Overlook Mountain Trail

You can hike up Overlook Mountain’s easy trail in about an hour. The fire tower at the end of this short trail is positioned to give one of the most dramatic views in the Catskills.

Hike Length: 4.5 miles (7.24 km)

Total Ascent: 1,323ft (403m)

Intensity: Easy Catskills Hike

Route Type: Out-and-Back

Includes: Blazed Trail

Parent Overlook

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pre-dawn mountain ridges

Pre-Dawn light over Plattekill, Kaaterskill High Peak, and the Blackhead Range

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 An easy out-and-back. One hour up. One hour down. (Watch out for rattlesnakes, though!)

Hiking Trail Description

The Overlook mountain fire tower trail is short, easy, and packs a ton of punch: atmospheric hotel ruins, a beautiful ledge with historic carvings, and the best fire tower view in the Catskills—and you can do it all in 3 hours!

The views from Overlook Mountain’s Fire Tower are exceptional at any time of day, but sunrise adds real magic. The first rays of the day hitting early morning mists down on the Hudson River are magical, and the rising sun brings the surrounding mountains and valleys into otherworldly relief. Several lakes and the Ashokan reservoir shimmer purple, gold and white. This is why the Overlook Mountain Fire Tower hike is one of top three hiking destinations in the Catskills.

I can’t recommend this hike enough.

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Sunrise Hike Planning

I planned to arrive at the tower well before sunrise. The light is amazing long before technical sunrise time. Here’s a very detailed post on how to photograph sunrises and sunsets.

For basic planning purposes, though: a) your phone will tell you when sunrise beings, and then b) you can figure out how long the hike to your chosen viewpoint will take with this standard hike-timing formula.

I packed my headlamp and made sure to be at the trailhead around 4am, figuring it would take about an hour to get to the summit. I got up there around 5:10am in plenty of time to pop off a bunch of shots before the sun came up at 5:38am.

Best of all, I had the fire tower to myself for about an hour.

In summer? At one of the premier Catskills destinations? Amazing.

Overlook Mountain Fire Tower Trail

The DEC’s Overlook Wild Mountain page states: “The summit of Overlook Mountain is one of the top three most visited locations in the Catskill Forest Preserve (after Slide Mountain and North-South Lake).”

The Overlook Mountain Fire Tower hiking trail includes…

  • Good parking
  • Easy but relentless hiking trail
  • Historic ruins
  • Amazing ledge view
  • Incredible 360° Hudson Valley views
  • Potential rattlesnake sightings on warm days

A full breakdown is provided in the hike notes below, with XX captivating photos.

The trail climbs steadily to the top of Overlook Mountain following an old carriage road that once transported guests in the late 19th century to the Overlook Mountain House.

Overlook Mountain Hike Time

Allow 3 hours for this hike.

Overlook Fire Tower Trail Elevation Gain

The elevation gain for this hike is 1300 feet (apx 400 meters).

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Overlook Mountain Trail Notes & Gallery

It is not the most interesting trail. But it is very short, not too steep and, of course, the view from the top is one of the most dramatic scenic views in the Park. So, onwards. This is the trailhead…

overlook mountain trail: yellow gate with stop sign
Trailhead gate and information board

Prepare for an hour of this view…

overlook mountain trail
Two miles of this is kinda boring

The red blazes are a little hard to see. They’re on telephone poles on the side of the carriage road. But it’s hard to go wrong.

Just stay on the main trail, ignore any side trails, and keep heading up.

Overlook Mountain Trail Rattlesnake Alert

 Warning! In warmer months, this hike includes potential exposure to rattlesnakes.

Once you get near the top, you’ll see a handful of signs warning about rattlesnakes. Take heed.

warning sign posted on tree overlook mountain trail
Rattlesnake warning sign

Overlook Mountain House Ruins

At 1.6 miles, look to the right for an opening into the woods. You’ll see the castle-like ruins of the latest and final Overlook Mountain House.

entrance to overlook mountainn house ruins, overlook mountain trail
Herd path into Overlook Mountain House ruins

This iteration was started in the 1920’s but never completed. Fires burned down two previous incarnations of the hotel, which then was almost rebuilt but ran out funding, was abandoned, fell into disuse, and is now being reclaimed by nature.

overlook mountain trail / courtyard ruins in woods

front door to ruins

staircase in ruins
Stone staircase

The ruins are quite large and worth exploring (carefully) for a while.

East side of ruins, looking down

I want to explore this east wing more. I think the far side of it might offer a view of Overlook’s summit and fire tower as this side of the ruins is visible from the fire tower — incongruously jutting out of the forest canopy, somewhat creepily.

ruins overlook mountain trail
East side of ruins, looking up

If I believed in ghosts, this would be prime ghost-spotting territory. I did bump into three young dudes who had camped in these ruins overnight. Personally? A big bowl of Nope! (I do believe in creepy.)

Overlook Mountain Lodge

Head back to the Overlook mountain trail and continue your climb.

The trail winds around the back of the ruins and passes the husk of a smaller building, also in ruins.

Overlook Lodge

This is Overlook Lodge. It was used by the owner’s family.

Overlook Lodge

Standing on these steps, you can look across the first floor, though the wood has rotted away, exposing the cellars below.

Plattekill Waypoint

Continue uphill. From the lodge, the summit of Overlook is only about ten minutes away.

First, you’ll pass this turn-off which leads out to Plattekill Mountain and Echo LakeIndian Head—and to Platte Clove, a lovely alternate starting point and route to this same spot.

trail signs on overlook mountain trail
Turn-off for Echo Lake / Devil’s Path / Platte Clove

Overlook Mountain Fire Tower

You’ll pass a rocky section on your left, classic rattlesnake den territory. I saw several herd paths heading into the rocks. Another strong No thanks! from me. (Well, maybe in winter…)

The trail passes a small red cabin on the right. You’ll come back to this later.

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Stay on the Overlook mountain trail as it winds left and enters the summit opening where, at last, the fire tower appears ahead, rather impressively.

overlook mountain trail steel fire tower
Overlook Mountain Fire Tower is 60 ft tall

The DEC page states, “This is the newest of the five towers left in the Catskill Park, having been at its present location since only 1950. However, the tower itself is much older as it was originally constructed in 1927 on Gallis Hill, just west of Kingston.“ It’s currently in great shape.

 Warning! In warmer months, this hike includes potential exposure to rattlesnakes.

Take extra care here. On hot days, rattlesnakes will sometimes sun themselves out in the open, here, sometimes right around the base of the fire tower.

rattlesnakes in the catskills
Two rattlesnakes sunbathing

rattlesnake in the catskills
Rattlesnake on Overlook Mountain summit

Rattlesnakes are not normally aggressive but, of course, extreme caution should be taken around these potentially deadly predators.

Leave rattlesnakes alone, and they’ll leave you alone too.

overlook mountain trail fire tower seen from directly below
60’ doesn’t sound like much but it is much

Sunrise from Overlook Mountain

No wonder this is one of the most popular hikes in the Catskills. At 60 ft tall, the fire tower on Overlook Mountain is one of the tall ones. Some fire tower models are only 47 ft.

I did not know what to expect when I climbed this tower. I had recently climbed Mount Tremper’s Fire Tower and really loved the view from there.

When I climbed Overlook’s, I was blown away. Even in the pre-dawn light, holy cow, what a view!

pre-dawn layers
Pre-dawn, looking north

To the north, the view takes in, most dramatically, Plattekill Mountain and all four peaks of the Eastern Devil’s Path, with Kaaterskill High Peak and the Blackhead Range in the distance.

pre-dawn mountain peaks
Close-up of Round Top and the Blackhead Range

Looking west, you can see Olderbark and even West Kill poking up from behind the ridge. Then there’s Ticetonyk Mountain and Mount Tremper, the Burroughs Range, Peekamoose and Table, Ashokan High Point and the Ashokan Reservoir, the Shawangunks, Kingston, the Hudson River — and even the Taconics along the horizon, directly east.

overlook tower
Looking west: Overlook Tower & Ruins

It’s such a stunning mix of mountains — up-close peaks, distant peaks, layered peaks — with water, open flats, and big sky. Just incredible.

This is Overlook’s main ridge. It’s what you just hiked up…

overlook ridge, overlook mountain trail
Overlook ridge: you hiked up this

Behind Overlook’s ridge, you can see Cooper Lake & Mount Tobias, the Burroughs Range, Ticetonyk and Ashokan High Point.

At this hour the light changes very quickly, from minute to minute.

The Ruins, The Mist

The large mountain in the background is Panther. You can also see Giant Ledge to its left. In the far background is Doubletop.

After I took the above shots, I turned back around to the east to see the sun start to come up…

sun rising on the horizon
Sunrise, first light

Sunrise from Overlook

Sunrise from Overlook Fire Tower

First light started to hit the mountaintops…

mountain scenic view
Eastern Devil’s Path

mountain ridge line
Twin Mountain at dawn

mountain tops at dawn
Sugarloaf (R) & Plateau (L)

It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at below…

early morning light on mountain ranges
Shadow of Overlook cast onto the Burroughs Range

This is the shadow of Overlook Mountain cast onto the Burroughs Range just after dawn. At 16 miles long, I think it’s the longest shadow I’ve seen.

Ticetonyk at Dawn

reservoir at dawn
Ashokan Reservoir

Central Ashokan Reservoir

In the distance, you can see the long ridge of Belleayre Mountain.

mountaintops at dawn
Olderbark & Belleayre Mountain

After Dawn, The Light Changes Again

The morning violet hour is very short. Soon, the sky and colors start to wash out.

But there’s still plenty to see…

radio tower
Overlook radio tower

mountains in early morning light
Cooper Lake & Mount Tobias after dawn

The town of Woodstock is visible below, marked by the spire of a church…

reservoir and woodstock
Central Ashokan Reservoir, Woodstock Spire

One of the great benefits of sunrise hikes: I got to spend an hour in the fire tower, completely alone and undisturbed at the very best time of day — and this was on a Saturday morning at one of the busiest sites in the Catskills!

There is one last stop before you descend. For me, this was an unexpected treat.

The Ledge

Climb down from the tower, keeping an eye out for any snakes, and head back to the red cabin you passed on your way up.

A short spur trail to the right of the cabin takes you, very quickly, to a ledge with a magnificent view of the Hudson River, Ashokan Reservoir, the Central Catskills, and up to five states.

ledge view
Overlook Ledge

The view from this ledge is so great, I didn’t realize it at the time but Kingston (my home town) is clearly visible from the ledge.

On the ledge itself are old graffiti carvings from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Please do not deface or add to these historical marks.

rock carvings
Ledge carvings / do not add to these!

west view overlook mountain trail
Looking west

looking west overlook mountain trail
Looking west

From here, it will take you about an hour to get back down to the parking area. For such a short hike, I would say this double bill of amazing views is impossible to beat.

Similar Hikes

This is one of the shortest and easiest mountain hikes in the Catskills.

And it’s one of the most insanely scenic Catskill hikes.

It’s also incredibly popular, so you may want to plan your hike day and time accordingly.

With its fire tower and ledge views, this hike is definitely kid-friendly.

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The parent mountain for this hike is Overlook.

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3 responses to “Overlook Mountain Trail

  1. Made this our Labour Day Weekend hike. Glad for your notes and history about the tower and two skeleton structures. Temperature was wonderful – very autumnal. The breeze at the top of the fire tower was something else. Hang onto you cameras/phones when you get up to the top. You won’t be disappointed (on a good day). We’re still wondering how horse drawn carriages made their way to the top?

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Trailhead Info for this Hike

Large lot for one of the most popular Catskills hikes. (Also used as an overflow lot for KTD.)

Google Maps Location: 42.071002, -74.122654

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

Pretty good throughout. Unusual for the Catskills. My network is Verizon. YMMV.