6 Vermont Fire Towers to Visit While Hiking
August 05, 2016
Vermont was once home to dozens of fire towers across the state. According to the Green Mountain Club’s 360 Degrees: A Guide to Vermont’s Fire and Observation Towers, 38 fire towers once stood in Vermont. Today, there are far fewer.
The History of Vermont Fire Towers
Many fire towers were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and some were built even earlier by the Vermont Timberland Owners Association.
Towers haven’t been used for fire detection in more than 30 years. State fire towers were taken out of service in favor of aerial patrols, with the last tower shutting down in 1985, according to Lars Lund, a state forest fire supervisor.
If you’re planning a Vermont summer or fall foliage season hike, these six Vermont mountains include fire towers or restored observation decks that offer rewarding views from the summit.
Stratton was the inspiration for The Long Trail when James P. Taylor was on the slopes of Stratton in 1909 and envisioned a Vermont hiking trail linking the Green Mountain peaks “to make the Vermont mountains play a larger role in the life of the people.”
With an elevation of 3,940 feet, Stratton is one of the highest peaks in southern Vermont, and its fire tower is impressively tall. Hiking from the base of the mountain offers easy to moderately challenging terrain with stunning views along the way in summer and during fall foliage season.
Getting there: From the base of Stratton Mountain, you can access the summit along the resort’s ski trails by way Lower Standard to Interstate to Upper East Meadow to Mike’s Way, about 1.7 miles each way. Visit www.stratton.com.
At 3,037 feet, Spruce Mountain in Plainfield stands tall in Vermont’s Piedmont mountains. The hiking trail to the summit starts out easy and becomes more challenging as you go. It’s the view from the top of the mountain’s fire tower that makes the two-mile hike worth the effort. The view from the fire tower is a remarkable panorama of high peaks in both Vermont and New Hampshire.
Getting there: From Barre, head east on Route 302. At the intersection of Route 110, turn left on Reservoir Road. After 5.6 miles, turn right onto East Hill Road, and turn right again onto Spruce Mountain Road. Turn left toward Summit Trail and look for parking.
Mount Ascutney in Windsor offers some of the most dramatic Vermont hiking in the Connecticut River Valley. The 2.9 descent from Weathersfield includes an 84-foot waterfall about half-way up. For an incredible view of the valley, there’s a former fire tower at the summit that has been shorted and transformed into an observation platform.
Getting there: The trailhead from Weathersfield can be found on Cascade Falls Road. You can also take the 3.2 mile Brownsville Trail from Route 44 between Windsor and Brownsville. The 2.7 Windsor Trail starts on Route 44A in Windsor. Visit www.vtstateparks.com.
Bald Mountain in Westmore stands at an elevation of 3,315 feet and is the third highest peak in the Northeast Kingdom. At the summit you’ll soak up views of the region from the mountain’s recently restored fire tower. The summit of Bald Mountain is mostly accessed by the Mad Brook Trail and the Long Pond Trail.
Getting there: Take Interstate 91 North to Exit 23 to Route 5 north to Route 5A north. Lake Willoughby will eventually be on the left, and Long Pond Road will be on the right. Head up Long Pond Road, passing by Long Pond. The Long Pond Trail parking area and trailhead will be on the left, just past the pond.
Elmore Mountain is the northernmost and smallest peak of Vermont’s Worcester Range. The mountain, which has an elevation of 2,608 feet, is a popular Vermont hiking destination. At the summit is a fire tower that was manned and operated between the 1930s and 1970s (the original tower was destroyed in the hurricane of 1938).
Getting there: Start your hike from Elmore State Park off Route 12, located along the mountain’s eastern slope. Visit www.vtstateparks.com.
Thanks to a 2012 restoration, the 80-year-old Fire Tower at the summit of Okemo Mountain will continue to welcome visitors to the Okemo State Forest. At 3,343-feet above sea level, the views from the tower’s enclosed platform extend from the Taconic Range and Green Mountains to the Adirondacks of New York to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Getting there: The Healdville Trail climbs Okemo Mountain’s 3,340-foot summit. From Ludlow, take Route 103 North toward Rutland. Approximately five miles from Ludlow, turn left on Station Road (by Wright Construction Company). Follow Station Road and cross over the railroad tracks. Turn left and there is a large parking area immediately at the end of a short drive. Visit www.okemo.com.