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Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike: Red Hill in the Catskills!

Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike: Red Hill in the Catskills!

Ohhhh my goodness, we just fell in love with the Catskills!

I have been indoors far too much lately and decided I would take on a Winter attempt of the Glens Falls-Saratoga ADK Chapter’s 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! 🙂

I decided I would knock out the Catskill towers first, because I wanted to get some information on Catskill hikes to share in the Hiking/camping ideas in New York and Northern PA Facebook group. And because Red Hill was the easiest one (did I mention I have not been getting out enough lately?! 🙂 )

Anyhow…read on for details and video of a lovely, family-friendly day hike in the amazing Catskill mountains!

Red Hill Fire Tower: About the Hike

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.

DEC Signage found just after the trail register. A lovely hike! Red Hill: Our First of 23 Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hikes, Catskills, NY
DEC Signage found just after the trail register. A lovely hike! Red Hill: Our First of 23 Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hikes, Catskills, NY

Red Hill is the shortest hike on the Catskill list. It also happens to be the very last Fire Tower that was staffed for fire watch, last manned in 1990.

This would be a beautiful trail for snow shoeing if we had snow this year, but all we needed this time were microspikes. I do highly recommend those if you go, the trail was mostly a thin, crusty layer of snow and ice with some frozen ruts. Bare booting would have slowed us down significantly and may have even been dangerous on descent.

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Mileage: 2.8 miles round trip from the parking lot. NOTE: The road to parking is maintained seasonally and if it is not passable, you park about half a mile from parking.

Seasonal road maintenance on the last half mile or so before the parking lot - we were able to get in and out easily with the mild winter we are having! Red Hill Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike, Catskills, NY.
Seasonal road maintenance on the last half mile or so before the parking lot – we were able to get in and out easily with the mild winter we are having! Red Hill Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike, Catskills, NY.

Summit Elevation: 2,990 feet

Elevation Gain: 840 feet (plus 60 feet for the tower!)

Difficulty: A very kid-friendly hike! Mostly easy with a few fairly steep spots. Lots of flat stretches for breaks. There are picnic tables and even an outhouse at the summit, so pack a lunch, take the kiddos along and plan to hang out a while! 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!

Safety: When we went, Microspikes were needed for safest travel along the icy trail. If by chance we ever get snow this year, you may want to use snow shoes but they were definitely not needed when we went. The summit is a fairly open area, so bring warm clothing if you attempt this hike in the Winter. Especially if you plan to climb the tower!

The Catskills are home to lots of wildlife, including black bears and rattlesnakes. If you take the kiddos, be extra vigilant in warmer weather and be sure everyone knows what to look and listen for, and what to do should you encounter any animals.

On a lighter note regarding wildlife, we saw TONS of deer and rabbit tracks, right on the trail, so be sure to stop, look, and listen for critters now and then!

Parking: I actually added the GPS coordinates for parking to Google Maps, but I’m not sure when that will actually be searchable. I input these GPS coordinates (found on catskillmountaineer.com) into Google Maps and we got there! N41 55.783 W74 30.426

From the point on Dinch Rd. (renamed Coons Rd., both names were on the sign we saw. Just be aware if you are using GPS to get there) where road maintenance stops (see sign above), the road does get significantly steep. No issue getting the Rav in and out with the mild winter we’ve had, and there was a small car at parking when we arrived. We captured some of the road conditions in the video, posted below.

The trail passes through an absolutely gorgeous old hardwood forest. This must be a stunning spot in the fall and I may have to revisit it then!

Stunning old hardwood forest. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Stunning old hardwood forest. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Stunning old hardwood forest. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!

The summit and tower area are SO scenic, with the requisite tiny ranger cabin. There are also picnic tables AND an outhouse. That’s uber-luxe to hikers like us haahahaa!

My favorite photo of the day, just as we arrived at the summit. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
My favorite photo of the day, just as we arrived at the summit. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
The very scenic summit. What a great day hike and picnic spot with the kids in summer! Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
The very scenic summit. What a great day hike and picnic spot with the kids in summer! Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
The Red Hill fire tower - probably the nicest tower I have climbed! Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
The Red Hill fire tower – probably the nicest tower I have climbed! Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Regan in the fire tower. Unfortunately, the cabin at the top was closed. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Regan in the fire tower. Unfortunately, the cabin at the top was closed. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Looking down from the fire tower. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Looking down from the fire tower. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Looking down from the fire tower. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Looking down from the fire tower. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Looking out at the Catskill high peaks from the fire tower. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Looking out at the Catskill high peaks from the fire tower. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Snacks and cocoa on the porch of the ranger cabin. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!
Snacks and cocoa on the porch of the ranger cabin. Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Mountains: Our First Winter Fire Tower Challenge Hike!

Here’s a a video of the drive in and the hike! Enjoy!

You may also enjoy our other Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge blog posts, and our Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge VIDEO PLAYLIST!

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