If you are looking for an unforgettable wilderness experience, consider renting a fire watch tower lookout instead of packing a heavy tent up the mountain. You will get a birds-eye view of spectacular wilderness areas, and gain access to some of the best hiking trails you will find anywhere. Rather than spend hours hiking up something, why not start at the top!
You can rent the lookouts from the US Forest Service at times when they are not actively in use for forest fire detection. Many of the lookouts are no longer used for fire detection, and are available for rental in the summer months. Fire lookouts that are used during fire season can sometimes be rented in the winter months (e.g. see the Hager Mountain Lookout below).
This page contains summary information for fire lookout towers available for rent in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. Browse the entire page, or click the links to go directly to a particular state. Then be sure to click thru to the main lookout pages for each lookout and read the descriptions before reserving. Access and amenities vary widely!
California Fire Watch Tower Lookout Rentals
Calpine is a forest fire lookout tower that was constructed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and is one of three remaining examples of the enclosed windmill-style lookout in California. The lookout was actively used every summer until 1975. It is a three-story structure with external stairs. The top room or observation cab is the only rentable space at this time. Hiking and mountain biking trails are within 15 miles of the lookout. The Pacific Crest Trail can be accessed approximately 20 miles away.
Oak Flat Lookout was constructed in 1934 to provide fire detection views along the Kern River Canyon. In the early years of the Forest Service, lookouts provided a crucial link in wild land management, often being the only source of communication and fire detection for many miles. The lookout was operational until the 1980s. There is no electricity or water in the lookout. For guests who wish to visit an operating lookout, Breckenridge Lookout located southeast of Oak Flat is open during the summer months.
In 1937, the Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) rebuilt the Hirz Mountain Lookout cabin and included a garage and outhouse. In 1949, a steel tower was added, constructed of a steel K-brace tower that stands 20 feet above ground level. Coming here is not for the faint of heart. The access road is rocky and steep with limited visibility and the last quarter-mile must be traversed on foot. The main recreational activities at Hirz Mountain Lookout are sightseeing and stargazing, and this is an ideal setting for those with a passion for photography.
Little Mt. Hoffman Lookout was constructed in the 1920s and was used by the Forest Service on a regular basis until 1978. It is one of the few remaining historic lookouts in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors in search of active pursuits can drive a short distance to hike and explore the many nearby hills, clearings and caves. Medicine Lake has a day use area with a large swim beach and a boat dock.
On a high, narrow mountain ridge at 5,280 feet, Bear Basin Lookout and Pierson Cabin offer visitors an awe-inspiring experience and a quiet haven away from crowds. Excellent views of the Siskiyou Wilderness to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west are why visitors love staying here. Bird watching is available, as well as great hiking opportunities in the nearby Siskiyou Wilderness. Please don’t forget to pick up a Siskiyou Wilderness Map at your nearest Forest Service Visitor Center or local outdoor store before venturing into the wilderness.
Black Mountain Lookout is located on the eastern edge of the Beckwourth Ranger District, 10 miles from Highway 395, near Milford, California. The lookout was constructed in 1934 and is a great example of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) architecture. The C-3-type lookout is situated on a single story 10 foot tower and is extremely well-preserved. Hiking, birding, stargazing and wildlife viewing are popular among guests of the lookout.
McCarthy Point Lookout was constructed in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps for use in spotting wildfires. During World War II, the lookout served as part of an aircraft defense monitoring system that extended throughout California. Guests must walk approximately 1,000 feet along a paved trail to reach the lookout from the parking area. This is a high cliff area, so caution is advised. The lookout is an excellent base for exploring the recreational opportunities of the Ishi Wilderness. Many hiking and equestrian trails crisscross the Wilderness.
Rustic Pine Mountain Lookout was constructed in 1933 and used for fire detection until 1942. During World War II, the lookout served as part of an aircraft defense monitoring system that extended throughout California. This lookout is historically significant because it only offers 180-degree views of the surrounding terrain, while other lookouts have 360-degree views. Guests craving active pursuits can find hiking trails and hunting areas nearby. Floating and fishing on the Eel River are popular pastimes enjoyed by visitors to the area.
Colorado Fire Watch Tower Lookout Rentals
The Squaw Mountain Lookout is located directly off of Colorado Highway 103 west of Bergen Park and sits at the summit of Squaw Mountain, which is an active communication tower site in Clear Creek County. The lookout is a unique structure constructed of native granite which is situated at over 11,000 feet elevation and was built in the 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Hiking, wildlife viewing, scenic driving, picnicking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are all easily accessible while staying at the lookout.
Idaho Fire Watch Tower Lookout Rentals
Arid Peak Lookout was built in 1934 to help detect fires that may have been sparked by the Milwaukee Railroad Line. It was last staffed in 1969 and sat idle for over 25 years before being renovated by a team of over 30 volunteers, the Forest Fire Lookout Association and the U.S. Forest Service. The lookout offers access to the Arid Peak Trail #173, Mozier Peak Trail #174, and Kyle Creek Trail #175. All three trails are great for day-hiking, but can also be explored over longer backpacking treks or on horseback.
Bald Mountain Lookout offers the opportunity to enjoy unforgettable views and participate in a variety of recreational opportunities. It was built in 1956 and was used as a fire lookout until 1984. The accommodations are mostly primitive, but some conveniences are provided. Access to Strychnine Ridge Trail 319 is just southwest of the lookout. This 4-mile trail intersects with Beason Meadows Trail 228 a half-mile below the lookout. The Beason Meadows Trail is 8.9 miles long and leads down to Giant White Pine Campground.
Castle Butte Lookout is a unique cabin perched on a rocky point, 6,659 feet above sea level. It offers breathtaking, 360-degree views of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the Seven Devils Mountains, the Great Burn area and the deep canyons of the North Fork Clearwater River’s upper drainages. Hikers can follow the paths of the Nez Perce and Lewis and Clark on the historic Lolo Trail. The Lolo Motorway is popular with off-road vehicle enthusiasts.
Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin is a historic Forest Service fire lookout on Deadwood Mountain. The structure provides sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding forest, making this a unique place to overnight. At least two other lookouts have existed previously on Deadwood Mountain, but the current one was built in 1934. Hikers and mountain bikers have access to three nearby trails: Scott Mountain, Julie Creek, and Nellie’s Basin. The Deadwood Ridge Trail is a popular destination for equestrians, hikers, mountain bikers, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts.
Deer Ridge Lookout, perched on a 40 foot timber frame, boasts excellent views of the Purcell mountain ranges of Northern Idaho, Canada and Montana. Located 24 miles northeast of Bonners Ferry, guests can enjoy magnificent scenery, hiking and wildlife watching. The lookout can be accessed by car and the gravel road to the lookout is well maintained. Hiking and viewing the scenery are two well-loved activities at the facility. Hiking trails from the lookout follow along the Deer Ridge and Ruby Ridge.
Little Guard Lookout, located about 9 miles north of Shoshone Camp, was one of the last remaining fire lookouts used in the Coeur d’Alene River area and has only just recently become inactive. The structure standing today on Little Guard Peak is the third in a series of lookout buildings that originated back to 1919. Hiking is a great way to explore and take in the scenery of the grand mountains. The lookout provides access to the Shoshone Ridge Trail #81, a very nice day hike for visitors to the lookout.
Lunch Peak lookout offers breathtaking views of Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, the Selkirk Mountains and Lake Pend Oreille. Located in the Cabinet Mountains, 35 miles northeast of Sandpoint, Idaho, the lookout sits at 6,414 ft. Guests can enjoy easy access to Pend Oreille Divide Trail #67. The lookout is remote and rustic with no heat, furnishings, water or cooking facilities. The Pend Oreille Divide Trail #67 starts just below the lookout and is suitable for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. A nice day hike is out to Mt. Pend Oreille and back. 8 miles roundtrip.
Shorty Peak Lookout, 45 miles northwest of Bonners Ferry, sits atop Shorty Peak with views of the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges of Northern Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. The rustic dwelling was once used to patrol forest fires, and is now a unique way for overnight guests to escape the city and become enthralled with 360 degree views of area’s magnificence. The 2.5 mile hike up to Shorty Peak is part of the fun of staying at the cabin. The trail is also open to horseback riding. While here, landscape photography and wildlife viewing are popular pastimes.
Located near the Mallard-Larkins Pioneer Area Attractions, Surveyors Lookout is perched atop a 30 foot tower, providing phenomenal views of Snow Peak and the surrounding mountains. The cabin is listed on the National Historic Register for Lookouts and offers visitors a unique camping experience in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The Mallard-Larkins Pioneer Area straddles the divide between the Little North Fork Clearwater River basins and the North Fork Clearwater River. This beautiful area attracts hikers and some technical rock climbers.
Montana Fire Watch Tower Lookout Rentals
Big Creek Baldy Lookout sits atop its namesake mountain at an elevation of 5,780 feet in the Kootenai National Forest. The lookout has been used as an observation point for spotting forest fires for over 60 years. High clearance vehicles are recommended. This mountain hideaway offers some amenities, but guests should plan to pack in some of their own supplies. Cell service is available at the lookout. Hikers can find places to explore around the lookout, and the surrounding Libby Area offers more than 400 miles of summer use trails.
The Cougar Peak Lookout offers guests an opportunity to experience an old-time Forest Service lookout. The tower commands an impressive view of the river valley, the surrounding Cabinet Mountains and the opposing Coeur d’Alene Mountains. The structure is small and is not elevated like many other lookouts, and is available for rent from June 20 to September 18 each year. A variety of trails and points of exploration are accessible from the lookout. The Cougar Peak Trail follows the ridge below the lookout and travels towards Vermillion Pass to the northeast.
The Double Arrow Lookout offers guests a chance to see the Seeley valley and the adjacent Swan Mountains from a different and unique vantage point, high above the hillside. The tower contains a few modern amenities, including electricity, but allows guests to personalize their visits with their own supplies. A variety of recreational opportunities exist in the surrounding mountains, but the view is usually what attracts people to the tower. Visitors enjoy hunting and hiking. There are a variety of trails that lead from the lookout into the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout sits on the apex of Garnet Mountain, at an elevation of 8,245 feet. The lookout provides a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Highlights include the Spanish Peaks to the west, the Gallatin Range to the south, the Hyalite Ridge to the east and the Gallatin River Valley to the north. The structure can be accessed by hiking, horseback or mountain bike on the Garnet Mountain Lookout Trail in the summer. The 4.5-mile trail gains 2,800 feet along its path.
Garver Mountain Lookout is perched on top of Garver Mountain at an elevation of 5,874 feet. The lookout is located in the Yaak area of the Kootenai National Forest. This destination is ideal for visitors with an adventurous attitude, looking for a plethora of outdoor activities. Garver Creek is located near the lookout and offers opportunities for trout fishing. Day hiking is another popular pastime in the area around the lookout. The Lookout is situated along the Pacific Northwest National Scenic trail, and through hikers may visit you in the lookout.
The gem peak lookout is located in the Cabinet Ranger District, situated above the Clark Fork River Area at the southern end of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. Today, the renovated structure includes a 225 square foot cabin atop a 30-foot tower with amenities such as a wood heating stove, single beds and of course, the incredible view of the Clark Fork River and the Noxon area. The Cabinet Ranger Approximately 400 miles of trail are available to the hiker, hunter, and stock user to access various lakes and scenic viewpoints.
Hornet Lookout provides guests with astounding 360-degree views of the surrounding terrain, including Glacier National Park and Kintla Lake on clear days. On some nights, the Northern Lights may be seen from the lookout. Visitors also enjoy access to a variety of recreational activities. Access to the lookout requires a one-mile hike from the trailhead at the parking area. Hiking and mountain biking on the gravel roads and trails are among the activities available in the area. Viewing wildlife is another rewarding pastime.
McCart Lookout is a historic tower located on McCart Peak, east of Sula. It has been restored to reflect a lookout of the 1940s, including the stove, furniture, dishes and other small touches. It offers a unique chance for visitors to camp on a mountain peak, on the border of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, in a rustic, old-time setting. The trail to reach the tower continues south and joins the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which extends 3,100 miles across the United States, from the borders of Mexico to Canada.
McGuire Mountain Lookout was originally constructed in 1923 and was actively used as an observation point for detecting forest fires for over 20 years before it was abandoned around 1944. The structure was later renovated between 1983 and 1998 and is now available for rent for up to four people. Backpacking opportunities abound in the area surrounding McGuire Mountain. Take trail #446 past the lookout and enjoy many more miles of scenic views. A day trip to Koocanusa Reservoir offers visitors the option of biking, fishing, hiking or boating around the lake.
Medicine Point Lookout is a historic tower located on Medicine Point, west of Sula. It has been restored to reflect a lookout of the 1940s, including the stove, furniture, dishes and other small touches. It offers a unique chance for visitors to camp on a mountain peak, near the scenic Bitterroot River in a rustic, old-time setting. An extensive trail system exists in the area, including several loop trails for hiking, backpacking and horseback riding. Hitching racks are available at the base of the tower for equestrian campers’ needs.
Mission Lookout towers above the forest canopy, providing guests with unrivaled 360-degree views of the beautiful Swan Range, Mission Mountains and Swan Lake. The site served for 75 years as a fire detection tower, and the current lookout has been around since its construction in 1959. Along with the spectacular scenery, the immediate area offers visitors an unlimited array of outdoor activities ranging from fishing and swimming at the nearby Swan Lake, to watching migratory waterfowl at the wildlife viewing area.
Monument Peak Lookout offers guests an impressive yet rustic room with a view. The lookout, built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is perched atop Monument Peak, boasting spectacular 360 degree views of the Little Belt Mountains. The lookout was once used to spot forest fires but was left unused since the 1970s. In 1999, the lookout was removed from its 50 foot pole, restored and placed on a short, solid foundation for public rental use. A high clearance vehicle is recommended, as the 2 miles of road leading up to the cabin are rough and rocky.
Sex Peak Lookout is situated in the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 5,772 feet in the Kootenai National Forest. The original lookout was constructed in the early 1920s and replaced by the current lookout in 1948. The peak was named by I.V. Anderson, an early forester, and Harry Baker, supervisor of what was then Cabinet National Forest. It is rumored that they named the peak after their topic of conversation at the time. Old logging roads provide a way for hikers and mountain bikers to explore the area.
Thompson Peak Lookout provides great views of the Clark Fork Valley, the town of Superior, the Idaho state line and, of course, the big sky of Montana. It is close enough to Superior to allow for easy access, but remote enough to provide the quiet and solitude expected at a lookout. The modernized tower provides amenities not typical to a lookout, making it a desirable place to stay. A variety of trails exist in the area, allowing visitors a chance to explore the surrounding forest. Wildlife spotting is also a popular activity. Most of all, visitors come to the tower to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Up Up Lookout is 40 feet tall and perched on a beautiful rock pinnacle in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana. It is close to the Idaho border, giving guests a bird’s eye view of the entire area. The Up Up Ridge Trail takes visitors into the spectacular Ward and Eagle peaks roadless area, where visitors will find several scenic alpine lakes and various points of exploration. The trail leads to other trails, which take hikers and mountain bikers to the 7,300-foot Eagle Peak, providing ample views of the surrounding area.
Webb Mountain Lookout is perched at 5,988 feet atop its namesake mountain in Kootenai National Forest. The lookout was built in 1959 and used as an observation point for fighting forest fires for over 40 years. The structure rests on a concrete block basement and encompasses 196 square feet. The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail is accessible from Webb Mountain. It descends the mountain and crosses Lake Koocanusa Bridge, meandering along the east side of the Koocanusa Reservoir.
West Fork Butte Lookout is an ideal place for guests to experience the mountains south of Missoula from a unique vantage point. The facility provides near-360-degree views of the surrounding area. It is equipped with basic supplies and provides guests a base camp location from which to explore the area. Hiking trails are available in the area. Visitors often bring cross-country skis or snowshoes for wintertime fun. Snowmobiles are often used to reach the lookout in the winter, and there is a system of groomed trails to explore nearby.
Yaak Mountain Lookout rests atop its namesake peak at an elevation of 4,977 feet within the Rocky Mountains in the Kootenai National Forest. The lookout tower has been used as an observation point for spotting forest fires since 1958. Yaak Mountain Road is for non-motorized use only, with the exception of guests who reserve the lookout. Hikers can hike along this road, as well as explore the remnants of the structures that stood here before the current lookout.
Oregon Fire Watch Tower Lookout Rentals
Clear Lake Cabin Lookout is situated on the southern slope of Mt. Hood, providing spectacular panorama views of snow-covered treetops, alpine lakes and rugged Cascade peaks. It also provides access to a variety of recreational opportunities, including fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing, as well as winter sports. The lookout can only be accessed by skiing, snowmobiling or snowshoeing up to 4 miles from a parking area at the Skyline Sno-Park. The surrounding area is popular among winter sports enthusiasts, as it offers access to miles of great cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
Perched atop the edge of a rocky cliff in the Umpqua National Forest, Acker Rock Lookout offers visitors a unique lodging experience with spectacular panoramic views of the South Umpqua watershed in southwest Oregon. Still used in active fire detection today, the lookout was placed on the rocky cliff via helicopter in the 1960’s. Overlooking the Umpqua River and several of its tributaries, the lookout is a delightful setting for hiking, birding and wildlife viewing.
Bald Butte Lookout is perched atop the windy summit of Bald Butte in the Fremont-Winema National Forest in south-central Oregon. It is surrounded by forested hillsides and expansive views. Hiking, birding, stargazing and wildlife viewing are popular activities. Bald Butte Trail is a quiet all-season trail that offers a variety of terrain and wildlife viewing opportunities. Hikers traverse large open meadows filled with summer wildflowers, heavily wooded forests and ridgetop scrambles along Oak Ridge Trail and Surveyor’s Ridge Trail, overlooking the Hood River Valley.
Bald Knob Lookout is perched atop Bald Knob at an elevation of 3,630 feet in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The lookout offers visitors a unique lodging experience and panoramic views of the surrounding area. Originally developed in 1931 as a lookout site, Bald Knob served as an Aircraft Warning Service (AWS) observation station between 1942 and 1944. The Panther Ridge Trail is accessible from the facility and follows an historic Native American travel corridor. Approximately 95% of this trail is within the Wild Rogue Wilderness.
Bolan Mountain Lookout is surrounded by glass windows on all sides, providing visitors with an unparalleled view of the sheer drop-offs sharp cliffs, and breath-taking views of the rugged Siskiyou Mountains. Hikers may enjoy spending a day hiking the Bolan Lake Trail down to Bolan Lake. Hemmed in by conifer forest, the lake is stocked with trout, and is an ideal setting to enjoy fishing, non-motorized boating such as kayaking or picnicking at its banks.
Located on the crest of the Warner Mountain Range at an elevation of 8,222 feet, Drake Peak Lookout hugs the wind-swept land surrounding it, offering unparalleled views into Oregon, California and Nevada. Hiking, stargazing and wildlife viewing are popular activities. The Drake-McDowell area provides solitude for backpackers and horseback riders with spectacular views of the Warner Mountains, Hart Mountain, Warner Valley and Abert Rim. A hike to the summit of Drake Peak is a popular excursion from the lookout.
Fall Mountain Lookout Tower is situated about 20 miles from John Day, in central Oregon. It provides 360-degree views of the surrounding Strawberry Mountain Wildness, as well as the towns of Seneca and Mt. Vernon. The lookout offers access to a variety of recreational activities. In addition to sightseeing, visitors to the area enjoy hunting, hiking and viewing wildlife. The lookout can accommodate just two people and provides few amenities. It can be accessed by vehicle.
Lake of the Woods Lookout is surrounded by mountainous terrain, forested hillsides and spectacular views within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southwestern Oregon. The flat-roofed cabin was originally a “ground house” located on Barklow Mountain in the Powers Ranger District. It was flown by helicopter to its present location and placed on a 12 ft. tower and catwalk in 1974. It was then staffed during fire seasons from 1974 to 1996. Hiking, mountain biking and stargazing are popular among guests at the lookout.
Perched atop Pickett Butte at an elevation of 3,200 feet, this lookout offers visitors a unique lodging experience in Umpqua National Forest in southwest Oregon. After climbing 40 feet up on a very narrow steep stairway to the one-room structure, guests are rewarded with panoramic views of the entire Jackson Creek Drainage and much of the lower elevation lands around the town of Tiller. The original lookout was 25 feet tall and built in 1934. In 1948 the tower was replaced with the current flat top structure.
Snow Camp Lookout sits at the peak of Snow Camp Mountain at an elevation of 4,223 feet, offering guests spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding area. The fire lookout is the most recent of three structures built atop Snow Camp Mountain. The structures onsite were used as fire lookouts and an Aircraft Warning System station during World War II. The original cabin was destroyed in the 2002 Biscuit Fire, a massive blaze that burned more than a half-million acres in Oregon and California, but was reconstructed just two years later.
Warner Mountain Lookout is the winter wonderland destination for avid winter sports enthusiasts looking for a challenge. This replica of an old cupola-style lookout sits on a high vantage point of Warner Ridge at an altitude of 5,300 feet in the Willamette National Forest approximately 75 miles southeast of Eugene, Oregon. Winter recreation enthusiasts can enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling on the terrain in the nearby Middle Fork Willamette River – Moon Point Trail Area.
Fire watch tower lookout rentals are a form of glamping. This is a relatively new term that combines the words glamorous and camping. It is for folks that want the outdoor experience that comes with camping, but with more comfort. Learn about other forms of glamping here.