Hike to the Mount Tuscarora Fire Tower in Allegany State Park

Mount Tuscarora Fire Tower

Mount Tuscarora Fire Tower

 

The Mount Tuscarora Fire tower was built in 1928.   It is no longer usable.  The stairs are in disrepair.  The lower access has been removed to prevent climbing of the tower.  However, it is still a popular destination for hikers and an interesting side trip for backpackers on the combined Finger Lakes, Conservation, North Country Trail (the “FLT/CT/NCT”).

The tower is located at an elevation of 2144 feet on top of Mount Tuscarora in the southwestern corner of Allegany State Park, in the Quaker Area of the park.  Its approximate location is circled in red on these maps:

There are five different approaches to the fire tower consisting of two from either end of the Allegany State Park Trail No. 1, two more from the different entry points for the FLTC/CT/NCT, and one unofficial trail that was probably originally used by those who manned the fire tower long ago.  ASP Trail No. 1 has significant blow down areas that sometimes require a short walk-around, although most can be climbed over or crawled under.  The old “ranger” trail has an impassable blow down near the top of the trail that has to be bushwhacked around as noted below.  The FLT/CT/NCT trails are better maintained.  Most of the blow down is cut through at least once a year on the FLT/CT/NCT.

 

 

 

 

The Trails:

 

Trailhead Kiosk Mt. Tuscarora Fire Tower trail from Quaker Road

Trailhead Kiosk Mt. Tuscarora Fire Tower trail from Quaker Road

 

Blue Trail Marker

Blue Trail Marker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.      ASP Trail No. 1 from the northwest:

  • This trail starts from Quaker Run Road just 2/10ths miles from the Quaker entrance.  The picture above is of the trail head kiosk.  Parking is along the road.
  • The trail is marked with blue circular disk (some have faded to a light blue-silver color).
  • Total distance to the fire tower is 2.5 miles.
  • The trail starts with a steady climb of 640 feet over the first 9/10ths mile.  The remaining 1.6 miles to the fire tower rises only another 150 feet.
  • When the hardwoods are leafless you get great views of Quaker Lake and the surrounding mountains as you hike along the Mount Tuscarora ridge to the fire tower.
  • Here are links for the GPX and KMZ files.  The KMZ file includes pictures of the trail, trail markers, and trail entry points.
Trailhead Kiosk Mt. Tuscarora Fire Tower trail from Coon Run Road

Trailhead Kiosk Mt. Tuscarora Fire Tower trail from Coon Run Road

 

 

Blue Trail Marker

Blue Trail Marker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.      ASP Trail No. 1 from the southeast:

  • This trail starts from a parking lot just past the Park’s maintenance garage on Coon Run Road.  The picture above is of the kiosk at the trail head.
  • The trail is marked with blue circular disk (some have faded to a light blue-silver color).
  • Total distance to fire tower is 2.9 miles.
  • There is a lot of blow down on this trail.
  • The trail is relatively flat for the first 1.9 miles.
  • Be cautious of a short bridge over Willis Creek which is rotting away and has several broken boards.
  • You will also come across an unmarked trail coming in from your left at a 45 degree angle and leaving to your right.  Be sure to go straight ahead at that point to stay on Trail No. 1.
  • At the 1.9 mile mark the trail starts a 400 foot climb over the course of 4-tenths of a mile, at which point it is joined by the FLT/CT/NCT trail coming in from the south. The pictures below are of that trail junction.
  • The trail is flat again for a little over 1/4 mile, then the final climb to the tower is a rise of about 200 feet over the course of the last 1/4 mile.
  • Here are links for the GPX and KMZ files.  The KMZ file includes pictures of the trail, trail markers, and trail entry points.

3.      Unofficial “Ranger” trail:

  • This trail starts from Quaker Run Road, just west of the point where the road crosses Quaker Run Creek (which is just west of the entrance to Camp Turner).
  • Here are links for the GPX and KMZ files.  The KMZ file includes pictures of the trail, trail markers, and trail entry points.
  • Below are pictures of the area near the trail head to help you find it.
  • The trail is not visible from the road.  You need to walk along the edge of the forest looking for an obvious path through the tall grass and a big yellow arrow on a tree.
  • Immediately after the trail crosses a small creek it heads uphill and takes a sharp turn to the left.  Look for a yellow arrow designating this sharp left turn because a foot path appears to go straight ahead.
  • Once you have made the turn, you will find some yellow blazes to help you stay on course, but will mostly have to rely on the obvious footpath.
  • There aren’t many switchbacks until you get near the top.
  • There are several trees across the trail that you can either climb over or walk around, however see the following note about the impassible blow down near the summit.
  • There is an impassible blow down about 300 yards from the top.  You can easily get around it by proceeding east (to your left) for about 100 yards, then straight up again (south) until you reach the ridge of Mount Tuscarora where you will come across the combined Trail No. 1 and FLT/CT/NCT less than 100 yards east of the fire tower.  Turn left (east) onto the combined trail and follow it to the fire tower.
  • Hiking poles are recommended, especially if you return down this trail because of the steep sections.
Ranger trail panorama view

Ranger Trail Panorama View

 

 

Ranger Trail Yellow Trail Marker

Ranger Trail Yellow Trail Marker

Elevation Profile for the Ranger Trail

Elevation Profile for the Ranger Trail

4.      FLT/CT/NCT from inside Allegany State Park:

  • A map (in pdf format) and a gpx file can be purchased for less than $2 directly from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference at http://www.fltconference.org/trail/store/maps-and-gps/maps-and-gps-files-for-instant-download/  You want Map “M1/CT1”.
  • While there, please consider joining the FLTC.  The actual trail and gpx file will not be posted on WNYTrails so as not to interfere with the FLTC’s sale of its maps and gpx information.
  • The trail starts on Coon Run Road further south than the parking lot for Trail No. 1.  Consult the FLTC map for parking information and access to the trail head.
  • The FLT/CT/NCT is marked with white blazes on trees.
  • It is 5.5 miles from the trail head to the fire tower using this trail.
  • The Willis Creek lean-to is approximately 3.2 miles from the trailhead.
  • The first 3.25 miles involve little net elevation gain but does involve a series of ups and downs through several small gullies.
  • At 3.25 miles the trail begins a 450-ft climb over the course of the next mile.
  • Over the course of the next1/2 mile the trail descends 150 feet where, at mile 4.9 it meets with ASP Trail No. 1.
  • At mile 5.1 the FLT/NCT/CT makes a sharp right turn to the southeast.  The Junction is depicted in the photos below.
  • To reach the fire tower continue on ASP Trail No. 1 for approximately 2/10ths of a mile (a climb of about 200 feet).

5.      FLT/CT/NCT from Pennsylvania

  • A map (in pdf format) and a gpx file can be purchased for less than $2 directly from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference at http://www.fltconference.org/trail/store/maps-and-gps/maps-and-gps-files-for-instant-download/  You want Map “M1/CT1”.
  • While there, please consider joining the FLTC.  The actual trail and gpx file will not be posted on WNYTrails so as not to interfere with the FLTC’s sale of its maps and gpx information.
  • The trailhead is in a parking area off PA Route 346, just south of the Willow Bay Recreation Area Campground in the Allegheny National Forest.  There is a sign designating the location as the North Country Trail.
  • The FLTC states that ‘parking is safer at the campground’ in the Willow Bay Recreation Area.
  • The trail from Route 346 to the PA-NY line (about a mile) is marked with blue blazes.  After that it is marked with the traditional white blazes of the FLT.
  • Trail climbs 650 feet over the course of its first mile to the PA-NY border.
  • The trail then follows a ridge for approximately 1` mile, and then begins a slow decent 500 feet over the course of the next 2.25 miles.
  • The trail then begins a steady ascent of about 600 feet over the remaining 1.25 miles to the fire tower.
  • The trail meets Trail No. 1 at about the 5.1 mile mark. Turn right (northwest) to follow Trail No. 1about 2/10ths of a mile to the fire tower (a climb of 200 feet.)