Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Sterling Forest State Park spans almost 22,000-acres and is located about 40-miles northeast of New York City. It was established in 1998 in Orange County and is part of the New York and New Jersey Highlands. The Lakeville and Fire Tower trails traverse a there-and-back, 4-mile-long route from the southern end of Sterling Lake that climbs 660 feet in elevation up Sterling Mountain to the Sterling Mountain Fire Tower and observer’s cabin. You can climb this 60-foot tower, which boasts views that stretch almost 100-miles to New York City, the Catskills, the Hudson Highlands, and the Ramapo Mountains. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP) has a published map to help you navigate your route.

The Lakeville Trailhead is along Sterling Mine Road less than a quarter-mile south of the park’s information center. There is a very small parking area here with a gate across the trail that you should not block. If this parking area is full, there is a visitor lot a short distance down the street and to the north past the large renovated furnace. White trail markers lead from the gate and down a deteriorating paved road past several old house foundations that once comprised the Lakeville community. Continue up and over a 50-foot hill alongside telephone poles for approximately three-quarters of a mile until you reach a trail intersect just before a large opening to a marsh. Here you'll see an obvious trail sign with an arrow indicating that the tower is 1.3-miles away on the trail that leads to your right and into the woods. This is the Fire Tower Trail, and it is red-blazed with a white horizontal stripe. Continue through a grassy area that may be slightly overgrown yet obviously traveled by vehicle. Within a short distance the brush will open up as you begin to climb Sterling Mountain.

Continue uphill for about a half-mile as you ascend approximately 230-feet at a 21-percent grade. You will reach another intersection with the Fire Tower Connector Trail that leads a steep descent over a half-mile back down to the lake. Keep to the left to remain on the main Fire Tower Trail, as indicated by another sign.

The trail continues over moderately flat ground to the northwest and then turns to the southwest embarking on another steep ascent to the top. Trek up these final 360-feet and the fire tower finally comes into sight. Head up to the tower where there is a ranger’s station. Climb up the steps to the top of the 60-foot steel-frame structure and embrace the incredible views that span from the Indian Head and Slide Mountain Wildernesses in the north to the Manhattan skyline and outline of the Empire State Building to the south. 

This tower was constructed in 1924 by the Aermotor Corporation to provide an observation point over the Ramapo Mountains as a first line of defense for spotting fires. It was added to the National Historic Lookout Registry in 2006 and averages 3,500 visitors each year. The protected Appalachian Trail corridor lies to the west and beyond that, the hills roll into New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Sterling Lake lies below you to the east and the view continues over Harriman State Park to the Hudson River Valley and Bear Mountain State Park. You can return on the same path or complete a much longer 8-mile loop along the blue-blazed Sterling Ridge that heads along the ridge to the north and returns to the lake via the yellow-blazed Sterling Valley Loop.

Sterling Forest State Park

At one time, the Sterling Forest Corporation was planning to build 13,000 homes, a golf course, and a series of industrial and commercial developments. However, the Trust for Public Land and the Open Space Institute were able to raise the owner’s $55 million asking price, $17.5 million of which was approved with the senate parks bill in 1996, and buy the land. Today it serves as an important habitat for many species of resident and migrating birds as well as timber rattlesnakes, fox, and black bear. Hunting is permitted during deer and turkey season with a New York State hunting license and a park permit. Dogs are allowed, but they must be on a leash not more than 6 feet in length. You can learn more about the forest and its history at the Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center, which is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The center features a number of exhibits including reptiles and amphibians of the region, a large topographical map of the entire forest, and models of the Lakeville mining town that was operational from the late 1700s into the early 20th century.

This adventure can be combined with a walk on the Lakeville Ironworks Trail located at the southern end of Sterling Lake. This incredible 1.25-mile exploratory trail traverses old ruins and relics from this mine and surrounding town that was the first of its kind in the British Colonies and which played a crucial role in the manufacturing of weapons during the American Revolution.  It begins at the visitor center, where you can obtain a brochure with more details about the various steps that were used to turn crude ore into the feed for the large furnace in this bustling town. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Fantastic views from the tower.

Cons

Limited parking at the trailhead.

Trailhead Elevation

730.00 ft (222.50 m)

Net Elevation Gain

660.00 ft (201.17 m)

Features

Historically significant
Mine
Big vistas
Family friendly

Suitable for

Biking

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

11/03/2018
A lovely fall visit to the tower.
Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.