Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Goodnow Mountain: 06/14/2015

View of the High Peaks from Goodnow Mountain's fire tower, Sunday 06/14/2015.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

The weekend weather was again ideal for hiking, and we headed up to Goodnow Mountain, the small but popular peak just outside of Newcomb. Frequently cited for having one of the best views for the effort – and I know I’m losing credibility since I’ve said that about so many of the Adirondacks’ lesser peaks – Goodnow really delivers some eye popping views, as long as you’re willing to climb the 60’ fire tower.

Goodnow's 60' fire tower

Hike stats are moderately easy: a 4 mile round-trip with just over a thousand vertical feet of climbing, perfect for families with kids who don’t necessarily want to spend the entire day hiking.

Goodnow Mountain is part of SUNY ESF’s fifteen thousand acre Huntington Wildlife Forest, and the ESF crews have done an excellent job constructing and maintaining the trail. Water bars, drainage ditches and boardwalks help to minimize erosion and keep hikers’ feet dry. June’s been an especially wet month, so we doubly appreciated the improvements.

Sylvie and Beth on the trail

This streamlet probably would have been dry a month ago

I’ve often said it takes more than just views to keep kids interested in a hike. A couple of small streams predictably captured our kids’ interest, as did an old cabin foundation and barn along the way, and before long we were standing on the summit.

Horse barn from the pre-ESF era

Summit fever

Without the fire tower, Goodnow’s wooded summit would be unremarkable. An outlook here and a ledge there provide some limited views to the north and south. But climbing the tower provides a dramatic 360-degree panorama that takes in the High Peaks and central Adirondacks. Keep in mind that the open stairs of the tower may be a bit of a challenge to those who are afraid of heights. One woman in another hiking party refused to go any higher than the second flight, barely level with the tree tops.

Everyone raves about the view of the High Peaks looking north from the fire tower, but to me the view to the south is equally appealing. Unbroken woods stretch as far as the eye can see, interrupted only by wetlands and small lakes. The southern panorama takes in Vanderwhacker, Gore, Snowy, Blue and countless other peaks.

Pano - south (click for full size)

Pano - north (click for full size)

High Peaks view to the north

The tower was built in 1922 by the NYS Conservation Department in the wake of large destructive forest fires in the late 1800s and early 1900s. At one time there were 57 of these towers scattered throughout the Adirondacks. Although successful, rising costs and the increased use of aerial surveillance led to their abandonment in the 1970s and ‘80s. The Goodnow fire tower was restored by ESF and the Town of Newcomb in 1995 and remains open to the public.

The fire tower and observer's cabin

Interior view of the observer's cabin

After checking out the fire observer’s cabin (also restored), we headed back down the mountain. With gravity on our side we made it back to the parking lot in less than an hour.

Hikers interested in pursuing the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Fire Tower Challenge, in which hikers climb 18 out of 23 Adirondack fire towers plus 5 Catskill fire towers, can find more information by clicking here.

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