Whether it’s the view from the summit or from the tower—or the experiences en route—“fire tower fever” grips you right away and there’s no turning back. Sound familiar? Then you’re a person for whom the Glens Falls-Saratoga Chapter of ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) has created the Fire Tower Challenge.
There are lots of good reasons to explore these trails and towers, not least because their far-flung locations take you to vastly different parts of both parks and provide a rich learning experience.
What is the Fire Tower Challenge?
The Challenge began in 2001 with ADK’s publication of Views from on High: Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills. Now in its second edition, the book describes 30 fire tower trails accompanied by photos, maps, and GPS coordinates for trailheads. It includes an essay detailing the history of Forest Preserve fire towers and a new chapter describing towers located beyond both parks.
You are not required to be a member of ADK to take part in the Challenge, but if you are interested, you can learn more about becoming an ADK member. ADK chapters plan a wide variety of activities to help you learn more about nature, the protection of our environment, and outdoor skills.
Adirondack Fire Towers
- Mount Adams
- Mount Arab
- Azure Mountain
- Bald (Rondaxe) Mountain
- Belfry Mountain
- Black Mountain
- Blue Mountain
- Cathedral Rock (Currently closed)
- Goodnow Mountain
- Gore Mountain** (All uphill travel on Gore Mountain ski trails is prohibited during ski season. Therefore, Gore is removed from the ADK Winter Fire Tower Challenge.)
- Hadley Mountain
- Hurricane Mountain
- Kane Mountain
- Loon Lake Mountain
- Lyon Mountain
- Owls Head Mountain
- Pillsbury Mountain
- Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain
- Snowy Mountain
- Spruce Mountain*
- St. Regis Mountain
- Stillwater Mountain*
- Swede Mountain*
- Vanderwhacker Mountain
- Wakely Mountain
- Woodhull Mountain
Catskill Fire Towers
- Balsam Lake Mountain
- Hunter Mountain**
- Overlook Mountain
- Red Hill
- Tremper Mountain
*Closed during hunting season (see www.adk-gfs.org for exact dates and more info).
**Because this is a hiking challenge, we ask that Challenge completers summiting Gore Mountain and Hunter Mountain do so on the trails (rather than a ski lift).
The Winter Fire Tower Challenge!
Since 2011 the Glens Falls-Saratoga Chapter of ADK has offered a new Fire Tower Challenge: the Winter Fire Tower Challenge. To complete the Winter Challenge and receive the official “rocker,” a patch shaped like the rung of a rocking chair, note the following:
- Winter Challengers must complete their tower-trail hikes between December 21 and March 21, inclusive.
- Do not climb the towers themselves between these dates. Fire towers are extremely unsafe in the winter, when high winds can pose additional risks and stairs are often covered in ice and snow. Additionally, crampon spikes do irreparable damage to the wooden steps.
Rules of the Fire Tower Challenge
To complete the Challenge (three-season and winter) and receive the official full-color patch:
- Climb and document, by date, ascents of at least 23 fire tower summits: 18 of 25 Adirondack Park summits and all 5 Catskill Park summits. Climbing each tower is not required, nor is it recommended for those towers that need additional restoration measures for safe public use.
- Note that each mountain should have a standing fire tower on the date of your ascent.
- In addition to recording the dates of your climbs on the list provided, we hope you’ll use extra sheets of paper to describe points of interest: your impressions, companions, weather, wildlife sightings, and whatever else merits your attention. We really want you to share your experiences with us, so please be expressive. Please circle your final Challenge hike.
- Send the attached list and additional pages—with name, postal address, and e-mail address on each—along with a check for $5 per patch. Winter Challenge completers should enclose $3 per rocker. (Winter completers add $5 per patch, in addition to $3 per rocker, if you are a first-time Fire Tower Challenge finisher.) Both the patch and the rocker are free for completers 15 years of age and younger.
- Make the check payable to ADK Glens Falls-Saratoga Chapter and send to: Adirondack Mountain Club Fire Tower Challenge, c/o ADK Glens Falls-Saratoga Chapter, PO Box 2314, Glens Falls, NY 12801. Please allow 4-6 weeks to receive your patch.