At the top of the 3,344-foot Okemo Mountain outside of Ludlow, Vermont sits a 60-foot tall fire tower, open to anyone who dares to climb its steep steps for a panoramic view of the surrounding Green Mountains. In the wintertime, one can see at least seven surrounding ski areas from atop the tower. The summer viewing brings a sea of green. And of course, the fall foliage is a wonder to behold in all directions.
In 1910, Vermont granted authority to the State Forester to employ watchmen, positioned on peaks throughout the state, to spot for fires. A total of 38 fire towers were eventually built, but as air technology supplanted the need for watchmen, many fell into disuse and were dismantled or rotted away. As of 2021, 16 towers remained in Vermont.
The original fire tower on Okemo Mountain was built in 1923. It was built of wood and stood 30 feet tall. In 1934, a new steel tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, double the height of the original tower at 60 feet. In 2010, a refurbishment of the stairs was completed, making them much safer with chain-link siding to the top. The Okemo fire tower was in use until 1970 and was put on the National Historic Lookout Register in 1998.
Know Before You Go
The top chamber of the tower is enclosed and is relatively safe, but caution must be used on the steep access stairs, especially in the winter when the entire structure may be coated in ice and snow.
During the ski season, the Okemo Fire Tower can be accessed via a short walk (~140 feet) through the woods from the top of the South Face Express Quad chairlift. In other seasons, there are three ways to get there. Visitors can ride the scenic Sunburst Six chairlift and walk about a third of a mile up the Buckhorn ski trail to path access at the top of Mountain Road. Anyone can also drive to the parking area at the top of Mountain Road, then walk the remaining third of a mile to the same point. The 350-foot trail in the woods goes past where the Healdville Trail joins in and continues to the fire tower. For the more adventurous, the approximately 3-mile-long Healdville Trail is a more rigorous way to get to the top of Okemo Mountain.
The trailhead for the Healdville Trail is located at the end of Station Road, which is 2.75 miles north on VT Route 103 from its intersection with VT 100 N just north of the town of Ludlow. Mountain Road to the scenic chairlift and the top of Okemo mountain begins by the large Okemo sign in Ludlow. Stay left of the Clock Tower at the base of Okemo ski resort and follow the winding road up approximately three miles to the small parking area before the gate, which blocks the summit access.