Pillsbury Mountain is one of those peaks that has a spectacular, remote, backcountry feel. A maze of scenic backroads will get you there, but you need to take it slow as they can be very rough at times. The journey is as much fun as the destination, right? Pillsbury is one of the Adirondacks’ 100-highest peaks and, since 1924, is home to a steel fire tower.
The network of roads leading to the trailhead are owned by Lyme Timber and public access is granted through a conservation easement. Please respect private property and yield to logging trucks if they are active.
Pillsbury is part of the Hamilton County Fire Tower Challenge.
How to get there
From the intersection of Route 28 and Route 30 in Indian Lake, follow Route 30 toward Speculator. Continue for just over 16 miles and turn right on Perkins Clearing Road on the right and follow it to Perkins Clearing, a T-Intersection. Take a right onto Military Road, then turn right at the Sled Harbor intersection to get to the trailhead.
By the numbers
- Distance: 1.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,337 feet
- Mountain elevation: 3,589 feet
From the trailhead, you will descend slightly to cross the Miami River before starting your climb, which is steep out of the riverbank and then moderate for a bit. Some areas have tough footing and muddy tread to contend with. The grade varies from moderate to steep over the first mile, but begins to level a bit at 1.1 miles. After this section, the trail steepens again. You’re led to a ridge where views start to open up through the trees. The ridge mellows out and a nearly level trail drops you off at the fire tower.
Small, limited views can be had from the rocky summit area over the trees. To really get a good view, you’ll have to climb the tower stairs. The fire tower cab is not open to the public at this point, but excellent, sweeping views can be had from the top landing.
The old observer’s cabin is near the tower.
Pillsbury Mountain in winter
The Jessup River Road is closed during the winter, making this a very long snowshoe approach. When the road is closed, your round trip distance will be 15.8 miles. While a long day, this is an excellent beginner cross-country ski adventure if you're up for the distance challenge. Skiing the roads leading to the summer trailhead can be enjoyable and engaging, but the trail section should be travelled with snowshoes because of its steepness.
Please take note: climbing the fire tower in winter can be dangerous due to heavy winds, wind chill, and icy conditions; be very careful.
Along the Perkins Clearing Road, listen for the rich chirry, chirry, chorry, chorry song of the Mourning Warblers emanating from the blackberry thickets. The trail should provide most of the warblers, and the first high, thin zi-zi-zi-zi-zi-zi-zi-zi-zi of Blackpoll Warbler at a certain elevation will indicate that the 3,597-foot summit is really not that much farther ahead. Boreal Chickadee and Bicknell's Thrush are also found in this high-elevation zone. All of these birds are quite secretive at times and might only be heard and not seen.