Just a short hike for today! A moderate hike of 4.3 miles to the Sterling Forest Fire Tower.
Take the N.Y. Thruway to exit 15A. Turn left onto route 17 north. In about 1.4 miles, bear right onto the exit for Sterling Forest. Follow Sterling Mine Road west for 3 miles, then turn right onto Long Meadow Road. Follow Long Meadow Road for 3.5 miles, then turn left onto Old Forge Road and continue on for .5 mile until your reach the Sterling Forest State Park Visitor's Center on the right. Park in the lot across from the visitor's center, then cross the road to the center.
After a look around the center and gift shop, we begin our hike at the front entrance. Walking out of the center turn right and follow the dirt path, following the blue-blazed Sterling Lake Loop. We pass the remains of a church on the right before entering the wooded area. Follow the blue-blaze through the woods and over a footbridge. If you pause on the bridge and turn left, you can see the remains of the Sterling Furnace through the trees.
Continue to follow the blue-blazed trail over a woods road and then as it turns left and descends onto a footpath. Soon we reach the paved West Sterling Lake Road. Turn right and follow the trail pass the brick ruins on the left and Sterling Lake on the right.
Shortly, the road curves to the right, as we continue, a sign marks the beginning of the Bare Rock and Fire Tower Trails. Turn left off of the blue-blazed trail and then immediately right onto the orange-blazed Bare Rock Trail. Follow the orange-blazed trail as it ascends the woods road, climbing steeply for about .75 mile. At the crest of the ridge, a sign marks the junction with the blue-on-white-blazed Sterling Ridge Trail.
Turn left and now follow the blue-on-white-blazed Sterling Ridge Trail and the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail. This a an easy hike with many viewpoints.
About a mile from the trail sign, you'll reach a ranger cabin and the Sterling Forest Fire Tower. The tower is open on weekends and holidays when a ranger is present. Call ahead or ask at the visitor's center if it will be open.
The Sterling Forest Tower is a 60' Aermotor LS40 with a 7' x 7' steel cab. It was erected in 1922 and operational in 1923. It ceased operation in 1988 and closed in 1989. It was held as a "stand-by" tower until 1999, when it was put back into active service. Today, it is the only active fire tower in New York State.
There are picnic tables at the base of the tower if you would like to take a break, or just hang for a while.
When you are ready to leave Rough Mountain and the tower, head east on the red-blazed Fire Tower Trail (do not take the joint Fire Tower/Sterling Ridge Trail marked on the sign). The red-blazed trail follows a service road. After about a half mile, the road levels off as you come to a junction. The rectangle red-blazed trail turns off on the right, but instead, continue ahead, now following the red-triangle blazes. The road continues to descend until you reach a locked gate ahead and houses in front and on the right. Walk around the gate and turn right onto the paved road. Here we pick up the blue-blazed Sterling Lake Loop Trail, this time following it back to the visitor's center.
Although this is a short hike, the views are incredible and the hike is relaxing and enjoyable. As always, this Sterling Forest State Park Trail does not disappoint.