Canopy campground: 10 fire lookout stays in the US

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Many of the larger decommissioned fire lookouts, which once doubled up as accommodations for the keepers, are now available for rent.

There are hundreds of tall, lean wooden lookout towers standing guard over America’s forests. Most were built in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and set up as stations from which fire lookouts could keep watch over their timber territories.

These cabins – often built on stilts – are always positioned high up, upon a vantage point. Such elevated positions afford them amazing views over the sparsely populated and undeveloped forests and hillsides that surround them.

These days, thanks to enhanced monitoring systems, many forests no longer require real people to be on the lookout (literally).

Many of the larger decommissioned lookouts, which once doubled up as accommodations for the keepers, are now available for rent.

They usually go for around $40 a night, which when split between four hikers, walkers or mountain bikers makes a great value.

By their very nature, fire lookouts are remote outposts. They are miles and miles away from populated towns and cities. That, we think, is a big part of their great attraction.

Staying in a fire lookout is a little bit like camping. Actually, you might say it’s a little bit like glamping.

Fire lookouts don’t have electricity or running water, but they do have futons. Some have propane stoves and cooking utensils. None has a toilet inside. Visitors have to take their own supplies with them. It’s also worth noting, given their remote and elevated locations, many fire lookouts are only accessible after lengthy and strenuous hikes.

The Forest Fire Lookout Association lists many of the fire lookout rentals available across the country. Here, based upon the handsomeness of the lookout and the beauty of their surroundings, we’ve picked our favorite 10 lookouts.

NB: We’ve linked each lookout’s name to its respective website, where you can find further information and details on how to book.

Warner Mountain Lookout
Warner Ridge, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

  • Altitude: 5,300 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Warner Mountain Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Warner Mountain Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Warner Mountain Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Warner Mountain Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Warner Mountain Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Warner Mountain Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Warner Mountain Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Warner Mountain Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower
San Juan National Forest, Colorado

  • Altitude: 10,000 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

Werner Peak Lookout
Whitefish Mountain Range, Montana

  • Altitude: 6,960 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Werner Peak Lookout (Image: Nicole Stickney)
Werner Peak Lookout (Image: Nicole Stickney)
Werner Peak Lookout (Image: Nicole Stickney)
Werner Peak Lookout (Image: Nicole Stickney)
Werner Peak Lookout (Image: Nicole Stickney)
Werner Peak Lookout (Image: Nicole Stickney)

Girard Ridge Lookout
Sacramento River Canyon, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California

  • Altitude: 4,809 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Girard Ridge Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Girard Ridge Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

Spruce Mountain Fire Lookout
Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming

  • Altitude: 10,003 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Spruce Mountain Fire Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Spruce Mountain Fire Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

Sex Peak Lookout
Kootenai National Forest, Montana

  • Altitude: 5,772 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Sex Peak Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Sex Peak Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Sex Peak Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Sex Peak Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Sex Peak Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Sex Peak Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Sex Peak Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Sex Peak Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

Lake of the Woods Lookout
Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon

  • Altitude: 3,420 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Lake of the Woods Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Lake of the Woods Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Lake of the Woods Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Lake of the Woods Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Lake of the Woods Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Lake of the Woods Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Lake of the Woods Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Lake of the Woods Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

Fivemile Butte Lookout
Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

  • Altitude: 4,627 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Fivemile Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Fivemile Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Fivemile Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Fivemile Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Fivemile Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Fivemile Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Fivemile Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Fivemile Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin
Deadwood Mountain, Boise National Forest, Idaho

  • Altitude: 8,200 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

Clear Lake Butte Lookout
Mount Hood, Cascade Mountain Range, Oregon

  • Altitude: 4,454 feet
  • Sleeps: 4
Clear Lake Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Clear Lake Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Clear Lake Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Clear Lake Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Clear Lake Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)
Clear Lake Butte Lookout (Image: Courtesy of US Forest Service)

(Main image: D.H. Parks)

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Canopy campground: 10 fire lookout stays in the US was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (523 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to momondo.com.