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Fire Lookouts of the West

12.09.16

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Fire Lookouts of the West

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  • Sunset on Mount Jefferson at Gold Butte Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Excellent star viewing at Gold Butte Lookout with minimal light pollution- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Green Ridge Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Campfire, beers, and stars: Pickett Butte Fire Lookout is the perfect place for them all!- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • The view west at sunset from Pickett Butte.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Warner Mountain Lookout Tower.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Warner Mountain Lookout Tower's stairs, beautifully covered in rime ice.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Morton Peak Fire Lookout Tower at the summit of Morton Peak (4,624 ft).- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Flag Point Lookout with Mount Hood (11,249') in the distance. - Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Mount Hood's Heather Canyon from Flag Point.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Devil's Peak lookout under fresh layers of snow.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Hager Mountain Fire Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • The Milky Way over Hager Mountain Fire Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Fivemile Butte Lookout Tower.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Mount Hood through the north window at Clear Lake Butte Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Clear Lake Butte Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Lake Tahoe from the Stateline Fire Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • The view southeast toward the Tahoe Basin from Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Lookout volunteer at the Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout Tower.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • View of Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout Tower and adjacent communication towers.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Keller Peak Fire Lookout Tower.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Green Mountain Fire Lookout Tower.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • The noble Forest Service volunteer at the Green Mountain Fire Lookout Tower.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Wildflowers abound near Shissler Peak Fire Tower.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Rob Bishop, angelic volunteer, mans the Heaven's Gate Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • The Seven Devils from the Heaven's Gate Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Red Top Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Granite Mountain Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
  • Granite Mountain Lookout.- Fire Lookouts of the West
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Team

The West is fire country, and the lookout towers that pepper its forests make for one of the most unique outdoor adventures. Imagine being perched high in the forest canopy, or on a rugged mountaintop, a crisp winter wind whistling through the trees, a thick layer of snow blanketing the balcony rails, a full day’s snowshoe to a backcountry hideaway deep in the forest. The struggle to get there is real, but the reward of staying in one of the West’s fire lookouts is well worth the effort. 

While the shelters typically lack running water and electricity, and it may be difficult to find reservations—please refer to our very own Kat Dierickx’s post on Fire Lookouts in Oregon for tips—the views, the seclusion, and the experiences in a fire lookout make the effort worthwhile. At Outdoor Project, we have many towers to choose from across the West, from Idaho’s rugged mountain wilderness to Tahoe, California to the San Gabriel Mountains and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a roundup to get you on your way.

Note: there are hundreds of fire lookouts in the West, and some are still active during the fire season. While they are not typically available for overnight reservations, they are staffed by very friendly and informative Forest Service volunteers and make perfect day hikes for the inquisitive.

Oregon

  • Gold Butte Lookout: mountain views in the Jefferson wilderness
  • Green Ridge Lookout: 360-degree views near the Metolius River in the Jefferson wilderness
  • Pickett Butte Lookout: brave the steep stairs to this lookout over 3,000 feet in the Umpqua wilderness
  • Warner Mountain Lookout: at the end of a 12-mile snowshoe in Willamette National Forest
  • Flag Point Lookout: unfortunately no longer reservable for overnight stays, the lookout in Mount Hood National Forest is still a great day trip
  • Devil’s Peak Lookout: in Mount Hood National Forest, one of the closest to Portland (and hardest to reserve)
  • Fivemile Butte Lookout: 10 miles east of Mount Hood in the Mount Hood National Forest
  • Clear Lake Butte Lookout: at the end of a short, steep snowshoe between Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson in Mount Hood National Forest
  • Hager Mountain Lookout: in southern Oregon near Silver Lake with views from Mt. Hood to Mt. Shasta
  • Green Mountain Lookout: not available for overnight reservations, the lookout near Green Mountain Campground is staffed by a friendly and informative volunteer during the summer months

California

  • Morton Peak Lookout: albeit occasionally closed, a lookout high above Mill Creek Canyon atop Morton Peak
  • Strawberry Peak Lookout: not available for overnight reservations, Strawberry Peak still makes for astounding views of the San Bernardino Mountains
  • Keller Peak Lookout: like Strawberry Peak, Keller Peak Lookout is not available for overnight reservations, but features great views and friendly volunteers
  • Stateline Fire Lookout: easy access above Crystal Bay at Tahoe
  • Sierra Buttes Lookout: dramatically perched atop the tallest peak in the Lakes Basin

Idaho

  • Shissler Peak Lookout: still in operation, the lookout is not available for overnight reservation, but sits at the end of a challenging hike. Fun fact: it was built to withstand the frequent lightning strikes with no injury to the noble volunteer occupant.
  • Heavens Gate Lookout: God’s overlook of Hells Canyon—unavailable for overnight reservations

Washington

  • Red Top Lookout: grand views from an unreservable, but beautiful, fire lookout in the Alpine Lakes region
  • Granite Mountain Lookout: currently operational and unavailable for reservation, part of a challenging old-growth hike near Snoqualmie Pass
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