Backpacking in the Adirondacks!

Backpacking in the Adirondacks, cross the Hudson River on foot on a swinging iron suspension bridge with the river cascading beneath you as seen through the wide mesh crosswalk. Navigate Lake Jimmy on a floating plank wood boardwalk. Backpack a rugged 1,800 vertical feet in 1.6 miles to an eighty seven year old Adirondack fire tower.

Backpacking in the Adirondacks!
Backpacking in the Adirondacks

NOTICE: As of July 7, 2011, Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab was previously damaged by windstorms. The roof has been repaired, but work is still ongoing to make it safe for use. At this time the fire tower remains closed to public access. For further up to date trail information, please call Adirondack Mountain Club's High Peaks backpacking Information Center 518-523-3441 or the Weather Line: 518-523-3518.

Hike the newly renovated tower and feast your eyes on one of the most spectacular wilderness vistas east of the Mississippi River. You are in the heart of the high peaks wilderness, in the heart of Adirondack history. You are in the legendary Tahawaus area.

The hike to the Mount Adams fire tower might offer you everything you ever desired and perhaps more. Getting to the trail head brings you into the heart of the southern portion of the high peaks to an area called the Upper Works.

The High Peaks
The High Peaks, Backpacking in the Adirondacks

Getting to the backpacking in the Adirondacks trail head is an unusual and wonderful drive. Exit the Northway at North Hudson at Exit 29 and drive towards Newcomb on Blue Ridge Road (Route 28). This is an inspiring tour with mountains and forest vistas greeting you at every turn. At approximately 18 miles turn onto Lower Works Road and then onto Upper Works Road. These roads were developed by the early McIntyre Iron Works and now provide a superb access for hikers as these roads penetrate deep into the high peaks wilderness.

Just before arriving at the trail head, off the road to the right is a huge abandoned stone blast furnace from the original McIntyre Iron Works business. Park the car at the trail head with trails leading to Flowed Lands, Mount Adams and Mount Allen. Put on your hat, hoist your backpack on your shoulders, lace up your hiking boots and get ready for some adventuring on the 2.4 mile trail to the fire tower on Mount Adams.

Flowed Lands
Flowed Lands, Backpacking in the Adirondacks

Backpacking in the Adirondacks, Mt. Adams Trail

Just after a few minutes on the backpacking in the Adirondacks trail you encounter the Hudson River and a relic from the past, a swinging iron suspension bridge that is supported only on each side of the river. Each step you take makes the bridge sway and roll with your body weight from side to side. There is also the creaking and groaning that swaying metal bridges make. You are walking on large iron mesh work so you can look right down and see the Hudson River right under you. Once past the Hudson River, a level walk takes you to Lake Jimmy.

There is a long wood plank bridge to walk on to shortcut right across the lake. Looking off the footbridge offers close up views of aquatic life and lily pads. Now that you have experienced two different types of water crossings in less than a mile you are ready to find and climb the backpacking in the Adirondacks trail to the Mount Adams fire tower. After less than 10 minutes of walking and passing a long abandoned wood shack there is a cairn on the left at .8 miles which signifies the start of the fire tower trail.

Lake Jimmy
Lake Jimmy, Backpacking in the Adirondacks

At first, the trail ascends gradually however the grade becomes steeper and steeper as there is 1,800 feet of elevation to be gained in 1.6 miles. After taking breathers and hiking upward the tower is reached. The summit itself is shrouded in trees and there are no views from the summit. The steps on the tower beckon to you and as you climb the stairs and get above tree line the vistas are absolutely spectacular!

Once in the tower cab, you can see that you are in the midst of the spectacular high peaks wilderness. Colden, Marcy, Redfield , Cliff, Calamity, Algonquin, Marshall, Allen, Iroquois and the Santanonis are all there for your eyes to see. Some of the mountains seem so close, it feels as if you can almost touch them. On some days, there are clouds swirling in the valleys between the peaks which give the scene a heavenly look.

Mt. Colden
Mt. Colden, Backpacking in the Adirondacks

One hundred eighty degrees directly behind the view of high peaks is an altered level landscape, showing the remains of the defunct mining site, complete with large piles of gravel and leach residue.

Not too long ago these views from the tower could have been lost forever. The Mount Adams fire tower is in a wilderness area and is considered a “non conforming structure”. Rules and regulations required the tower be removed. There was a huge outcry from the hiking community and a compromise negotiation was tendered to allow the tower to stay.

The Open Space Institute, a New York based nonprofit land conservation organization purchased the 10,100 acre Tahawaus property from Texas based National Lead Industries. The Open Space Institute will continue to maintain the 0.5 acre footprint of the fire tower while transferring the remainder of the lands to New York State as wilderness area. The tower had been abandoned from use in 1972 so for over 30 years it had been left to slowly disintegrate in the harshness of the Adirondack climate conditions.

Mount Adams Fire Tower
Mount Adams Fire Tower, Backpacking in the Adirondacks

Recent guidebooks warned that the backpacking in the Adirondacks trail was not worth climbing due to the lack of safety in attempting to climb the tower. It had fallen into serious disrepair. With the revitalization of interest in the tower with the Open Space Institute stepping to the plate, AmeriCorps volunteers visited the trail and tower this spring. They cleared the trail, marked it and most importantly renovated the tower to beautiful condition. It is now truly a first class hiking destination. Visit the tower and feel its power!

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