The cold wind whistles outside, a cracking fire warms the air, and the stillness of the surroundings puts your soul at ease. It doesn't matter how you get there, an overnight stay at a fire lookout is an adventure I highly recommend. Your adventure to the lookout will be filled with skiing, snowshoeing or hiking through the National Forest, followed by a 360-degree sunset view as you prepare your evening feast. When the sky darkens, grab your nightcap and step outside for some of the best stargazing you'll ever get.
Early fire detection became a priority for the Forest Service after the devastating fires of 1910. Fire lookouts soon appeared in National Forests all over the country to help aid detection. Lookout operators reported fires using telephones, carrier pigeons, and heliographs. While the Forest Service carrier pigeons have all retired, a number of the fire lookouts are still in working order and are manned during fire season. Once the fire season dies down, the lookouts become available to the public for overnight stays. There are 20 such lookouts in Oregon alone.
Booking a fire lookout can be a tedious task as they are growing in popularity and the experience is high in demand. Here are a few tips to help the search and score yourself a night, or two, in a 40-foot-tall historic lookout.
Here are a few of my favorite lookouts in Oregon.
Flag Point: Best Mount Hood views.
Clear Lake Butte: Access via maintained snowmobile roads.
Pickett Butte: Accessible by vehicle most of the year.
Fivemile Butte: Available year round.
Warner Mountain: Nice 12-mile trek in.