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Catskills: Mt. Tremper via Willow Trail


Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 8.7 miles

An out-and-back hike to the fire tower on Mt. Tremper via the less-popular Willow and Warner Creek Trails.
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Today I set out to hike up Mt Tremper in the Catskills with a friend. This small mountain (2740’) has a fire tower at its summit, one of only 5 remaining in the Catskills. There are two routes to the summit, and we took the less-used approach from Jessop Road in the small town of Willow. There is no designated parking area for this trailhead, but there is roadside parking for a few cars at the very end of Jessop Road, or you can park at the Willow Post Office at the Van Wagner/Jessop intersection and walk an extra 1.1 mile to the end of the road. 

At the end of Jessop Road, we started out walking along a private gravel road, which is open for public access by foot only. The yellow-marked Willow Trail follows this road a short distance before turning left to leave the road and begins climbing into the forest. It looks like this first section of trail is an old road since it is quite wide and open. The trail climbs gradually, bordered by private land before crossing into state land after a half mile or so. We reached a fork in the trail, with a sign pointing us to the left fork, and the trail narrowed to a footpath, still climbing steadily. The trail follows along the ridge, with a steep drop-off on the right, and is quite narrow in spots. Even with many of the leaves down already, the views were pretty limited, but we did catch glimpses of nearby Carl Mountain. 
About 2 miles in, the Willow Trail dead-ends into the blue-marked Warner Creek Trail. We turned left to head towards the summit of Mt. Tremper after a short break. The trail is mostly narrow and somewhat overgrown, which was somewhat expected since I had read that most people climb Tremper from the red trail on its opposite side. The trail continued to climb steadily, but not steeply through heavily wooded sections with no real views. We did pass a few rock ledges that paralleled the trail in spots. The rocks were covered in bright green moss, providing a nice contrast to the fallen leaves everywhere.
Once the trail began to level out, we started looking for the fire tower. However, the trail follows the col next to Tremper for a good while before it actually reaches the summit. So we continued on, enjoying the easy, mostly flat approach. Finally with a short incline to the full summit, the fire tower came into view. It was totally different than the views and tower on Hurricane Mountain, which I hiked the week before. This summit is completely closed in by trees, and there are limited views from the ground. Climbing up the 47’ tower, however, gives great views in all directions including to the route of the Devil’s Path. The tower was used for fire observation until 1971, and reopened to the public in 2001. 
Descending from the tower, we ate lunch at the lean-to just south of the summit. From here it is possible to continue down the south side of the mountain on the red-marked trail to the Phoenicia trailhead to complete a traverse of the mountain. Since we had only one car, we returned the way we came via the Warner Creek and Willow Trails back to Jessop Road.
This makes the 2nd ADK/Catskill fire tower hike for me, and I think I’m going to try to complete the Fire Tower Challenge, which means I’ve got 21 to go! 

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