Hiking to the top of Cathedral Rock and its fire tower in the Adirondacks

I took advantage of a day off recently to go for a drive in the Adirondacks and hike to another summit of the Fire Tower Challenge. As the weather forecast predicted heavy rain and thunderstorms, I decided to opt for an easy hike: the one leading to the top of Cathedral Rock near Cranberry Lake.

Cathedral Rock is the peak that has the lowest elevation in the Fire Towers challenge and it is often considered one of its easiest hikes. The small mountain is located in St. Lawrence County, in the western Adirondacks. The trailhead is near the Wanakena Ranger School, where there is a very large parking lot.

There were no other cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and the forecasted rain had not yet started. The perfect conditions for an easy hike!

Boardwalk on the trail leading to the summit of Cathedral Rock
It was supposed to rain, but I got another beautiful day in the Adirondacks

The trail to the top of the mountain is named after Orrin Latham, a former teacher of the Ranger School who was also an avid outdoorsman. The trail goes through the school campus forest and is fairly flat at the start. It crosses dirt roads a few times, but as it is well marked, it’s not too difficult to follow.

Trail to the summit of Cathedral Rock
A fairly easy trail to follow

After taking me across a meadow, the trail started to slowly gain elevation. It winds along the rocky cliff of the small mountain. Compared to all the hikes I’ve done so far in the Adirondacks, this climb felt easy and not very demanding. There are even small wooden stairs to help climb the biggest rocks.

Trail along the cliff of Cathedral Rock
The climb starts!

After climbing one of these stairs, I arrived at a rocky ledge offering a first lookout on the surrounding forest.

Lookout on the trail
A first glimpse of the surrounding scenery

A few metres further, I climbed another small wooden staircase, and I arrived at a pavilion where there are a few picnic tables and another lookout. From there, I only had a few more metres to do under the trees to get to the fire tower. I had reached the top of Cathedral Rock, at an elevation of 518 metres (1,700 feet).

Fire tower at the top of Cathedral Rock
I’ve reached another fire tower of the challenge!

The fire tower was originally built on top of Tooley Pond Mountain, a few miles away. In 1970, when it ceased to be used for forest fire prevention, it was dismantled. It remained in this state for a few decades, until the early 2000s when the Wanakena Ranger School took possession of it and rebuilt it on its campus, at the top of Cathedral Rock.


It is possible to climb to the top of the fire tower, which I did, of course. The tower offers a 360-degree view of this remote area of the Adirondacks. A view perhaps less impressive than that of the High Peaks region, but I still like the feeling of seeing forests as far as the eye can see.

Window of the fire tower at the top of Cathedral Rock
Windows on the Adirondacks

The sky had become overcast during my hike and the wind got a bit more intense, so I didn’t stay in the tower for too long. Hiking down the small mountain was quick and easy. I did not meet any other hikers there that day, and in the end, the rain and thunderstorms never materialized. Another successful hike in the Fire Towers challenge!

The hike is approximately 3 kilometres (2 miles) round trip. Note that the cell signal is non-existent from the parking lot and on a large part of the trail.

***Cathedral Rock 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.***


    1. I’m lucky because for me, the Adirondacks are just on the other side of the Canadian border! This hike was a quick and easy one, with a nice view from the tower! 🙂

    1. I was lucky with the weather on that day. Not a complicated hike, but it was fun! Thanks for reading 🙂

  1. The forest is very beautiful, another wonderful hike, Vanessa! We have a Cathedral Rock in the nearby Spring Mountains.

    1. Oh, I didn’t know! The one in the Adirondacks isn’t a big and noticeable mountain, but it was a nice and easy hike! Thanks for reading John! 🙂

  2. Looks like a nice blue sky day for a hike Vanessa. We have been in smoke here for 3 days now and I long for the sight of blue skies. Happy weekend. Allan

    1. Oh no, sorry to hear this! It was the same for us a few weeks ago (we cancelled our hiking plans over the Canada Day long weekend because of poor air quality). I hope you’ll get a blue sky soon in your part of the country!

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