If you are looking for a sense of accomplishment this year, Catskill Mountain hikers will once again be rewarded for their efforts with the 2023 Fire Tower Challenge.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced this year’s challenge which runs from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2023.
For nearly a century, observers watched the forests of New York state from more than 100 fire towers perched atop the highest peaks, searching for telltale signs of forest fires. This program will highlight the Catskill region’s remaining five historic fire towers, as well as a sixth fire tower that was opened at the Catskills Visitor Center.
The Catskills Fire Tower Challenge includes the towers on Balsam Lake Mountain, Hunter Mountain, Overlook Mountain, Red Hill Mountain, and Tremper Mountain, along with the Upper Esopus Fire Tower at the Catskills Visitor Center.
The Upper Esopus Fire Tower was originally used for fire surveillance in Venice, Florida and has found a new home in the Catskills. Located about a quarter of a mile walk from the parking area, it allows visitors who may not otherwise be able to undertake a challenging hike to experience a fire tower on the high mountain peaks.
The challenge details that you do not need to climb up to the fire tower cab. Cabs are only open when staffed by volunteers between Memorial Day and Columbus Day on weekends.
New for 2023, finishers who have completed the challenge in multiple years will receive an additional commemorative Catskills Fire Tower Challenge prize.
All hikers are asked to participate in the Leave No Trace principles to help ensure you will be prepared, stay safe, and minimize damage to our shared lands and waterways.
Finishers within the 2023 season will be asked to complete a hiking log via SurveyMonkey and submit a favorite photo from one of their hikes. The log can also be downloaded and emailed to [email protected]. Entries must be postmarked by January 7, 2024.
All participants will receive a letter and a commemorative patch Catskills Fire Tower Challenge patch designed with the 2023 completion year, as well as a downloadable certificate. The first 1,000 submissions will also receive one-year subscription to Conservationist magazine.
All finishing hikers will be eligible to win prizes of hiking equipment accessories after the challenge period is closed.
The DEC will also 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).