Hunter Mountain Fire Tower (Best Route)

This moderate and very scenic hike can be completed in 3-5 hrs. This is the easiest route to climb Hunter Mountain.

Hike Length: 6.9 miles (11.10 km)

Total Ascent: 1,884ft (574m)

Intensity: Moderate Catskills Hike

Route Type: Out-and-Back

Includes: Blazed Trail

Parent Hunter

Similar Entries In: Catskills, The Moderate Hikes, , , , , .

cabin in snow on mountain summit

Hunter Mountain summit cabin

Disclosure: Links to external products and websites on this page may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 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.

Trailhead Parking

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.

winter hiking trail, snowy
Spruceton Trail, Winter
What is this website?

Find amazing hikes in the Catskills, Adirondacks, Hudson Highlands and beyond
Knowledge / gear lists / tips — if you want great hiking content in your social feed, hit that follow button

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.

wooden bridge in snow
Bridge over Hunter Brook

Looking upstream from the bridge…

Mountain brook with snow on either bank
Hunter Brook

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.

Junction signposts made of wood
First Junction 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.)

Posthole PSA

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.

posthole in snow, next to hiker’s boot for scale
Posthole example, ugh

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.

These are the Best Catskills Trail Maps

Get this Headlamp to Stay Safe

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…

Wooden lean-to in deep snow
John Robb Lean-To

An open ledge just past the lean-to offers a stunning view of Southwest Hunter, West Kill, North Dome, Mount Sherrill, Sleeping Lion, and the hamlet of Spruceton down in Spruceton Valley.

Winter valley view
Spruceton Valley

West Kill’s summit in the distance…

snowy mountain summit seen from a distance
West Kill Mountain

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.

snowy hiking trail
Hunter Mountain ridge trail

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.

fire tower and cabin in snow
Hunter Mountain Fire Tower & Cabin

On this day, the snowpack on Hunter’s summit was 0.7 picnic tables high…

wooden cabin in deep snow
Observer’s cabin

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…

Mountain peaks in distance
Kaaterskill High Peak and Plateau mountains

Thomas Cole, Black Dome and Blackhead

Mountain range seen in distance
The Blackhead Range seen from Hunter Mountain’s Fire Tower

Windham High Peak

mountain peaks in distance
Windham High Peak seen over the Jewett Range

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.

cabin and picnic tables in deep snow, mountains in distance
Hunter Mountain cabin and picnic tables

From here, make your way back down to the third junction, and turn right to head back down to Spruceton.

Similar Hikes

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.

Google Maps Location: 42.184894, -74.271164

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

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.

Your comments are welcome here…

Don’t Miss Out!

• Latest Hike Reports
• Weather Tips
• Seasonal Advice
• Trail Mix
• Backcountry Rescues

The best hiking newsletter on the planet