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5 Fire Lookouts in the West with Epic Mountain Views



5 Fire Lookouts in the West with Epic Mountain Views


In the early part of the last century, the U.S. Forest Service built a series of lookouts for spotting smoke and fire in the surrounding terrain. In those days, reports were delivered by all kinds of methods, including carrier pigeons.

Technological advancements—like aerial observation and infrared technology—have made most of these lookouts obsolete, though they remain open and a source of gorgeous panoramic views. Perched in remote forest land and often towering above granite cliffs and imposing mountains, the lookouts should be on every outdoor adventurer’s bucket list.

Reaching these historic structures requires a rigorous day hike or, if you’re lucky, you can book an overnight in a spectacular room with a view!Check out one these five lookouts for in-your-face mountain views on your next outdoor adventure:


  • Flag Point Lookout, Oregon
    Views of Mt. Hood to the west and the Cascade Range to the north and south

    Located at 5,650 feet in the Badger Creek Wilderness

    Hike: 11.4 miles roundtrip / 2,340 feet elevation gain


    Garnet Mountain Lookout, Montana

    Views of 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
    Located at 8,245 feet in the Custer Gallatin National Forest

    Hike: 7 miles roundtrip / 2,800 feet elevation gain

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  • Park Butte Lookout, Washington

    Views of Mt. Baker, the Twin Sisters and the surrounding North Cascades
    Located at 5,450 feet in the Mt. Baker National Recreation Area

    Hike: 7.5 miles roundtrip / 2,200 feet elevation gain

    Shorty Peak Lookout, Idaho
    Views of the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges
    Located at 6,295 feet in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests
    Hike: 5 miles roundtrip / 1,300 feet elevation gain


    Sierra Buttes Lookout, California
    Views of the surrounding Sierra Buttes and the Lake Basin region
    Located at 8,857 in the Tahoe National Forest
    Hike: 5 miles roundtrip / 1,600 feet elevation gain


    It’s estimated that as many as 8,000 fire lookouts existed in the United States in the mid 1900s. There are fewer than 2,000 today. The Forest Fire Lookout Association maintains a list of available towers.


Author: Emily Butterfield



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