Fire lookout towers have been around since the early 1900s. If you’re an avid adventurer intrigued by the opportunity to enjoy a unique outdoor recreation experience, you might want to consider staying near a fire lookout tower. These towers, although often sparse, offer unequaled 360-degree views of nature.
They are also somewhat affordable, with most costing between $30 and $60 a night, and most can be easily reserved through recreation.gov when available. However, since they are so popular among campers and RVers renting motorhomes from companies like Cruise America, it’s a good idea to book in advance. The last thing you want is to miss out because you didn’t book in time.
Yet, before you book, it’s an excellent idea to learn more about the best fire tower lookouts you can visit in the US. So continue reading to uncover the 13 fire lookouts you need to visit this year.
What Are The 13 Fire Lookout Towers Your Need To Visit?
Although hundreds of fire lookout towers are located across the US, some are worth visiting while others are not. Below we have briefly detailed 13 of the ones you need to consider visiting if you’re looking for an extraordinary outdoor experience.
Hidden Lake Fire Lookout - WA
The Hidden Lake fire lookout in WA might be off the beaten path, but this lookout hike offers visitors incredible bird’s eye views of this splendid state. Regardless of what time of year you visit, you can expect beautiful snow trails even during the summer.
Depending on the weather, you could even see the closeby Forbidden and Klawatti Peaks and the spectacular icy-blue lake. Yet, remember, since there is often snow, it's best to dress warmly and have the appropriate camping gear if you plan to stay on the lookout for a night or two.
Calpine Fire Lookout - CA
One of the quirkiest fire lookouts in the US is the Calpine fire lookout that’s found in California. This lookout was built in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1934 and is still proudly standing today.
Unlike the other fire lookout towers on our list, this one looks like a windmill. You’ll be able to hike or drive up to the tower to take in the stunning views or camp overnight. One of the biggest reasons camping is recommended is because there is very little light pollution, so you can truly enjoy unobstructed views of the wide-open night sky.
However, you should keep in mind that during heavy snow, you’re only option is to hike up. You should also expect some adverse weather like rain, wind, and hail, but it doesn’t take away from the view or experience.
Gold Butte Fire Lookout - OR
If you have Willamette National park on your must-visit list this year, you must check out the Gold Butte fire lookout in Oregon. This old fire lookout was used to find enemy planes during WWII. Even though decades have passed and it’s no longer used for this purpose, it’s still been properly maintained.
If you want to visit the Gold Butte fire lookout, you must book in advance as it’s possible to rent it. Additionally, the tower hike up to it can take an hour or more, but it is worth it when you see the gorgeous sunrise and sunset views.
Yet, be sure to remember that this lookout requires a vehicle with four-wheel drive capabilities if you want to get to and from it safely, so keep this in mind when renting an RV.
Summit Prairie Fire Lookout - OR
Booking the Summit Prairie fire lookout is one of the most challenging endeavors for avid fire lookout camping enthusiasts, as the hosts only accept around 60 reservations yearly. However, if you manage to book a spot, it’s well worth it.
This tower overlooks the Umpqua National Forest on 160 private acres of land. Interestingly, 40 of these acres are open meadows at the foot of the base of the tower, making it ideal for picnics. Additionally, unlike other fire lookouts, this private one has many amenities you’ll love.
For example, you can expect to enjoy a pit toilet, a wood-fired hot tub, and many places to relax and take in the scenery.
Jersey Jim Fire Lookout - San Juan National Forest, CO
The Jersey Jim fire lookout tower can be found in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado. This lookout might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you find the thought of spending an evening 10,000 feet high thrilling, you should check it out.
This tower consists of one room but has the original furniture, lighting, and propane heat of the cattleman that used to man it. In addition, although this tower has a sink, stove, and fridge, there isn’t any running water or electricity, so you’ll have to come prepared.
If you stay a day or two here, you shouldn’t be averse to temperature fluctuations, as they often happen between late May and mid-October.
Evergreen Fire Lookout - WA
Did you know that the beautiful green peaks of the Washington mountains were home to the famed poet Jack Kerouac during an influential year of his life? If you’ve always wondered what he saw and where he drew inspiration from, you’ll want to visit the Evergreen mountain lookout.
This one-of-a-kind fire lookout was built in 1935 and was used to detect wildfires until World War II when it was repurposed as an Aircraft Waiting Station. It wasn’t until the early 80s that it took up the mantle of its original purpose, and it has now been added to the National Registry of Historic Places. So, if you’re a history buff, it definitely needs to be added to your list.
When visiting this mountain lookout, expect to see amazing views of Keyes Peak, Glacier Peak, the Columbia Glacier, and Mt Rainier. Should you have a keen eye for nature, you’ll also likely see black bears, bald eagles, elk, and bobcats during your stay.
Thompson Peak Fire Lookout - MT
Have you wanted to visit Big Sky country? Why not stop this year at the Thomson Peak fire lookout in Montana in the heart of Big Sky country? Although we warn you, the visual surrounding this lookout is not for the faint of heart.
The Thomson Peak fire lookout is surrounded by the expansive two million-acre Lolo National Forest, so you’ll see grizzly bears, elk, moose, black bears, trumpeter swans, bighorn sheep, and plenty more.
Many who travel to this lookout also appreciate the many amenities it includes. Since it’s built on the third floor of a multi-use building, there is a heater, electric stove, microwave, and small refrigerator. You’ll also have cell phone service, and the nearby town has numerous sights you can feast your eyes on.
Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout - CO
If you want to see spectacular views of Colorado’s Clear Creek County, you need to visit the Squaw Mountain fire lookout, that’s situated 11,000 feet above sea level. Yet, don’t fear, as there aren’t only views to look forward to at this lookout.
Should you choose to visit, you can participate in numerous activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing in the winter, and recreational shooting and hiking year-round. Unfortunately, the downside of this lookout is that the 14 by 14-foot cabin is small, so you might have to put up with cramped quarters if you’ve traveled with a group.
Despite its cramped quarters, it has the basics, like an electric stove, fridge, and a full kitchen with utensils. There is also a semi-private outhouse with incinerating toilets, and the cabin has beds and working heat. Nice right?
Webb Fire Lookout - MT
For more than 40 years, the Webb Mountain fire lookout was manned by forest firefighters. Built in 1959, this lookout has a boring exterior appearance of stone and concrete but the panoramic windows from the inside offer a spectacular 360-degree view of the surrounding Kootenai National Forest.
Additionally, although the interior is minimalistic with few amenities, its 6,000 foot vantage points and amazing views make it worth the visit. There is also room for up to five people, but you must pack your own supplies.
You’ll also need a high-clearance vehicle to get to this lookout, but luckily, the forest roads are well-maintained.
Fivemile Butte Fire Lookout - OR
Looks can be deceiving, and this comes into play when you first lay eyes on the Fivemile Butte fire lookout. This lookout might look like a basic one-story cabin perched on a 40-foot wood platform, but its views are anything but basic as you will be peering into Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest.
When you visit this fire lookout, you will enjoy views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood. As you take in the sights, you’ll also see vast plant and animal life with ponderosa pines, western hemlock, and Douglas fir surrounding you.
In addition, when visiting this lookout, you can participate in horseback riding, snowmobiling, mountain biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
Granite Mountain Fire Lookout - WA
To visit the Granite Mountain fire lookout, you won’t need any mountaineering equipment. It's one of the most peaceful locations, but it does come with its hazards, especially during winter and spring.
For example, many RVers and campers are warned of avalanches, so if you’re not sure you can navigate this type of situation, it might be best to give this one a miss and try one of the others on our list.
Huckleberry Fire Tower Lookout - WY
If you’re an individual who loves the dystopian vibe, you’ll certainly want to check out the old Huckleberry fire tower lookout in WY. When hiking to this lookout, you’ll hike along the Snake River and wander through a burned forest that offers spectacular views of your surroundings (the Tetons and Lake Jackson).
However, if you’re hiking between fall and spring, you should expect snow, so come prepared. You should also note that most don’t spend the night at this lookout because it lacks amenities, but it is possible as a fire pit is at its base.
Bald Knob Fire Lookout - OR
Those who are eager to explore the incredibly scenic hiking trails that wind through Oregon’s wild rouge wilderness area should consider stopping at the Bald Knob fire lookout. If you don’t mind primitive camping with no electricity and vault toilets, this is likely worth a visit.
Curiously this is one of the oldest lookouts in the US. It was built in 1931 and used as an Aircraft Warning Station during World War II, like a few other lookouts. In recent years most people have used this lookout as a pack-it-in and pack-it-out accommodation when exploring the region.
The Bald Knob fire lookout can accommodate up to four people, but it only has one bed. This tower is also the perfect stop for those who love birds and waterfalls, as you’ll see plenty of these when perched inside this 21-foot-high tower.
Rent An RV From Cruise America To Visit These Fire Lookout Towers
There are many fire lookout towers worth visiting throughout the US. If you’re eager to visit or stay the night at any of the ones we spoke about, you should consider getting an RV rental from Cruise America.
We have a wide range of motorhomes available that you can peruse until you find the one that meets your expectations and the road challenges you’ll face during your fire lookout destinations. Simply contact us here, and we’ll let you know our special offers and help you book the best RV for your travels.