Enjoy an easy winter hike to the old Fire Tower 9 and Seneca Point along the Fire Tower Road.
– Parking Coordinates: 41.33675, -79.22346 (Fire Tower Rd is closed for winter for cross country skiing. You will need to park at Ridge Campground and hike the road)
– Trailhead Coordinates: 41.33647, -79.22312 (Across the street from Ridge Campground parking)
– Distance and Type: 3.5 Mile Loop
– Trail Difficulty: Easy
– Elevation Gain: +/- 290 Feet
– Trail Markers: None – Trails are easy to follow.
– The Historic Fire Tower 9 (Built 1929)
– Seneca Point Overlook
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Note: Trail conditions change over time. If you discover any inaccuracies with this post during your visit, please post a comment below to let us know.
A visit to Cook Forest has been high on my list of places I wanted to experience after I came across photos of the Forest Cathedral, Fire Tower 9 and Henry Run Sawmill Dam. My day one goal was to drive up Fire Tower Road to see both Seneca Point and the Fire Tower before hiking the River Trail to Henry Run Sawmill Dam. Little did I know that Fire Tower Road closes for the winter each year and is actively used for cross country skiing. Visiting the tower and Seneca Point was still doable, it was just going to involve more milage than initially planned.
Fire Tower 9 and Seneca Point can be reached by hiking along sections of Mohawk Trail, Seneca Trail or the Baker Trail (North Country Trail section), however we chose to hike up the closed Fire Tower 9 road. We parked across the street from the closed road at Ridge Campground parking lot. The park grooms portions of Fire Tower Road for cross country skiers and it is good trail etiquette to avoid hiking over these sections.
A recent snowstorm covered Cook Forest with more than six inches of snow a few days prior to our visit so the road had a thick base of snow covering the road and was packed down by other hikers making our hike incredibly beautiful and relatively easy to hike. Surprisingly, we had the entire trail to ourselves as we hiked the entire road to the Fire Tower and Seneca Point without crossing paths with any other hikers.
Our first destination on this hike was Seneca Point where we looked southwest across the frozen Clarion river. This portion of the hike features unique sandstone formations that have broken away from Seneca Point. A word of caution for winter hikers: Seneca Point is sloped towards the cliff and becomes slick during the winter months. A fence has been installed for safety, however I recommend wearing microspkes during slick weather conditions.
We then retraced our steps back to the fork in the trail and followed the path to the Fire Tower 9 structure. During my hike there was nothing prohibiting hikers from climbing the steps of Fire Tower 9, however the top housing of the tower is sealed shut with plywood. I have read that rangers will open the top at times during summer months and give tours. Climbing as far as you can does provide a 360-degree view of the area. I did encounter some thick ice covering steps during my visit, and I would advise the use of microspikes and walking down the steps backwards to help maintain balance.
Located next to Fire Tower 9 is the River Trail trailhead. The River Trail will take hikers down the hillside and along the banks of the Clarion river a distance before splitting off of the Baker Trail and returning to Fire Tower Road. Check out my article for the River Trail Hike if you decide to take this trail or you want to visit Henry Run Sawmill Dam.
When ready, proceed back to Fire Tower Road and follow the road back to your vehicle. You have the option of following Fire Tower Road in the full loop or retracing your steps back to the start as both directions are equal distance from the start.
(41.33675, -79.22346) – Park at Ridge Campground and start the hike across the street.
(41.32197, -79.21183) – Reach the Seneca Point parking lot.
(41.32015, -79.21247) – Hike 0.2 miles to Seneca Point Overlook
(41.32080, -79.20985) – Hike 0.5 miles to Fire Tower 9
Return to the Seneca Point Parking Lot and follow the road towards the Ridge Campground