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Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge

The First 500 finisher spaces have been received and filled. The challenge remains open to entries through December 31st, 2019 and those who successfully complete the Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge by then will receive a certificate, set of set of commemorative pins, a one-year subscription to Conservationist magazine*, and be entered to win great hiking accessories.

See the Catskills like never before!

a woman taking a selfie in front of a fire tower
firetower challenge logo

Take the Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge!

For nearly a century, observers watched the forests of New York State--including the Catskill and Adirondack forest preserves-- from more than 100 fire towers perched atop the highest peaks, searching for the dangerous, telltale signs of forest fires.

You can experience these spectacular views from the top of five fire towers by taking the Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge. Climb all five towers in the Catskill Park, take a selfie at each tower at the designated sign, and submit to have a chance to win!

How to Enter

  1. Hike to all five Catskills Fire Towers between July 11, 2019, and December 31, 2019.
    • Overlook Mountain - Woodstock, NY
    • Hunter Mountain - Hunter, NY
    • Red Hill Mountain - Denning, NY
    • Balsam Lake Mountain - Hardenburgh, NY
    • Tremper Mountain, Shandaken, NY
  2. Snap a selfie at each tower.
  3. Send all five selfies, with your name and address, after you have completed them to catskillschallenge@dec.ny.gov or to:
    Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge
    14th Floor
    New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
    625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-1010

Prizes

Hikers who complete all five fire towers will receive a certificate, a set of commemorative pins, a one-year subscription to Conservationist magazine*, and be entered to win great hiking accessories. The first 500 participants who complete the challenge will receive a free Empire Pass* for the season and be eligible for a commemorative special edition New York State license plate featuring the Catskills. Read here for complete contest rules.

*Limit one per household.

firetower

Fire Tower Locations

Overlook Mountain

Woodstock-Elevation 3,140 feet

This is the newest of the five towers remaining in the Catskill Park, having been at its present location since 1950. However, the tower itself is much older as it was originally constructed in 1927 on Gallis Hill, just west of Kingston. The Overlook Tower reaches 60 feet in height, and offers incredible views of the Hudson River Valley, Ashokan Reservoir, and Devil's Path.

Directions: Take the red-marked Overlook Spur Trail from Meads Mountain Road, just outside of downtown Woodstock - a moderate, six-mile, round-trip hike.

Hunter Mountain

Town of Hunter-Elevation 4,040 feet

This tower has the unique distinction of being located at the highest elevation of any fire tower in New York State. The original tower on Hunter Mountain - constructed of logs - was built in 1909, and was the first of three fire towers constructed in the Catskills that year. The original tower was 40 feet tall, and was replaced with a steel tower 60 feet high in 1917. That tower was originally placed at an elevation of 4,000 feet - a third of a mile from the true summit - but was removed and reset at its present site on the true summit in 1953.

Directions: Take the Spruceton Trail marked with blue disks, from Greene County Route 6 (Spruceton Hollow Road) in the hamlet of Spruceton. A seven-mile moderately-difficult round trip hike. Or take the yellow-marked trail from the Hunter Mt. Sky Ride when it is open, a moderate four-mile round-trip hike.

Red Hill

Denning-Elevation 2,990 feet

The Red Hill Fire Tower stands 60 feet tall, has nine flights of stairs, and was constructed in 1921. This tower affords an unsurpassed view of the Catskill high peaks to the west and north, and the Rondout Reservoir to the southeast. It was the last fire tower staffed in the Catskills, closing in 1990.

Directions: Follow the yellow-marked Red Hill Tower Trail from Coons Road (formerly Dinch Road) just outside of Claryville-a moderate, three-mile, round-trip hike.

Balsam Lake Mountain

Hardenburgh-Elevation 3,723 feet

The first forest fire tower in New York State was erected on Balsam Lake Mountain in 1887.

Built of wood by the Balsam Lake Club, it survived until 1901 and was replaced with another wooden tower in 1905. Telephone lines, a small observer's cabin, and a road to the summit were added in 1909, when the state took it over. The first steel tower was erected in 1919, and the present steel tower (47 feet tall) was built in 1930.

Directions: Follow the blue-marked Dry Brook Ridge Trail located on Mill Brook Road outside the hamlet of Arkville - a moderate, six-mile, round-trip hike.

Tremper Mountain

Shandaken-Elevation 2,740 feet

the Tremper Mountain Hill Fire tower shot from below looking up at the sky

This fire tower is believed to be the original structure built circa 1917, and was used for fire observation until 1971. The 47-foot tower was placed in its present location because of the vast sections of forest preserve not visible from either the Hunter or Belleayre fire towers.

Directions: Follow the red-marked Phoenicia Trail located on Ulster County Route 40 just outside of Phoenicia - a moderate to difficult, six-mile, round-trip hike.

Hike with Us

Interested in participating in some guided hikes in the Catskills? Check our Hike with Us web page for a list of upcoming events.

Partner Agencies

Founded in 1969 as a member-supported, nonprofit organization, The Catskill Center for Conservation & Development (link leaves DEC website) is a regionally based advocate for the environmental and economic health of the Catskill Mountains. Their website has more detailed information about the fire towers of the Catskills, including directions, trail maps, profiles, photographs, history, and fire tower merchandise and volunteer forms to sign up to support restoration efforts.

The Forest Fire Lookout Association's website (see link on right) has more information on historic fire towers and lookouts across the country.

Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge Contest Rules

  1. ENTRY: No purchase necessary to enter or win. Contestants will enter by submitting their name, address, email address and photos of themselves taken at each fire tower to catskillschallenge@dec.ny.gov. Entries must be received between July 11, 2019, and December 31, 2019. See above for a list of fire towers included in the Challenge.

  2. ELIGIBILITY: This contest is open to all. Employees of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Empire Development Corporation and New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and their families are not eligible for prizes, including the Empire Pass and license plate. Void where prohibited by law. Any person submitting a digitally or otherwise altered or enhanced photograph will be disqualified and deemed ineligible for prizes.

  3. WINNER SELECTION: Employees of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will administer the contest. Two winners and one grand prize winner will be randomly selected from eligible contest participants.

  4. PRIZES: Winners will receive a gift of luxury hiking equipment accessories selected to enhance the hiking experience. Note that upon completion of the Challenge and entry as described above, all participants will receive a certificate, set of commemorative pins, a one-year subscription to Conservationist* magazine. In addition, the first 500 participants who complete the Challenge will receive a one-year 2020 Empire Pass* and be eligible for a commemorative special edition New York State license plate featuring the Catskills. One pin set per finisher. The State or DEC is not responsible for lost or stolen items. *Limit one Conservationist magazine subscription and one 2020 Empire Pass per household.

  5. WINNER NOTIFICATION: Winners will be notified within 14 days after the determination date via email. Inability to contact a winner may result in disqualification and selection of an alternate winner.


    GENERAL CONDITIONS:

  6. ELIGIBILITY: Winners will be required to execute and return a Certificate of Eligibility, Consent and General Release form within 14 days of notification. Non-compliance within this time period may result in disqualification and selection of an alternate winner. Any income tax liability is the sole responsibility of the winner.

  7. USE OF CONTEST INFORMATION: The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Empire State Development Corporation reserve the right to use any and all information related to the contest for editorial, marketing and any other purpose, unless prohibited by law.

  8. CONDUCT: All contest participants agree to be bound by these Official Rules. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to disqualify any person it finds to be tampering with the entry process, the operation of its website or is otherwise in violation of these rules.

  9. LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY: The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is not responsible for late, lost or misdirected email or for any computer, online, telephone or technical malfunctions that may occur. If for any reason, the contest is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention or technical failures of any sort, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation may cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the contest. Entrants further agree to release the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from any liability resulting from, or related to participation in the contest.

  10. WINNERS LIST: The names of the winners may be obtained by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Office of Outdoor Recreation, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-1010.