Owl's Head Mountain

Owl's Head Mountain stats

  • Distance: 3.1 miles to the summit
  • Elevation gain: 1,114 feet
  • Elevation: 2,182 feet
  • Owl's Head is one of the five mountains in the Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge
  • This mountain can also be approached from Lake Eaton Campground, just be aware that it's a much longer hike and there is a day-use fee to park there
  • Owl's Head is a moderately difficult hike. If you're new to hiking, consider trying one of the Tupper Lake Triad mountains first

Parking

From Tupper Lake take Route 30 south, heading toward Long Lake, for about 20.5 miles, then turn right on Endion Road — you'll see a brown DEC sign for Owl's Head Mountain on the corner. If you end up in downtown Long Lake, you've gone too far. The parking area and trailhead are on the right a little ways down the road.

The hike

Owls Head Mountain is part of the Sargent Ponds Wild Forest, which covers an impressive approximate 45,000 acres. This rather prominent peak is made up of four separate summits, two of which are referred to as the horns. When viewed from Long Lake, these horns give the mountain the look of a great horned owl’s head.

Atop the mountain's tallest summit is a 35-foot-tall fire tower that was erected in 1919 after the original wooden one was abandoned. The tower then became inactive in the 1970s, but with the help of Friends of the Owl’s Head Fire Tower it has been restored and is open to the public. Owl’s Head also has outstanding and views from the summit cliffs, if climbing a tower is not your cup of tea.

The trail starts out climbing right from the start as it makes its way up through an open hardwood forest. The route soon becomes more moderate, though, as it follows a draw between two adjoining ridges. An attractive wet area with a long boardwalk is located in this area.

After a mile or so there's a three-way intersection with a trail that goes about 4 miles straight toward Lake Eaton. Turn left here to continue up Owl's Head. From this point the trail remains pretty easy for another mile, then it begins to climb steadily as it commits to gaining elevation. The long section of climbing gradually mellows out in a col between two of the smaller peaks on Owl’s Head. The trail descends off this high ridge for a short distance as it enters a shallow valley at the base of the true summit. The site of the fire observer’s cabin, of which only the concrete footers and a pail remain, are in a magnificent white birch stand in this valley. 

The final push to the summit is very steep with a bit of slab rock and tall steps to negotiate. The steepness doesn't last long, and the trail levels off before the base of the fire tower comes into view.

From the partially open summit, Long Lake can be seen below with Blue Mountain in the background. From the tower, a mind-blowing, 360-degree panorama awaits! Climb the steps to enjoy views of the Central Adirondacks and some of the High Peaks in the distance. The Seward Mountains stand tall over everything in the area. The large dome of Kempshall Mountain (a former fire tower peak) sits along the shore of Long Lake. In the distance the towers of Blue Mountain, Wakely Mountain, Snowy Mountain, Goodnow Mountain, and Arab Mountain can be faintly determined.

Snowshoeing Owl's Head Mountain

Owl's Head Mountain is an excellent snowshoe excursion after you've tried a few of the area's easier hikes. Snowshoes will usually suffice on the generally well-packed trail, although snow spikes could come in handy on some of the steeper sections, especially near the summit.

Expect a significant drop in temperature as elevation is gained, and be prepared for strong winds on the summit, especially if you plan on climbing the tower. If you do climb the tower, be aware that the staircase will likely be very slippery. Always bring extra layers, especially for higher elevations, and don't hesitate to turn around if the weather starts to turn.

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