A direct out-and-back to Hunter’s fire tower from Spruceton
Hiking Trail Description
This moderate hike can be completed in 4-5 hrs. This is the easiest route to climb Hunter Mountain. It’s also the most scenic route.
This route follows an old road, so the trail is wide and even the whole way up. There are no technical sections, no rock scrambles, and there are switchbacks to ease the steepest sections. It’s just a straightforward uphill hike.
The 360° view from the fire tower is spectacular, and the view from John Robb Lean-To is equally exceptional.
There are two lots at the of Spruceton Road. The lot for this hike is the first one you’ll come to, on the left.
If that lot is full, you can try the lot for West Kill which is about 1000 ft further down the road, on the right.
Both lots serve very popular destinations, even in winter. Arrive as early as you can, especially on busy weekends or public holidays.
Hunter Mountain Hiking Trail
Start at the parking area and head north, following the blue blazes. This is also a horse trail, so there are two blue blazes: one for humans, one for horses.
Sign in at the register, a very important safety protocol.
The trail runs alongside Hunter Brook. Follow the blue blazes.
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This bridge crosses Hunter Brook and affords delightful views on both sides at any time of year — but especially in fall and in the snow.
Looking upstream from the bridge…
Climb the switchback, pass over a smaller footbridge and, after 1.7 miles, you’ll come to the first junction which is in Jones Gap.
The old road also continues straight ahead but, here, you will turn right and begin your climb up Hunter’s northwestern ridge. (Thus far, you’ve been hiking along the lower slopes of Rusk and East Rusk.)
Below is a posthole. It was at least a foot deep. I saw dozens like it on this hike. They are dangerous.
Postholes stay in place until the snowpack melts. If it snows again, the very top will fill in but not the hole, turning it into a booby trap for someone’s ankle.
Don’t be a posthole. When the snow is fresh and deeper than 8″, or not packed down hard, always wear snowshoes. (The Snowshoe Basics post includes a list of places to buy or rent snowshoes.)
John Robb Lean-To
Just below 3500’ keep an eye on the right side of the trail. You’ll pass through an obvious stand of birch trees, and then you’ll pass a spring on your right — and then a small spur trail will appear, also on the right.
Coming from this direction, the wooden sign that says LEAN-TO is a little hard to spot, so keep your eyes peeled.
Follow the yellow-blazed spur trail into the woods.
It’s a little steep, and there is a small rock channel to pass through, but the lean-to is obvious and easy to find…
West Kill’s summit in the distance…
This video takes in both the lean-to and the epic view from the ledge…
Final Climb Along Hunter Mountain’s Upper Ridge
Return to the main trail, turn right and begin the final ascent to Hunter Mountain’s summit.
You’ll pass the 3500 FOOT ELEVATION sign almost right away.
Next you’ll pass the second junction, from where you can take a 1.1 mile trail down to the view at the summit Colonel’s Chair. (I didn’t do that on this hike. Next time.)
From the second junction, the final mile to Hunter Mountain’s summit is easy going; all the hard work is behind you. The trail is dominated on either side by spruce and fir trees, with a few patches of birch mixed in.
Hunter Mountain Fire Tower
You’ll reach the third junction in no time. Leave your horse, if you brought one, at the sign post.
Turn left to view the fire tower.
On this day, the snowpack on Hunter’s summit was 0.7 picnic tables high…
Fire Tower Views
This tower is always so great to climb. I love its views of Plateau, Kaaterskill High Peak, the Blackhead range, Windham High Peak, Rusk and East Rusk. But the Burroughs Range is also visible, as are Doubletop, Graham, Balsam, Big Indian, Fir and Eagle mountains. Even Panther’s long northern ridge gets a look-in.
Round Top, Kaaterskill High Peak and massive Plateau…
This video shows just 90° of the view from the fire tower…
In the warmer months, this is an amazing spot to watch the sun come up (and the climb can be completed in under two hours).
Below the fire tower, the cabin looks small and sweet, with Rusk and East Rusk in the background.
From here, make your way back down to the third junction, and turn right to head back down to Spruceton.
Alternatively, at the junction you can turn left and head down via the full Hunter Mountain Loop which takes in some beautiful terrain and views, as well as Southwest Hunter.
The hike from Diamond Notch up West Kill is similarly lovely and offers the amazing view from Buck Ridge Lookout.
The parent mountain for this hike is Hunter.
If you do this hike, let me know how it went in the comments below. Your feedback makes this site better.
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Medium-sized lot, very popular location. Fills up early on busy days.
GPS Location: 42.184894, -74.271164
The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead
No service at the trailhead. Once you start to climb above the surrounding ridges, service starts to come online. Strong signal at the summit. My network is Verizon. YMMV.