October 28, 2014
A True Adirondack Challenge
Having completed this challenge some years back, I have to admit it's an absolute pleasure to undertake; it's even perfect for the entire family. Quite unlike the Adirondack 46 High Peaks, these offer something new and unique, and it gets you out and about the entire park. This goes without saying: the Saranac Lake Region is home to some of the best towers on the list. Below please see a bit of an overview of the firetower peaks in the Saranac Lake Region, and then get out there and play, you’ll be surprised at what you find.
“To complete the Challenge and receive the official full-color patch, hikers must climb and document, by date, ascents of at least 23 fire tower summits: 18 of 23 Adirondack Park summits and all 5 Catskill Park summits. Climbing each tower itself is not required, nor in fact recommended, for those towers that have not been restored for safe public use. The mountain should have a standing fire tower on the date of your ascent.” Information from www.adk-gfs.org
For more information go to their website, http://www.adk-gfs.org/firetower.challenge.php
Mount Arab – 2.0 miles, Round Trip
Located in the small Hamlet of Piercefield you will have a short drive to its trailhead, but worth every second in the car. Follow Route 3 out of Saranac Lake and through Tupper Lake and into Piercefield. In Piercefield locate Conifer Road on the left. Follow Conifer Road for just under 2-miles to Mount Arab Road on the left. Follow here for around 1-mile to the trailhead on the left. Parking is on the right.
Mount Arab is a very popular hike during all seasons and is equally accessible in all as well. From the parking area, cross the main road and sign in at the trail register located just up the trail. The trail from here is rather moderate but in shorter sections will be quite steep under foot. The trail follows a northern ridge and soon comes up to a small cliff on your left before sweeping around to the top of it. The trail from here moderates nicely and tops out at the open summit. Be sure to climb the fire tower for some outstanding views you can’t quite get from the summit floor.
Cathedral Rock – 2.0 miles, Round Trip
Located in the tiny Hamlet of Wanakena you can combine this short hike with Mount Arab for a full day’s adventure in the mountains. Follow Route 3 out of Saranac Lake, through Tupper Lake, Piercefield, and Cranberry Lake. About 5 miles outside of Cranberry Lake you will find CR 61 (Wanakena Rad on your left. Follow CR61 and go left onto Ranger School Road. Follow this road down to Arboretum Road which brings you behind the Ranger School. Take you first left back to a large parking area by a field.
From the parking area, locate the gated road and hike down from here. Continue for a couple hundred feet to the trail on the right. This trail will pass through the campus forest and cross a few back roads often used by snowmobiles. Eventually the trail will come to a foot trail as it crosses the final road. From here the trail approaches steep cliffs and swings around to the top of them to the left to a small pavilion. Soon after the pavilion there is Tower Road. Depending on the weather, you will need to bring snowshoes to continue on to the tower.
Azure Mountain – 2.0 miles, Round Trip
Located in the Paul Smiths Region this small peak gets much less traffic. Follow Route 86 out of Saranac Lake to Paul Smiths. Take a right onto Route 30 and then an immediate left onto Keese Mill Road. Keese Mill Road will turn into Blue Mountain Road; continue on this for over 11-miles to the trailhead on the left.
The Azure trail starts out along an old woods road before turning into a foot trail; this is a very attractive section of trail, even while being on a road. The foot trail begins moderately before commencing a steeper climb up over the slopes of the mountain. The trail moderates a bit before you reach the summit town where outstanding views await you.
St. Regis Mountain – 6.8 miles Round Trip
This is possibly one the most popular climbs in the region and with all due respect, it should be! Looking down on the Saint Regis Canoe Area and mountains surrounding them, you will have a very hard time leaving. The tower is not yet restored and is dangerous to be climbed at this time, but it has been approved to be fixed up. Follow Route 86 in Saranac Lake out of Saranac Lake into Paul Smiths. Turn right onto Route 30 and then immediately onto Keese Mill Road on the left. Follow Keese Mill Road for just under 3-miles to the trailhead parking on the left.
From the trailhead you will walk up the dirt road for a short distance to the foot trail on the right. The trail starts off very moderately over rolling hills. Soon you will be passing by the secondary trail to Upper Saint Regis Lake, but it is very easy to miss; only a small sign marks the location. The trail will then get slightly steeper over a rocky surface. There is another section further up that is very steep with rocky footing that passes up through a rocky draw. Atop the steep section the trail levels off slightly to approach the summit. The views from ground level along the rocky top are fantastic.
Hurricane Mountain – 3.6 miles, Round Trip
This is the most popular fire tower peak on the list, aside from possibly Blue Mountain; you will see why! Follow Route 86 into Lake Placid and get on Route 73. Follow Route 73 through Keene and locate Route 9N on the left. Follow Route 9N toward Elizabethtown for 3.5 miles to the trailhead on the left.
From the trailhead you will climb steeply to a high point along a low ridge. Continuing easily along this flat section you will come to a boardwalk over a marshy area and soon after start a rigorous climb. This section is very rocky and will bring you to an intersection with a secondary trail up the mountain from Crow Clearing. From here you will scramble over rock to the open summit. The fire tower at this point is not open for climbing, but has been approved for restoration. The views are some of the best in the area, soak them in.
Pokomoonshine Mountain – 2.2 miles, Round Trip
Follow Route 86 out of Saranac Lake and pass through Lake Placid and Wilmington and into Jay. In Jay turn left onto Route 9N and head through Ausable Forks and into Keeseville. In Keeseville follow Route 9 South toward Lewis. Continue for 7.5 miles to the trailhead on the right.
From the trailhead you will start climbing immediately through a hardwood forest. As the terrain gets steep you will come to a large rock face where you will veer left and eventually up onto it with an outstanding view. The grade continues to climb, quite abruptly in areas, and then it plateaus at the site of the old observer’s cabin (now rubble) and a lean-to. From here the trail moves through the woods on a modest slope to top out at the fire-tower area on the summit. Views are had from the rocks in front of the tower, but be sure to climb the tower for expansive views.
Where to begin?
So now you know where to start your challenge from. As you can see, the Saranac Lake Region is a great base camp for your tower challenge - why don’t you come and stay a while? Need a place to stay to rest your tired feet? Maybe a place to eat after you've worked up a huge appetite knocking off all those fire tower peaks? I know... now you’re hooked and you want to get some cool hiking gear - well one of our outfitters can help you with that too.