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Jonathan Stull | 12.06.2016

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

Comments

Fivemile Butte is actually located 10 miles east of Mt Hood not west of the mountain.
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