Oh, how I’ve missed the Adirondacks! Ever since I did the Saranac Lake 6er challenge last fall, I’ve been itching to go back on the mountain trails of this region and to tackle another hiking challenge. So as soon as the snow melted all away and the mild temperatures returned, my partner and I crossed the US border to go do the short hike to the summit of Azure Mountain.
Why Azure Mountain? First, because since I summited St. Regis Mountain last fall, I had already hiked one of the mountains of the Fire Towers Challenge (which involves hiking to the fire towers of the Adirondacks and the Catskills), so I thought it might be interesting to do another hike of this challenge. And since my partner is not used to mountain hiking, this short trail (3 kilometres / 2 miles) seemed like a good hike that would not be too difficult to do with him.
The trailhead to the summit of Azure Mountain is located along Blue Mountain Road, a gravel road in the northwest of the Adirondacks. We parked our car in the small parking lot, we wrote down our names in the register and we started on the trail, for our very first hike this year in the Adirondacks.
Azure Mountain is located in the public forest of the Debar Mountain Wild Forest Area. Its name apparently comes from the fact that the top of the mountain appeared blue to the first settlers. The mountain was originally called ‘Blue Mountain’ (thus the name of the road), but in the early 20th century, when the observation tower was built there, the state department noted that another mountain was already bearing the name ‘Blue’, so to avoid confusion, the mountain was renamed ‘Azure’.
The trail passes through a pretty mixed forest and climbs gently for the first few metres. It didn’t take long, however, for it to start getting steeper. In fact, I should have known that short trail would mean steep trail. I think that halfway through, my partner somewhat regretted his decision to accompany me on this hike.
The climb is continuous and offers no break. But since the trail was short, we gave ourselves permission to take our time, and take as many breaks as we wanted. And to me, it gave me the opportunity to enjoy being back in the Adirondacks forest, with its blooming trilliums and its interesting rock formations (proof of the impact of glaciers on the formation of the mountains of this area).
After a steep climb that probably felt longer than it really was, the trail stopped climbing and we finally got a glimpse of the fire tower between the bare trees. We had reached the top of Azure Mountain!
When we arrived at the fire tower, I was surprised to see that a stone staircase descended to a rocky ledge, offering a magnificent view of the landscape. At an elevation of 762 metres (2,518 feet), the summit offers views of the High Peaks in the distance, as well as of the vast forest of the northern Adirondacks. For such a short trail, it was amazing to be treated to such an impressive view.
The fire tower at the top dates from 1918 but was renovated in 2018 to celebrate its 100th anniversary. As it is in good condition, we decided to climb it and we were both in awe with the 360-degree view we got from the top. There is a map inside the tower that helped us recognize the mountains that we were seeing from up there (I was even able to recognize St. Regis Mountain in the distance)!
Then we started our descent. It was obviously much easier than the climb (in fact, we were rather surprised to realize that we were able to reach our car in less than 30 minutes). In all, our hike totaled 3.5 kilometres (2.1 miles), with an elevation gain of 273 metres (895 feet).
The hike to the top of Azure Mountain was the perfect mountain hike to kick off the summer hiking season! And it made me want to hike the other trails of the Fire Towers challenge!
***Azure Mountain is part of the Fire Tower Challenge, an hiking challenge which involves hiking to the old fire towers of the Adirondacks and the Catskills . To learn more about the challenge or to follow my progress, visit this page.***