New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the 2023 Catskills Fire Tower Challenge to highlight the region’s world-class tourism destinations and recreational opportunities.
For nearly a century, observers watched the forests of New York State — including the Catskill and Adirondack forest preserve — from more than 100 fire towers perched atop the highest peaks, searching for the dangerous, telltale signs of forest fires.
The Catskills Fire Tower Challenge encourages experienced hikers to visit the region’s remaining fire towers located on Balsam Lake Mountain (Hardenburgh), Hunter Mountain (Hunter), Overlook Mountain (Woodstock), Red Hill Mountain (Denning), and Tremper Mountain (Shandaken), along with the Upper Esopus Fire Tower at the Catskills Visitor Center. The Upper Esopus Fire Tower allows visitors who may not otherwise be able to undertake the challenging hike of several miles to experience a fire tower on the high peaks in the Catskills.
Stewardship of the fire towers is a partnership with the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. The Catskill Center, through the Catskill Fire Tower Project, manages six fire towers in the Catskill Park for public access and interpretation under a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement with DEC. Dedicated volunteers help maintain and staff each of the fire towers on weekends and holidays throughout the summer and fall seasons. For more information about the Catskills and to experience the newest and easiest to reach fire tower in the region, the Upper Esopus Fire Tower, consider a visit to the Catskills Visitor Center on Route 28 in the heart of the Catskill Park.
To participate in the challenge, hikers must hike to all six DEC-owned fire towers in the Catskills between January 1st, and December 31st, 2023. Once completed, participants submit a log of their completed hikes along with a favorite photo or selfie via a web form or email to CatskillsChallenge@dec.ny.gov. Entries must be postmarked by January 7th, 2024.
All participants who complete the challenge will receive a letter and a commemorative Catskills Fire Tower Challenge patch designed with the 2023 completion year. The first 1,000 finishers will also receive a one-year subscription to DEC’s Conservationist magazine. Upon completion, finishers will also be able to download a customizable certificate and will be eligible to win prizes after the challenge period is closed. To promote responsible recreation, DEC will offer a bonus prize entry to finishers who also submit a photo of themselves practicing Leave No Trace while participating in the Catskills Fire Tower Challenge (e.g., picking up litter, carrying out, planning and preparing for their hikes, staying on trail).
New for 2023, finishers who completed the challenge multiple times will receive an additional commemorative Catskills Fire Tower Challenge prize.
For more information about the fire towers and challenge rules, visit DEC’s website.
Photo: Mt. Tremper Fire Tower courtesy of Gary Keir.