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History Highlight: The Okemo Fire Tower

Okemo Mountain Fire TowerKnown as one of the most iconic landmarks of Ludlow, Vermont, it's only fair that we kick off our History Highlight series with this well-known and loved icon. Reaching 3,343 feet tall, Okemo Mountain boasts stunning views, excellent terrain, hiking trails, and over 600 acres to explore. At the summit of Okemo Mountain rests the base of the original fire tower from the 1930s. Climbing up the winding staircase is worth the trip as you'll find yourself in the center of a panoramic, 360-degree view of Vermont's Green Mountain, New York's Adirondacks, and New Hampshire's White Mountains. Rising above the ski lifts, the tower is the highest point on the mountain. Today, the fire tower is used only for soaking in the awe-inspiring views, a photo-op, and a quiet place to relax. 


According to the Green Mountain Club, a Vermont-based hiking organization that oversees the famous Long Trail and other local trails, the Okemo Fire Tower was erected around 1932-1934 and used to fight against forest fires. In 1920, the summit was used to spot fires near and far, and as this location was deemed successful, the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era work relief program, decided to construct the steel tower. The tower was thoroughly manned until the 1970s, offering onlookers a unique perspective of Ludlow, Cavendish, Mount Holly, and other surrounding towns, as well as out-of-state areas. As technology was brewing, the need for the fire tower was limited but never-the-less, it was named to the National Historic Lookout Register in 1998. 


Hikers and skiers alike continue to access the Okemo Fire Tower today! There are a few ways to get there, some including vehicles or lifts, and others only requiring you and your hiking legs. Here are our favorite ways to reach the tower:


1. The Healdville Trail:

Located just three miles from Okemo, the Healdville Trail is located off Route 103 in Mount Holly, Vermont. This small trailhead along the Green Mountain Railroad starts the excursion on the 5.8-mile round-trip hike. The well-blazed trail is named after the long-lost Healdville train station. This is a great hike for friends and family to enjoy with a moderate pitch, an easy-to-follow path, and a well-marked trail. Once you've reached the summit, you'll find a sign directing you to the Fire Tower!


2. Mountain Road via Vehicle:

This option is great for families with small children who want to get a bit of exercise, or for those who don't have the whole day to explore. In the summer months, you can drive up Mountain Road, a ski trail turned access road to the near top. You'll have to ditch your car and enjoy a ten-minute walk to the actual summit. From there, you'll find a trailhead leading you into the woods and off the road, which then filters out to the base of the Fire Tower. 


3. Scenic Chairlift Ride:

On a sunny and clear day, this is one of the best ways to get to the fire tower! Jump on the Sunburst Six chairlift and take a scenic ride to the top. From there, enjoy an easy hike up the ski trail to the actual summit at the Glades Peak Quad. You'll see the fire tower once you get here, and you'll just follow the path to the base of the tower.


4. Winter Ski Access:

Take a break from your ski day and pop off your skis or snowboard and take a quick walk through the woods to the fire tower! To get there, take the Glades Peak Quad to the true summit and then ski down to the trailhead. Or, take the Solitude Express Quad, and follow the trail to the fire tower. Ask any local and they can help direct you, too!