Red Hill Fire Tower Hiking Trail

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Red Hill Fire Tower Hiking Trail

This short, easy hike up beautifully-maintained trail in bucolic New York leads to dramatic views of the Southern and Western Catskills.

Hike Length: 2.5 miles (4.02 km)

Total Ascent: 770ft (235m)

Intensity: Easy Hike

Route Type: Out-and-Back

Includes: Blazed Trail, Herd Path, Stream Crossing

Parent Red Hill

Similar Entries In: Best Hikes, Catskills, Easy Hikes, Nature Walks, , , , , , , , .

cabin in woods and small wooden outhouse

Cabin & Outhouse

 A straightforward out-and-back, with a short spur to a gushy spring.

Hiking Trail Description

This is one of the loveliest short hikes you can do in the Catskills. With less than 800’ of elevation gain over 1.2 miles, and ending with dramatic fire tower views, it’s so rewarding. Even the drive out to the trailhead, through Claryville and Denning — some of most bucolic landscape in the Catskills — is a delight. 

I drove up from the south, from Route 209 and up the east side of the Rondout Reservoir along Route 55A along which there are several places to pull over and enjoy some watery views. I took Sugar Loaf Road until the very sharp hairpin turn onto Dinch Road (aka Coons Road or Old Dinch Road).

Dinch is an unpaved, dirt road, made of the rich red dirt that’s so prevalent in this area, and from which Red Hill gets its name. The road descends several hundred feet into the hollow between Red Hill and a small unnamed mountain to its east. The parking area is on the left.

medium sized parking lot
Red Hill parking area

The locals who use and care for this trail tend to park on the road outside the parking lot, leaving the lot for visitors. This is typical of their love for and generosity toward the area, which is evident the moment you step on to the trail.

notice board
Red Hill notice board

Step past the notice board and follow the yellow trail markers. The trail is very well blazed.

yellow trail blaze on tree trunk
Follow the yellow trail blazes

Very soon, you cross a sweet brook that I was delighted to find out is called Dinky Brook. That’s exactly what it is.

brook in woods
Dinky Brook, looking downstream
brook in woods
Dinky Brook, looking upstream

The trail winds uphill pretty easily. There are no technical or tricky sections.

boulder in woods covered in moss
Who doesn’t like a mossy boulder
dappled sunrise light
Sunrise in the woods

There are lots of ferns on Red Hill. You love to see it. The trail alternates between short inclines and easier flat sections. Basically, it’s perfect.

fern glade in the woods
Fern glade

Red Hill Spring

You’ll soon reach this junction. The trail to the fire tower continues to the left. But the short spur trail to the right leads down to a very productive spring in not much more than 200’. It’s worth the extra few minutes.

trail junction
Junction: fire tower or spring
junction signs
Red Hill junction signs

Red Hill seems very wet in general and this spring is the most active I’ve seen so far.

spring
Red Hill spring
spring
Spring

Red Hill Summit & Fire Tower

Back on the main trail, the summit is now only about 1000’ from the junction.

very red earth trail
How did Red Hill get its name? No idea.

Make your way through the woods to what is perhaps the sweetest Catskills summit.

On the right, you’ll pass a cabin. To its left is a small outhouse. Both were locked when I got there before dawn, on this morning, as was the fire tower cabin.

cabin in woods and small wooden outhouse
Cabin & Outhouse

Pass between these small structures to enter the beautifully kept summit grounds.

grounds summit
Cabin and picnic table

This summit is loved, and it shows. It’s maintained by the DEC and by volunteers who take exceptionally good care of this mountain, with particular attention to the summit. Please be most respectful and enjoy it fully. Make sure to pack out every single thing you bring in. Leave no trace. (This summit is sometimes trashed by ill-raised goober dipshits, which is just heartbreaking.) Look how beautiful it is…

fire tower
Red Hill Fire Tower

The Red Hill fire tower is 60’ tall. The cab is open most weekends when staffed by volunteers from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. On all other days, the tower is open to just below the cab. A large sign says, “NO MORE THAN SIX PERSONS PERMITTED ON TOWER AT ONE TIME”. This is just a physics thing. Please don’t mess with physics.

fire tower seen from below
Red Hill fire tower

No Camping, No Trashing

Please also understand how delicate these mountains are. The flora and wildlife in the Catskills Wilderness is hyper-sensitive to overuse and to trash of any kind. If you carry it in, carry it out. Leave no trace.

no camping sign on tree trunk
No camping sign

Fire Tower Views

I got to this fire tower around 5:30 am which was about 40 minutes before the sun popped above the mountain ridges to the east. The colors are often best before dawn, as the sun’s rays light up the clouds from below the horizon. (Get sunrise photography tips here.)

At Red Hill, all the drama is to the east…

mountaintops pre-dawn
Southern Catskills just before sunrise

These layers in order of distance (starting with the closest large mountain) are: Woodhull, Van Wyck, Table, Lone, and Friday.

The same scene around 6:20 am…

mountain sunrise scene
Sunrise over Table & Peekamoose
bucolic farm scene
New York at its most bucolic
morning mist
Mountainside morning mist

To the north you can see, along the horizon in a line, Graham and Doubletop, Big Indian and Fir.

view north
Looking north from Red Hill

This is a very popular destination, which attracts lots of nature lovers — but also a small number of morons who don’t know any better. If you see trash, please pack it out, even though it’s not yours.

Similar Hikes

This hike is short enough and lush enough that it qualifies as a nature walk — it does have some elevation gain, but nothing strenuous. It’s also a beautiful hike in and of itself. And it’s definitely an easy, kid-friendly, scenic hike. It is absolutely one of the best Catskill hikes.

If you do this hike, let me know how it goes in the comments below…

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Description: Medium sized lot that holds 6-8 cars.

GPS Location: 41.929954, -74.506906

Location: The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead.

Cell Service

Decent signal from the fire tower. Elsewhere, very sketchy. (My network is Verizon. YMMV.)

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