Fire Lookout Hikes

There are many ways to celebrate a 20th wedding anniversary – we chose to hike 5.6 miles (3025 feet elevation gain) to an isolated, windswept, abandoned fire lookout perched on a narrow mountain crest. The route is a personal favorite, gaining elevation quickly with unsurpassed views on a long open alpine ridge ascent.

What I didn’t know as we scrambled up through rock cribbing in a cliffband, was that in his backpack my guy was carrying a small bottle of champagne and a large chocolate cheesecake. The view, the company, the food and the drink – it was heaven on earth!

Sitting high on prominent ridges and summits, fire lookouts are obvious (and sometimes very romantic) hiking destinations.

Occupied or abandoned, fire lookouts are worth a hike. (Photo: B.Kopp)

4 Reasons to Hike to a Fire Lookout

  1. They are usually accessible by wide roads or well-defined trails.
  2. Fire lookout hikes provide unlimited opportunities for flora and fauna sightings.
  3. They often have noteworthy tales recounting their construction and about the people who manned the towers over the years.
  4. Fire lookouts are built to survey the surrounding areas for fires – which equates to unparalleled views.


Lookout Facts Worth Knowing

  1. In the United States, many fire towers have been decommissioned. In California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho, some of these towers are available for rent  through the USDA Forest Service – a one-of-a-kind getaway. Think backpacking without packing the tent.
  2. In Canada, many fire lookouts are manned over the summer months. These buildings are personal residences as well as workplaces and unless the lookout staff invite you to visit, please do not disturb.
  3. Lookouts are situated on exposed ridges and mountains – be sure to check the weather forecast and pack warm clothing.

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