A modest hike past a backwoods pond to a remote fire tower.
Note: As of July 2018, the trail and tower are back open to the public, following structural repair work. In December 2016, the fire tower was found structurally unsafe and both the tower and eventually trail were closed.
Hidden away in the south-central Adirondacks is one of the largest Adirondack Fire Towers still standing and due to recent restoration efforts, it is safely climbable too. At an impressive 70 feet, those scared of heights need not apply. After a dizzying 11 flights of stairs, full 360 degree views show distant places such as Blue Mountain, the High Peaks, Indian Lake, and more.
Trailhead (3.2 miles): From the 20-car trailhead on Cedar River Rd, the trail begins by following a slightly uphill former Jeep trail. After two miles and 500 feet in elevation a spur trail leads to a back country pond, which is a good time to take a break.
From the pond, the trail begins to head northwest up the mountain, getting much steeper. The remaining 1.2 miles climbs 1100 feet to the 3744 foot summit.
Expect your hike to be quiet, except on nice weekend/holidays where you will pass a handful of other hikers. This is one of the least-hiked fire towers in the Adirondacks.
No views from base of tower. Return the same way. Hiking Time: 3 hours at a relaxing pace.
Wakely’s prominence in the southern mountains made it an excellent candidate for a fire tower. In 1911 a wooden tower was built on the summit. This temporary structure was replaced with a 70 foot AerMotor LL25 tower. This is the cabin that still stands today.
One of the unique artifacts of this tower was that is was one of the first ten built in the Adirondack Park. The towers were adapted from windmills, which did not need daily access, and had a vertical ladder on the outside of the tower. All later towers across the park were built with the standard staircase we now see. The original ten were eventually refitted with “modern” stairs (1930), but only this tower still has the original vertical staircase attached. The lower section was removed to prevent climbing.
Wakely is the tallest of the original ten LL25 steel towers and the third tallest tower still standing (fourth ever).
There has been three cabins built for an observer, with the current cabin built in 1972-1973. The 25′ x 25′ helicopter landing platform was built to assist with the 1972 cabin installation.
Recently, Friends of Wakely Mountain have assisted in rehabilitating the tower and site. Also a radio repeater and solar panels have been attached to the tower.
- Cedar River Headquarters
- Cedar River Flow
- The Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge
This very remote trailhead is difficult to get to and uses seasonal roads. Bring a map.
From East/South: Coming from the hamlet of Indian Lake, take NY-28 N/NY-30 S/State Hwy 30 S for 2.1 miles west out of town. Turn left on Cedar River Road (across from Cedar River Golf Course). It is another 12 miles to the trailhead. If you reach the Cedar Flow Dam area, known as “Headquarters”, you’ve gone slightly too far.
From West: Coming from Blue Mountain Lake, take NY-28 N/NY-30 S/State Hwy 30 S for 9 miles and turn right on Cedar River Road (across from Cedar River Golf Course). It is another 12 miles to the trailhead. If you reach the Cedar Flow Dam area, known as “Headquarters”, you’ve gone slightly too far.
From West (Alternative): An alternative route though Moose River Recreation Area is possible, but follows a slow, 4×4 dirt road for over 20 miles. Enter the Moose River Recreation Area in Inlet, just north of 5th lake, Limekiln Rd. Follow it to the end at Cedar River Flow (“Headquarters”). From here it is about 0.2 miles along Cedar River Road to the trailhead.
GPS Address: 43.731061, -74.472622 – Be careful if coming from the west that it does not take you through the Moose River Recreation Area, unless that is your plan.
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 hotel or campground.
Nearby (south of trailhead) is Cedar River Headquarters, with many car camping sites.
The hike is reasonably long and the last part is steep, but has few difficult scrambles and cliffs. Most active kids should make it to the top if taken slowly. Caution should be exercised if climbing the fire tower — it is tall!
Bring them. It is a moderately-long hike with few cliffs and scrambles.
What to bring
Water, lunch and a jacket for the summit.
Cedar River Road is a seasonal road and winter access is difficult.