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Fire Towers

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View of the Overlook Mountain fire tower in the winter

For nearly a century, observers watched the forests of New York State-including the Catskill and Adirondack Forest Preserve-from more than 100 fire towers perched atop the highest peaks, searching for the dangerous, telltale signs of forest fires. There were 19 fire towers in the Catskill region and 52 in the Adirondacks.

Beginning in the 1980s, the State of New York began to phase out the use of fire towers for spotting forest fires, and in 1990, the last 5 towers still in operation were closed. Over time, the towers and their associated observers' cabins began to deteriorate, and those that were not dismantled were closed to the public for safety reasons.

Across the state grassroots, volunteer-based initiatives were formed to try to save the towers. These initiatives recognized that the towers not only represent a piece of the history and heritage of New York State Forest Protection, but are an untapped resource with tremendous tourism potential. Through the dedication of countless volunteers, as well as assistance and support from DEC staff, local government and the State Police Aviation Unit, 32 fire towers across the state have already been restored.

Today, fire tower restoration work continues throughout the state. In 2015, restoration work is expected to begin on both the St. Regis Mt. and the Hurricane Mt. fire towers through Volunteer Stewardship Agreements.

Fire tower hikes offer what some refer to as "cheap views" - outstanding vistas with less hiking effort than required to hike to the summit of the highest peaks. Pack a lunch, drink and proper equipment and hike to a fire tower. Plan to spend lots of time on the summit taking in the views.

Many fire towers have stewards working on them during summer weekends. Stewards provide information on the history and important function of fire towers. They also can point out and name the mountains, lakes and communities seen from the fire tower. Stewards are typically volunteers or interns hired by the fire tower's "Friends". These groups form to restore, maintain and staff fire towers.

Many fire towers are used to support radio equipment for DEC Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police communications. Solar panels, wiring, antennas, and other equipment is found on and in some fire towers. This equipment is critical to DEC public safety and resource protection missions. Please do not touch or otherwise damage the equipment and report any apparent vandalism to the nearest DEC office.

Lower Hudson Valley (Region 3)

  • Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower is located in Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, Ulster County. The restored fire tower offers views of the Pepacton Reservoir. Mount Tremper fire tower in autumn
  • Jackie Jones Lookout is located in the Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park (leaves DEC website), Rockland County. On a clear day, the tower offers a view of Manhattan in the distance.
  • Mt. Beacon Fire Tower is located on Hudson Highlands State Park (leaves DEC website), Dutchess County. The property is owned and managed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. On a clear day, the tower offers views of both Manhattan and Albany in the distance.
  • Mount Tremper Fire Tower is located in Phoenicia Wild Forest, Ulster County. The tower offers views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Nimham Mountain Fire Tower is located in Nimham Mountain State Forest, Putnam County. The restored tower offers 360-degree panorama views of the Manhattan skyline, Catskills, and Mount Beacon.
  • Overlook Mountain Fire Tower is located in Overlook Mountain Wild Forest. The 60-foot tower offers views of the Hudson River Valley, Ashokan Reservoir, and Devil's Path.
  • Red Hill Fire Tower is located in Sundown Wild Forest, Ulster County. The view from the tower is of the Catskill High Peaks to the north, and Rondout Reservoir to the south.
  • Sterling Mountain Fire Tower is located in Sterling Forest State Park (leaves DEC website), Orange County. The tower is owned and managed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
  • Stissing Mountain Fire Tower is located in Pine Plains, Dutchess County. The tower is owned and managed by Friends of Stissing Landmarks. Hikers are welcome to access the Tower at their own risk and at no cost.

Capital Region/ Northern Catskills (Region 4)

  • Beebe Hill Fire Tower is located in Beebe Hill State Forest, Columbia County. View from the Beebe Hill fire tower
  • Dickinson Hill Fire Tower is located in Grafton Lakes State Park (leaves DEC website), Rensselaer County. The tower is owned and managed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
  • Hunter Mountain Fire Tower is located in Rusk Mountain Wild Forest, Greene County. The tower has the unique distinction of being located at the highest elevation of any fire tower in the state.
  • Mount Utsayantha Fire Tower is located in Mt. Utsayantha Mountaintop Park, Delaware County. The tower is owned and managed by the town of Stamford. The tower offers great views of the surrounding mountains, hills, and valleys.

Eastern Adirondacks/ Lake Champlain (Region 5)

  • Azure Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest, Franklin County. The restored tower offers views of the northern Adirondack boreal forest and on a clear day even some of the distant high peaks.
  • Belfry Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest, Essex County. This tower offers views of the eastern Adirondacks. The half mile hike along a gravel access road is the shortest trip required to reach a mountain top fire tower.
  • Blue Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Blue Mountain Wild Forest, Hamilton County. The tower offers views of the central Adirondacks.
  • Cornell Hill Fire Tower was moved to Camp Saratoga on lands within the Wilton Wildlife Park & Preserve (leaves DEC website) in Wilton, Saratoga County. The tower is owned and managed by the town of Wilton.
  • Goodnow Mountain Fire Tower is located on the Huntington Wildlife Forest owned by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The College and the Town of Newcomb restored the tower in 1995. The views from the summit and the fire tower are expansive.
  • Hadley Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, Saratoga County. The restored tower offers great views in all directions including Great Sacandaga Lake to the south.
  • Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower is located in a designated historic area within the Hurricane Mountain Wilderness, Essex County. Restoration of the tower is in progress.
  • Kane Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest, Fulton County. The restored tower offers views of the nearby lakes.
  • Loon Lake Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest, Franklin County. The tower is not yet been restored, however, the summit offers great views of the Northern Adirondack Lake Country.
  • Lyon Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Chazy Highlands Wild Forest, Clinton County. The hike to the tower is rewarded with views of Chazy Lake, Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains in VT, and Montreal's skyline in the distance.
  • Mount Adams Fire Tower is located on private property within the High Peaks Wilderness, Essex County. The restored tower offers spectacular views of the High Peaks that cannot be seen from the ground at the summit.
  • Owl's Head Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Sargent Ponds Wild Forest, Hamilton County. The restored tower offers expansive views, including the High Peaks to the north and the Village of Long Lake.
  • Pillsbury Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Jessup River Wild Forest, Hamilton County. The tower stands on one of the Adirondacks 100-highest peaks.
  • Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower is located in the Taylor Pond Wild Forest, Franklin County. The restored tower offers views of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains in the distance to the east, and surrounding peaks to the north, west and south.
  • Snowy Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Jessup River Wild Forest, Hamilton County. The restored tower offers views of Mount Marcy to the north, West Canada Wilderness to the south, and the 14-mile long Indian Lake to the east.
  • Spruce Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, Saratoga County. The restored tower offers expansive views of the southern Adirondacks.
  • St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower is located in a designated historic area within the St Regis Canoe Area, Franklin County. After decades of being closed, DEC and the Friends of St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower are restoring the fire tower, so it can be open to the public.
  • Vanderwhacker Mountain Fire Tower is located in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wilderness, Essex County. Located south of the High Peak Wilderness, many of New York State's highest peaks are visible from both the tower and the summit.
  • Wakely Mountain Fire Tower is located in a designated Primitive Area adjacent to the Blue Ridge Wilderness. It is the tallest fire tower still standing in the state. [NOTICE: The Wakely Mountain Fire Tower and the Wakely Mountain Trail are closed until further notice due to structural deficiencies fire tower. DEC has taken steps to secure the fire tower which was endanger of collapsing in high winds. Further repairs will be completed in the near future and the fire tower and trail will reopen.]
  • Whiteface Mountain Fire Tower was moved to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake (leaves DEC website) as an outdoor exhibit. The tower offers views of the museum grounds and surrounding mountains and lakes.

Western Adirondacks/ Upper Mohawk Valley/ Eastern Lake Ontario (Region 6)

  • Number Four Fire Tower is now located at the DEC Lowville Demonstration Area. This tower was built in the early 1930's and was originally located on Gomer Hill. Rondaxe Fire Tower
  • New Boston Fire Tower is now located at the Thompson Park Zoo (leaves DEC website) of Watertown, Jefferson County. The tower now on display at the zoo, once stood in the Hamlet of New Boston, Lewis County.
  • Cathedral Rock Fire Tower is located on the ESF Wanakena Ranger School Campus (leaves DEC website). It was moved there in 1970, from its original location on Tooley Pond Mountain.
  • Rondaxe (AKA Bald) Fire Tower is located on Fulton Chain Wild Forest. The restored fire tower offers visitors a view of the Fulton Chain of Lakes in Old Forge.
  • Mt. Arab Fire Tower is located on the Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest, St. Lawrence County. The tower offers incredible views of the surrounding areas including Tupper Lake and Mount Morris, the High Peaks, the Raquette River valley, Mt Arab Lake and Eagle Crag Lake.

Central NY (Region 7)

  • Berry Hill Fire Tower is located in McDonough State Forest, Chenango County. From the fire tower atop Berry Hill you can take in a view of most of the forest as well as the foothills of the Catskills in the distance.
  • Padlock Fire Tower is now a part of the permanent DEC exhibit at the New York State Fairgrounds. Previously, the tower stood on Blackman Hill in Potato Hill State forest 12 miles southeast of Ithaca.

Rochester/ Western Finger Lakes (Region 8)

  • Sugar Hill Fire Tower is located on Sugar Hill State Forest. The fire tower observation deck is closed, but the stairs up to the top landing are open for climbing at your own risk. It is currently one of the last fire towers in New York State readily accessible to the public and affords a 15-mile vista in all directions.

Western NY (Region 9)

  • Summit Fire Tower is located on Allegany State Park (leaves DEC website), Cattaraugus County. The top observation platform is closed-off to visitors, however you can still climb the stairs to the top. Unfortunately, the surrounding trees in the area have grown in and there are currently no views from the top anymore. The tower is owned and managed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

Additional Information

The Catskill Center for Conservation & Development (leaves DEC website) has more detailed information about the fire towers of the Catskills, including directions, trail maps and profiles, photographs and history, or to purchase fire-tower merchandise to support restoration efforts.

Fire Towers in the Catskills Brochure (PDF 729 KB)

The Fire Tower Study for the Adirondack Park provides historical and factual information about each of the fire towers located in the Adirondacks.

The Forest Fire Lookout Association's website (leaves DEC website) for more information on historic fire towers and lookouts across the country.