The Elmore Mountain Fire Tower is a historic overlook within Elmore State Park overlooking Lake Elmore. Accessible year round, it is especially enjoyable in the winter when the park is closed and the summer crowds have dispersed. Two trails access the fire tower, the gradual 2.1-mile Ridge Trail and the steep 1.75-mile Fire Tower Trail. They can be combined to create an excellent loop. In the winter, add 0.7 miles, as the access road in the park is closed.
Beginning from the parking area on Beach Road, snowshoers and winter hikers will head north into Elmore State Park and then follow the the main park road to the left as it begins winding its way up the hillside. There is plenty of signage along the way.
The Ridge Trail appears on the right about 1 mile from the parking area. It winds back and forth over a shallow streambed for a while before climbing steeply to a small plateau. Shortly after crossing a small beaver meadow, the trail begins climbing in earnest, weaving between rock outcroppings as the forest shifts from predominately hardwood deciduous to conifer.
The Ridge Trail begins to level out at around 1,900 feet as it hooks south toward Balancing Rock and the fire tower. Balancing Rock can be found on the cliff edge at around mile 1.8. This large glacial erratic was deposited as glaciers in the last ice age retreated north. Due to it's unique shape, it appears to balance precariously on the edge of the cliff.
About half a mile beyond Balancing Rock, the Fire Tower Trail converges with the Ridge Trail. Continue straight to reach the fire tower. The fire tower itself was constructed in 1939 after a hurricane the previous year caused significant damage to the surrounding forest and dramatically increased forest fire hazards. It was taken out of service in the 1970s, and it now serves as an incredible overlook for the public. There are exceptional views of Lake Elmore from the top.
Returning back to the intersection, hikers can turn right to follow the Fire Tower Trail down a 0.25-mile very steep pitch, followed by a gradual 1.5-mile hike back to the turn for the Ridge Trail. In the winter, a prominent ice flow on the trail requires a short stint of off trail navigation. Fortunately, the ice flow is obvious from above. The remainder of the trail follows a moderate to easy pitch back to the access road.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.