in the Hudson Valley, soaring up 60 feet to a total elevation of 2,990 feet. It dates back to 1921, is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register, and has also been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. The views at Red Hill can’t be beat, since the tower looks clear over the Catskill High Peaks and the Rondout Reservoir. To get there, take the Red Hill Tower Trail beginning on Coons Road outside of Claryville. The hike totals three miles round-trip and is moderate in difficulty.
Sterling Forest Fire Tower
Lake views? Hudson Valley ruins? Yep, the hike to the Sterling Forest Fire Tower has it all. From the parking lot, visitors can begin a four-mile trek that passes along the ruins of the Sterling Furnace and mining and ore processing operations, not to mention the glistening Sterling Lake. Following the Fire Tower Connector Trail leads to a tower dating back to 1922. Upon climbing to the top, hikers can stop to admire the panoramic scenery of the forest from the treetops, with portions of Cedar Pond, Greenwood Lake, and, on a cloudless day, North and South Beacon Mountains all visible.
Stissing Mountain Fire Tower
In the quiet countryside of Pine Plains, the Stissing Mountain Fire Tower calls to those who crave a hike off the beaten path. The trek to the tower runs about 45 minutes, with two trails to get visitors there. The left path is shortest and steepest, while the right one is easier and has more of a gradual incline. The tower is 90 feet tall and sits at an elevation of 1,402 feet near the summit of Stissing Mountain. From the top, visitors can see clear toward Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont to the east and Albany to the north.
Upper Esopus Fire Tower
The most easily accessible tower of any on this list, the Upper Esopus Fire Tower got its start in Venice, Florida before being restored and transported to the Catskills in fall 2019. The tower stands 80 feet tall for a total elevation of 670 feet, and getting there only requires a quarter-mile hike from the parking lot. In other words, it’s ideal for top-notch photo ops sans the hefty backpack of hiking gear.