Family Fun From The Inside...OUT!
This one felt like cheating, because it was more like late Spring than Winter conditions! Wellllll….except for the summit push, that was ALL Winter, an icy scramble requiring caution AND traction aides, like most of the trails this year. Once we arrived at the summit, we were rewarded for all of the hard work with nearly windless, warm conditions. We stayed up there for close to an hour and a half and did not need to bundle up.
Owl’s Head Mountain Winter Fire Tower Challenge – About the Hike:
This was a harder-than-we-thought-it-would-be hike – I am not sure why. On my Challenge spreadsheet, I had around 700 feet of elevation gain and 6 miles, but I looked again as I created a group hike invite and found many more reports of 1,200 feet. So, that’s significant, but I knew that going in! Once you approach 1,000 feet per mile, things get steep. Especially if, like most mountain climbs, you gain a great deal of elevation on the final summit push over a short distance. This is the case with Owl’s Head, you will lose elevation as you approach the Observer’s Cabin site, then you make your summit climb.
Here’s a photo shot from the Observer’s cabin site looking up at the summit, to show you what I mean:
You may also enjoy our other Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge blog posts, and our Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge VIDEO PLAYLIST! I have included both links at the end of this post if you want to read on and check them out later.
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Here is the hike profile and a couple track overlays from our Garmin Oregon 550t hiking GPS unit:
Access and parking: We parked at the Endion Rd. trailhead and the road was nice, there isn’t much snow anywhere now but there was a lot of dirt on the road, indicating it is maintained over the Winter season. The trail head parking lot is small – I’d say 7 cars or so, so if you go with a group it is a good idea to carpool.
We followed red trail markers out and back, DEC signage indicates this is 6.2 miles total going this way. Our GPS data indicated 5.7 miles. Watch your markers, as there are several other hiking and (ski? snowmobile?) trails branching off.
Elevation Gain: About 1,200 feet
Summit Elevation: 2,812 feet
You can climb this tower and the cabin was open! You don’t need to climb the tower for some amazing views if that’s not your thing. 🙂 The tower is a 35-foot climb to the cabin and was in wonderful shape except for that first section of stairs – they have broken loose from the footings and will bounce as you climb! This was no issue and we never felt unsafe. The rest of the stairs felt solid.
NOTE: This is a pack-it-in, pack-it-out area. Please pack a trash bag and take all food and trash with you, when you leave. THANK YOU!
Difficulty: Moderate overall – a nice long, flattish warm-up hike with a few difficult steep icy spots up high in the winter. We captured the steeper section in photos and video for you!
Safety: There are a lot of rocks and roots all along the trail, and the ascent of the stream bed can get tricky so good sturdy hiking boots are best. The trail can also be quite wet and muddy, so waterproof boots and gaiters are strongly recommended! If you do this hike in Winter, the last section to the summit gets very steep and icy, so bring good traction, we all had and used Kahtoola MICROspikes for a good portion of the hike.
The summit is a fairly open area, so bring warm clothing, especially if you attempt this hike in the Winter. There are cliffs at the summit as well – so keep smaller children close as you familiarize yourself. There is plenty of safe space, as you will see in the video, so do not let that deter you from this beautiful hike, just be sure everyone is aware and appropriately cautious. Carry warm jackets, even in the summer, as Adirondack temps and weather conditions can change drastically with a little elevation gain.
The Adirondacks are home to lots of wildlife, including black bears. It is unlikely you will encounter any, but if you take the kiddos, be sure everyone knows what to look and listen for, and what to do should you encounter any animals.
On to the Hike Details! Owl’s Head Fire Tower Challenge Hike, March 13, 2016
The first two miles or so are very nice – a wide trail that is mostly flat. You walk through beautiful forest, we crossed a brook a few times and passed a pond and pretty little waterfalls. There are some muddy sections because of the water, so be sure your footwear is appropriate for that, and gaiters are recommended! From reading I did ahead of time, there are wet sections year-around, so this was not just the result of this year’s early spring melt.
After two miles, you begin your ascent on a very rocky stream bed. Fun but challenging! Eventually, you will begin to lose elevation – you are almost at the site of the Observer’s Cabin. There is not much left at the site anymore but from there, you can see your summit!
The last half mile or so will have you scrambling and using hands and feet. Just small sections of it, with some flat sections for breaks but at the Observer’s Cabin is a good place to have a family meeting with reminders about safety and listening, and making sure before you step that your footing or hand hold will be solid. This is a part of the trail where you will want the kiddos to stay closer and use extra caution. Dora did great on this part with just a little guidance from us on the hard stuff! Be sure to watch the video below to really see what the terrain was like.
Photos from the steep, icy section of the trail!
A few summit photos!
About the ADK Fire Tower Challenge:
In all, there are 29 climbs on the official list: five in the Catskill Mountains, and twenty-four in the Adirondacks (you only need to complete eighteen of the twenty-four Adirondack towers to earn your patch for completing the challenge). Here is the official Fire Tower Challenge list, and more information about the Fire Tower Challenge, if you are interested. There is also a Fire Tower Challenge group on Facebook, a great place to get the latest trail and access conditions from those who have recently done your planned hike. And – to share your photos and stories of your hikes, which is the best part! 🙂
Here’s the video!
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~Amy, Chris, and Dora