Owl's Head Fire Tower

Owl’s Head Mountain and Fire Tower

A long, moderate hike to a remote fire tower.

At a height of only 2,780 feet and an easy and gentle 3.1 mile hike, Owl’s Head is an easy-to-moderate hike well worth the 360-degree views from the restored fire tower.  This is a modestly popular mountain, consider it on popular days to get away from the crowds at the nearby Blue Mountain Fire Tower.

Overview

The trail is wide and rolling hills for most of its way, only turning steep within the last mile. Wild flowers are abundant and 360 degree views from the top of Long Lake Village, Blue Mountain, Mt. Marcy, Racket Lake and more. The remains of the old observers cabin are along the trail below the summit.  The mountain is located in the Sargent Ponds Wild Forest, Hamilton County.

Owl's Head Trail Map
Owl’s Head Trail Map

Trails

Two routes are available.  Most use the Endion Road Trailhead while campers staying at the Lake Eaton State Campground can take the alternate trail starting at the campground and following the north side of the lake.  For those coming from the Endion Road Trailhead, there is also a quick side trip to Lake Eaton.

Endion Road Trailhead (3.1 miles to summit):  There is space for about 6 cars in the well-defined parking lot, with more space along the road if necessary. Be mindful of the blind corners/hills while parking. The sign-in register is at the edge of the parking lot, and within it are information pamphlets provided by the Friends of the Owl’s Head Fire Tower.

From the trailhead the trail follows an old jeep trail for most of the way, which means the trail is rather straight and wide compared most Adirondack trails. This makes for a quick hike.  After steadily hiking up about 100 feet in elevation, the trail rolls gently for the next two miles with the occasional bog bridge.  At mile 1.0, the intersection with the Lake Eaton Campground trail comes in from the right. Stay left for the fire tower, following the DEC signs.  About a quarter-mile following this intersection is another intersection with an old snowmobile trail.  A well-worn DEC sign marks the intersection.  Stay right for the summit.

At mile 2.1 the trail changes noticeably.  The trail begins growing steeper and meanders up several ravines.  After reaching the summit of this section, the trail goes up and over a false summit, or more accurately between two false summits.  The trail dips down about 80 feet in elevation to the remains of the old Observer’s Cabin.

From the former cabin, the trail noticeably narrows and steepens.  Three scrambles later the fire tower and summit will appear at once through the trees. The view is to the south-west from the partially open summit.  360 degree views are available from the fire tower.

Return the same way. Hiking Time: 3-4 hours at a relaxing pace.

Owl's Head Mountain Trail Elevation Profile
Owl’s Head Mountain Trail Elevation Profile

Two more informal intersections are near the Lake Eaton Intersection if you look for them closely.  South of the intersection there was a trail to Forked Lake.  North of the intersection is a heard path used by Lake Eaton campers looking for a shortcut to the summit.

Lake Eaton Campground Trailhead (6.0 miles to summit): Campers staying at the Lake Eaton State Campgrounds can hike directly from their campsite.  The trail follows the north shore and intersects with the main trail above.

The trail leaves campground between sites 27 and 28 (north side).  Taking a left at the snowmobile intersection and following the lake on a winter snowmobile trail.  The trail is wide and relatively flat.  It is 3.8 miles to the trail intersection mentioned above.  Use directions above from here.

Return the same way. Hiking Time: 5-6 hours at a relaxing pace.

Lake Eaton Side Trip: If traveling from the primary Endion Road Trailhead, Lake Eaton is a brief 0.25 mile side trip.  The trail leads to the undeveloped side of the lake (far from the campground) and an opening provides a nice spot to picnic or take a quick swim.  Follow signs at trail intersection, return same way. Trail is wide and relatively flat.

Return the same way.  Side trip time: 20 minutes

History

Following extensive forest fires in 1903 (428,180 acres) and 1908 (368,000 acres), a lookout station was established in 1911.  First a wooden tower erected by the Commission Corps in September of 1911, followed by the current 35′ steel Aermotor LS40 tower in 1919. Observers originally stayed in tents until the Observer’s Cabin was built below the summit, the latest being built in 1929.  A phone line ran up the mountain (the small poles still visible along the trail, many hanging trail makers).

Aerial detection by planes and radar have replaced the need (cost) for manning fire towers across the state. The tower closed at the end of the 1970 season and the Observer’s Cabin was burned in 1979 as “non-conforming” to the natural state of the forest. The bottom set of stairs were removed as well to prevent access to the tower.

The late 1990s and early 2000s, 30 years since being closed, left the tower in disrepair. Many towers across the state faced the same issue, either maintain them or tear them town. Like many towers local groups gather together to save the tower and in 2004 the tower was resurfaced with new paint and wood.

The tower by Steel Aermotor LS40 tower stands 35 feet from the top of the concrete footers to the bottom of the 7×7-foot observation cab.  There are 5 sets of stairs, with recently updated wood, paint and fencing.

See also

  • The Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge
  • Long Lake
  • Lake Eaton Campground

Trailhead Directions

From South/East: From Blue Mountain Lake, take State Route State Route 30 north towards Long Lake.  The mountain is visible on the left across Long Lake shortly after the sharp right turn when long lake becomes visible.  Following State Route 30 through town (turn left before Stewart’s) and across the Long Lake Bridge.  From the bridge crossing it is 0.7 miles to Endion Road.  Turn left on Endion Road and the trailhead is clearly on the right at 1.5 miles.

From North: Driving south on State Route 30 from Tupper Lake, you pass Lake Eaton Campground (1.5 miles before turn), and turn right on Endion Road.  If you hit gas station, you went too far.  Once on Endion Road it is 1.5 miles to the clearly marked trailhead.

GPS Address: Endion Rd, Long Lake, NY 12847 ‎

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 nearby Lake Eaton State Campground.

Kids

The hike is relatively easy and most kids will not have serious difficulty with it. There are only a few cliff ledges and scrambles.  Caution should be exercised if climbing the fire tower.

Pets

Bring them. It is a moderate hike with few cliffs and scrambles.

What to bring

Water, lunch and a jacket for the summit

Winter Concerns

The hike into the fire tower is relatively flat and protected, which makes it an ideal winter snowshoe or ski.  The final push to the summit from the former Observer’s Cabin leads to three icy scrambles.  Crampons are needed here or an alterative path through the woods should be followed.  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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *