Town of Woodstock – Elevation 3,140′
The tower on Overlook Mountain (el. 3,140 feet) is the newest of the five remaining fire towers in the Catskill Park, having been at its present location since only 1950. However, the tower itself is much older as it was originally constructed in 1927 on Gallis Hill, just west of Kingston. The Overlook tower reaches 60′ in height, and offers incredible views of the Hudson River valley, the Ashokan Reservoir, and the Devil’s Path. Along with the Balsam Lake Mountain Tower, Overlook closed in 1988.
Overlook Mountain is surely one of the most interesting in all of the Catskills. Its close proximity to Woodstock has made it a popular destination for tourists. Although the Overlook Mountain Wild Forest only covers 590 acres, its rocky slopes make for a very interesting day hike. In addition to providing a habitat for the timber rattlesnake, a protected species that only lives in one other area of the Catskills, the summit is covered with red oaks (trees usually found on lower slopes and in valleys, not 3,100′ above sea level), and some red spruce/balsam fir trees (those typical over 3,300′). In 1871, the Overlook Mountain House opened its doors to guests, joining numerous others in the Catskills. This hotel had the distinction of being the highest, at 2,920′. The Mountain House could house 300 guests and, despite burning down twice, prospered until around the time of the stock market crash. In the following years, it was rebuilt (but never opened to guests) and eventually looted and abandoned, leaving the ruins that can still be seen along the trail.
The open ledges around Overlook’s summit and exposed bedrock along the trail offer many clues about the geologic history of the Catskills. An open, south-facing rock ledge just prior to reaching the tower, offers some of the most spectacular views of how the Hudson Valley abruptly changes into the Catskill Mountains. One trip up Overlook and you will realize why this mountain was the focus of many works by famous Hudson River School painters in the 1800s.
By the end of the 1998 work season, all stairs and most of the landings, as well as the security fencing around the tower were replaced. After a tremendous surge of work in the Spring of 1999, with volunteers working almost every weekend, the committee met its self-imposed re-opening deadline on June 5, 1999. On that day the tower became the first to re-open in the Catskills in more than a decade.
Volunteer interpreters are needed at the tower on weekends between Memorial and Columbus Day. In addition, the foundation of the ground cabin (which has been turned into a museum) has been replaced. Please contact the committee if you are interested in volunteering.
If you would like more information or to volunteer, contact:
Fire Tower Coordinator
15 Jane Street
Saugerties, NY 12477