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Kat Dierickx | 02.27.2015

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. 

  • Be flexible. Take one of those unused vacation days and head out during the week.
  • Lookouts can be reserved up to six months in advance, so set a reminder on your calendar to look earlier in the year and early in the day.
  • Check in often because people often cancel their reservations at the last minute. You may be able to nab a reservation just as it opens up. 

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.

Pack up your gear, leave your gadgets, and head to one of these unique escapes on top of the world (or what feels like it, anyway). You won't be disappointed. 


Devils Peak Lookout, OR

Free to stay and first come first serve. Maintained by the guest who stay. Please be respectful. Great view of Mt Hood and several other peaks in the distance. 6ish miles up and can make a long loop if you so chose. Be mindful of the mouse that lives there (he's kind of a big deal)!
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