A quick out-and-back to superb fire tower views.
Hiking Trail Description
This short, moderate hike to one of the most popular fire towers in the Catskills ends with an incredible 360° view of dozens of classic Catskill mountains.
AllTrails rates this trail as difficult — and it has the reputation of being steep and tough — but it felt moderate to me. I was tired near the top, sure, but the grade is a pretty consistent 30-35° almost the whole way. 1950’ of elevation gain over 3 miles is only 650’ of elevation gain per mile. That’s not too bad, really.
There are plenty of steeper trails in the Catskills where the grade approaches and exceeds 45°/100% for long stretches: the west and east sides of Plateau, Becker Hollow on Hunter, Lost Clove, etc.
Climbing Mount Tremper is definitely a huffer, but it’s not killer-level.
Warning! In warmer months, this hike includes potential exposure to rattlesnakes.
The lot for this very popular hike is large and long. It’s right on what the NYNJTC map calls Old Route 28 but what Google Maps calls Mt Tremper-Phoenicia Road. I got there by turning right off Route 28 (traveling west from Kingston), then left at the crossroads in Mt Tremper. Very straightforward.
The First Half Mile
I started this hike at 4:30 am to get to the summit around sunrise, so a few of these pics are in darkness. Later, on my way back down, I shot the route in sunlight so you can see the key waypoints.
There are two small footbridges at the start of the trail…
There are a few short steep sections right away…
…but the trail is not hard and you even lose a little elevation on the way to the first junction.
An extra sign here says the tower is temporarily closed (due to COVID) but the DEC had just reopened almost all the towers. They just hadn’t yet got around to taking these signs down.
At this junction, turn right and head uphill along the old jeep trail.
From the junction, the red-blazed Phoenicia Trail leads to the summit in about 2½ miles via a steep climb and a series of very helpful switchbacks.
At 1400’ or so you’ll see a large quarry in the woods to your left.
This is the quarry on Mt Tremper where many many timber rattlesnakes are said to den together. It’s at 42.07217, -74.29413 and very close to the trail — but actually, even here, seeing a rattler is quite rare.
A little further along, I noticed some Hemlock Wooly Adelgid on 3-4 hemlock trees…
I later reported this infestation using the iMapInvasives app.
After the quarry, the first switchback curves sharply to the left around a hairpin turn to ease your climb.
Baldwin Memorial Lean-To
At 2100’, after climbing short steep section and turning right around a corner, you’ll notice a small trail to your right. This leads to the first to two lean-tos on Mt Tremper, the very beautifully situated Baldwin Memorial Lean-To.
Back on the main trail, at 2250’, a very short side trail leads to a spring. Great place to soak a bandana or refill your water — just make sure to filter or treat it to make it potable.
Summit Lean-To & Fire Tower
After about 3 miles in total, you’ll pass the second lean-to on your left. On this morning, another hiker was sleeping in the lean-to with her dog, so I didn’t take a photo.
The trail continues north and east via the Warner Creek trail (blue blazes) Jessop Road in Willow, or to Silver Hollow / Plateau / Edgewood.
Mount Tremper Fire Tower
The DEC describes the tower: “This fire tower is believed to be the original structure built circa 1917, and used for fire observation until 1971. The 47-foot tower was placed in its present location because of the vast sections of forest preserve not visible from either the Hunter or Belleayre fire towers.”
Fire Tower Etiquette
If the cabin is locked, just take your shots from the steps below the cabin. You can still enjoy amazing views in all directions.
Mount Tremper Fire Tower Views
The fire tower is not oriented strictly north/south. It’s oriented northwest/southeast.
Look first at the reservoir, which is almost directly south. This is the west side of the reservoir, where the Boiceville trailhead for the Ashokan Rail Trail is located.
Now work you way clockwise, from left to right. The main points on display in order are…
- Ashokan Reservoir
- To its left: Ticetonyk
- To its right: Ashokan High Point
- Mount Pleasant (the long low mountain)
- Look over Mount Pleasant to see Wittenberg’s distinctive shark fin in the distance
- On Wittenberg‘s left: Friday & Balsam Cap
- On Wittenberg’s right: Slide Mountain
- Now, looking directly west you can see Giant Ledge and Panther
- To their right: Balsam & Belle Ayr
- Next: Halcott & Sleeping Lion
- Next: Mount Sherrill & North Dome
Giant ledge on the left, Panther in the middle, Balsam on the right…
Close-up of Giant Ledge…
By now, you have turned almost 180° and are looking north…
- St Anne’s Peak and West Kill which (at 355°) is almost directly due north
- To their right: Southwest Hunter & Hunter
- My favorite part: looking through Stony Clove Notch to Lockwood Gap, the col between Black Dome & Blackhead
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- The large mountain nearby is Tremper’s northeastern lobe
- Behind it: Plateau’s long flat summit ridge — it’s about 2 miles in length
- Olderbark obscures Sugarloaf (the only Devil’s Path mountain you can’t see from the tower)
- Twin & Indian Head
- Plattekill & Overlook
- Look directly east (90°) just over Overlook’s lower ridge to the Southern Taconics: Mount Frissell, Brace & South Brace (40 miles away)
- Mount Tobias sits to the right of Cooper LakeLooking through Stony Clove notch to Lockwood Gap
And then, finally, you’re back looking south to Ticetonyk and the Ashokan Reservoir.
This is such an amazing view. Mount Tremper is spectacularly and centrally located. It’s surrounded by so many Catskill 3500 mountains and beautiful lower peaks.
I can’t wait to revisit this tower in winter for the snowy version of these views.
Including stop-offs and rests, the climb to the summit took me about 1h 49m. The trek straight back down to the parking area took 1h 29m.
If you do this hike, let me know how it goes in the comments below…
Trailhead Info for this Hike
Description: Large, busy lot serving one of the most popular hikes in the Catskills. (DEC says 10 car capacity.)
GPS Location: 42.066106, -74.303294
Location: The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead.
None at trailhead. Okay LTE signal up high. (My network is Verizon. YMMV.)