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A Winter Adventure to Hunter Mountain's Fire Tower

Written By Editor on 2/20/24 | 2/20/24

By Max Oppen

HUNTER — The Saturday before last, my snowboarding escapade at Hunter Mountain took an unexpected turn, leading me on a captivating journey to the summit's historic fire tower. Standing proudly as the second-largest peak in the Catskills at 4040 feet, the mountain offered more than just thrilling slopes; it unveiled a piece of history and panoramic views that left me awe-inspired.

Eager to escape the bustling lines that come with weekend snowboarding, I embarked on a 2+ mile hike (4+ miles total) over the ridge from the top of the lifts to reach the fire tower. This tower, the first of 23 built in the Catskills and the second-highest standing in the entire Northeast, has a rich history. Initially serving as a fire lookout tower and later facing abandonment, local enthusiasts, fortunately, preserved and restored it after falling into disrepair in the 1990s.

The trail was adorned with a recent snowfall, transforming the surroundings into a winter wonderland reminiscent of Narnia mixed with the whimsy of Dr. Seuss. The trees stood under the weight of fresh, white snow, creating a picturesque scene with treetops curled in different directions. As I ascended, the morning clouds gave way to a brilliant blue sky, making the entire experience feel almost magical.

Reaching the summit of the fire tower took a lot of work, especially since I was in snowboard boots. The climb through the icy tower was not for the faint of heart as the wind intensified and the temperature dropped. I questioned my decision to leave my gloves behind but, upon reaching the top, was rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the mountains, the Hudson Valley, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and sometimes even southwestern Vermont.

The sun bathed the landscape in its warm, icy glow, and I marveled at the vastness visible from this vantage point. It reminded me of how fortunate I was to witness such a breathtaking winter landscape. However, this joy was tempered by an unfortunate incident on my way back. I had left my helmet and goggles on the trail by a tree about a quarter mile into the journey, only to discover that my helmet, goggles, and Bluetooth speaker system had been stolen as I made my way back. Despite filling out a form with guest services, the chances of being reunited with my gear seem slim.

My overall experience on Hunter Mountain was extraordinary, and I highly recommend venturing into the woods, especially during winter. The snow-covered forest adds a mystical touch, and the historic fire tower offers a glimpse into the past and an opportunity to marvel at the beauty of nature from an unparalleled vantage point. So, if you find yourself near Hunter Mountain, take a detour to the fire tower – it's a trek worth making.

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