Bald Mountain

Bald Mountain Fire Tower (Rondaxe Mountain)

A quick and easy hike with a great view for the entire family.

Bald Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the Adirondacks, and the most visited fire tower, with well over 15,000 people visiting annually.  This is a short and easy hike with a 360 degree view from the 2350 foot summit overlooking the Fulton Chain of Lakes.

Tower History

In 1912 the first tower atop Bald Mountain and made of wood.  It stood twenty-foot feet high and had no cab, just a few square foot ‘deck’ for the observers to watch from completely exposed to the elements.

In 1917, today’s steel tower replaced the wooden structure.    Higher at 35 feet, it is the standard AerMotor LS‐40 Fire Tower.

The Observation Tower closed in 1990 along with the three remaining towers still staffed: Blue, Hadley, and St. Regis Mountains.  With modern advances in satellite, radar and aerial observations, they were no longer needed.

The tower was left to rot, but beginning in 2002 Friends of Bald Mountain began a multi-year restoration project.  They begin tackling safety and general maintenance issues, and since have even installed a replica circular map in the cab.

The friends are still active and maintenance work is regularly on both the tower, trail system and informational signage at the trailhead.

The Trail

Rondaxe Road Trailhead (1 mile to summit):  The trail is a relatively easy at a bit under a mile and only 500 feet elevation gain.  The trail largely follows the ridge to the summit.

Bald Mountain Trail
Bald Mountain Trail

The trailhead is on Rondaxe Road just east of Old Forge.  From Old Forge, take State Route 28 north towards Inlet.  From Enchanted Forrest Water Safari it is 4.4 miles to the left turn on Rondaxe Road.

Rondaxe Road is clearly marked by large signs.  Once on Rondaxe Road the trailhead is on the left at about 1000 feet, again clearly marked with DEC signs.   There is space for about 30 cars, which is not uncommon on a summer weekend.

A side note.  There once was a trailhead on route 28 itself, but it closed many years ago due to trail degradation.  Please use the Rondaxe Road Trailhead.  Why not? it’s a higher in elevation!

The trailhead is in the back right side of the parking lot with a covered register and informational board kiosk.  From here the trail begins as a wide and slightly uphill ascent.

After 0.3 miles the trial turns steeper, climbing to the top of the ridge.  Fortunately this section is short (0.15 miles).  Once it has flattened out again, there is a good resting spot (lunch?) is the open overlook directly on the trail.

The trail follows the ridge rolling up and down a bit to the summit.  The grade is easy, but it does follow some rather narrow rock structures.  Be sure to have a close watch of very young children.The tower comes into view just as the trees begin to open up and show the lower Fulton Chain.

Once at the fire tower, climb on up!  On a busy weekend you may have to wait for others to leave.  The cab of the tower is small, only room for a handful of people, so if it is a busy day, limit your time to about five minutes.  You can always go up later if it empties out, so go eat lunch on the rocks.

Go beyond the tower if you are looking for a quieter spot to eat lunch.  The remains of the old observer’s cabin are also located beyond the tower by about 150 feet.

Return the same way. Hiking Time: 1-2 hours at a relaxing pace.

Is it ‘Bald’ or ‘Rondaxe’ Mountain?

Both really…the original name of the mountain was Bald Mountain, but there is also a ‘Bald Mountain’ north of Stillwater Reservoir in Croghan.  To prevent confusion, since both mountains had fire towers built upon them, this mountain was renamed to Rondaxe Mountain (and Rondaxe Mountain Fire Tower) in 1912 by the state.

While the name was understandably changed for fire tower records, the name change did not sit well with locals and hikers and they continue to this day to refer to it as Bald Mountain.  Even the DEC signs refer to it as Bald Mountain, but the Rondaxe Fire Tower.

Today the other Bald Mountain is in private hands (essentially always was), with the tower torn down, so there is no confusion any longer.  Locals and hikers use the name Bald Mountain.

See Also

  • Rocky Mountain – A nearby short hike with great views, but less crowded.
  • Black Bear Mountain – A nearby longer hike (2 miles to summit)
  • The Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge

Trailhead Directions

From South/West: Show

From Old Forge, take State Route 28 north towards Inlet.  From Enchanted Forrest Water Safari it is 4.4 miles to the left turn on Rondaxe Road.

GPS Address:  Rondaxe Rd, Old Forge, NY 13420

Camping

No designated sites along the trail or on summit. Either create a legal site in the woods (150 feet from trail and water) stay at one of the many nearby campgrounds.

Kids

The hike is relatively easy and most kids will not have serious difficulty with it. There are only a few cliff ledges and no difficult scrambles.  Use caution if climbing the fire tower.

Pets

Bring them. It is an easy hike with few cliffs and scrambles.  Please leash your dog for this one, particularly on a popular weekend day.

What to bring

Water, lunch and a jacket for the summit

Winter Concerns

The hike into the fire tower is relatively protected and does not contain too much ice.   The trail is good for snowshoes, but not skis as it is too uneven.  The tower is open year round, but can be very icy.  Use caution if attempting to climb.

If you have anything to add, please leave it below.  Feel free to ask a question too.  Happy Journeys!

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