SYNOPSIS: There are a few places in Putnam County that offer a 360 degree panoramic view. The dirt road to the top of Mt. Nimham provides relatively easy access to one of those amazing sites. On your way up the trail, you can stop to explore two stone chambers. Make sure you save enough energy to climb the fire tower that provides a breathtaking view.
APPROXIMATE TIME: One hour and thirty minutes.
DIFFICULTY: Easy, but a steady incline.
DIRECTIONS: To get there from exit 19 off Route 84, head west on Route 312 for 1 mile. Make a right onto Route 6 and go 2.1 miles. At the 3-way intersection you will see Lake Gleneida in front of you. Make a right onto Route 52. Go 0.2 miles and make a left onto Route 301. Go 1.1 miles. Just as you finish crossing the long stone bridge, make a right onto Gypsy Trail Road. Go 2.2 miles. On the left there is a small road heading uphill, with a sign for the Nimham Mountain Multiple Use Area. Half a mile up that road is a small cul-de-sac parking area.
THE HIKE: Before you start the hike, check out the first stone chamber that sits just off to the right of the parking lot as you pull in. The chamber is large enough for an average-height person to stand in.
As you stand in the parking area facing the kiosk, there are two trails that start from the cul-de-sac. We did not explore the trail on the left, but it seemed popular for mountain bikers. The trail on the right follows a dirt road about 3/4 of a mile uphill to the fire tower.
About 200 yards up the trail, as the path curves to the right, there is another, smaller stone chamber off to the right-hand side. As I peeked my head inside, I was startled by a bird that flew out just a few inches from my head.
In the summer, the tree canopy provides a nice amount of shade for the first third of the trail. The middle section of the trail gets a little warmer, partially because the direct sunlight can reach you, and partially because of the steady incline. The last third or so of the trail has shade again.
It took my family and me about 25 minutes to get from the parking area to the base of the fire tower at the top of the mountain. There is an open grassy area below the tower that makes a nice site for a picnic lunch. The tower stands head and shoulders above the highest treetops.
If heights are not your thing, and it certainly is my weakness, then climbing this tower will get your heart pumping. The first two or three sets of stairs were easy, but as I climbed higher, my death-grip on the railings got tighter and tighter. My wife mocked my desire to stop at the halfway mark, so I carefully made my way to the top. I probably looked like one of those slow-motion chameleons on the Discovery Channel – at no time did I have less than three limbs in contact with the metal frame.
The view from the top of the tower is well worth the effort. The reservoirs, lakes and rolling hills of Putnam County are beautiful. Despite all the development in Putnam over the last few years, the view from the fire tower lets you know we still live in a fairly rural – and special – place.
Getting down the mountain is a lot quicker because gravity is on your side. Take the same road you came in on. All in all, the steady climb provides a good cardiovascular workout, the fire tower climb is good for your character, and the view from the top is good for your soul.
HISTORY: Years ago, fire towers were built for early detection of forest fires, but as technology changed their use declined, and towers like this one fell into disrepair. Many of the old towers are gone. Fortunately for Putnam, this one was restored a few years ago by a group called Friends of Mt. Nimham.
The fire tower sits within the Nimham Mountain State Forest, which is a 1023 acre property with numerous trails. The property is named after Chief Daniel Nimham, who was a leader of the Wappinger tribe during the mid to late 1700’s. He tried to use the court system to fight for property rights for his tribe, but was unsuccessful. Later, he fought against the British during the Revolution. He was part of a unit called the Stockbridge Warriors, whose history included serving under George Washington at Valley Forge. Chief Nimham was killed in battle in 1778.
MAP & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: We have visited the fire tower a number of times, the most recent being May of 2010. The first time we went my kids were too young to climb the entire tower, so they just did the first two flights. On our most recent visit, my oldest two made the climb but I hovered over their every step.
There are a number of websites that have more information on the fire tower and the surrounding property. The Kent Conservation Advisory Committee (www.kentcac.info) has an excellent piece on the history of the area, and www.planputnam.org has info on the fire tower as well as a number of other hikes in Putnam County. Look under the Recreation section of the website.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website (www.dec.ny.gov) has printable trail maps, as well as property information and rules. Pets are allowed if on a leash no longer than six feet.
View Nimham Fire Tower (one way)2012-02-28 17:03 in a larger map