Camp at the Oak Flat Lookout

80 ft gain

Added by Mayson

Spend a night in a unique piece of outdoor history, the Oak Flat Lookout, while taking in breathtaking 360 degree views high up on a mountaintop.

Spend a few nights under the stars in a unique piece of outdoor history. The Oak Flat Lookout, constructed in 1934, was once staffed by rangers providing critical wild life management services on watch for wildfires in the surrounding Sequoia National Forest through the 1980s. The Oak Flat lookout is one of the only fire lookout towers remaining from a network of towers that once spanned nearly the entire west coast safeguarding our forested areas and coastline.

The Oak Flat Fire Lookout is located in the Greenhorn Mountains, near Lake Isabella, in the Sequoia National Forest about an hour northeast of Bakersfield, CA. Perched at about 4900ft, the tower overlooks the Kern River and Kern River Valley.

The tower's season runs from April through November each year and costs $75.00 per night. In order to stay at the lookout you must make a reservation online at recreation.gov. Reservable dates open six months in advance and often fill up quickly, most often as soon as they open, so be sure to plan the timing of your trip in advance and check to see when the dates you are looking for will be available for booking. 

The Oak Flat Lookout is "dry camping," as no running water, electricity, or plumbing is available onsite. An outhouse style vaulted toilet can be found nearby, about 100yds away, and is the only facility available. The one room interior of the tower includes two twin beds (no bedding included), a propane stove, oven, thermostat controlled heater, and assortment of miscellaneous cooking supplies.

Below the tower there is a picnic table, bench, and fire pit, which includes a cooking grate and dutch oven hooks. There is also plenty of room for setting up additional tents on the grounds below the lookout. 

Due to the steep terrain that leads to the lookout, a 4 wheel drive and high clearance vehicle required to access the lookout. Attempting to reach the tower without a 4x4 vehicle or with one of low ground clearance is highly ill-advised and will lead to vehicle damage. 

Directions to the lookout itself are as follows:

From Bakersfield, California, take Highway 99 to Highway 178 and travel east towards the Kern River Canyon. After passing through the last traffic light (Miramonte Drive) east of town, you will travel downhill. Rancheria Road will be the next left turn off the highway. Proceed 15 miles north along this road. The first part of Rancheria Road is paved and then it becomes an unimproved gravel road. It is approximately 45 minutes to reach the turnoff to Oak Flat. Watch for livestock and other traffic along this route. Turn right onto the Oak Flat spur road and travel up .7 miles to the Lookout tower.

Notes/Tips:

  • Be sure to print your booking confirmation email before leaving for your trip, the email includes the combination lock code to unlock the gate leading to the lookout and the deck hatch to the tower itself.
  • Reception once you leave Bakersfield and at the lookout itself can vary widely.
  • In warmer weather especially, be prepared to encounter Earwig bugs which can be widespread in and around the tower. While harmless, the bugs can be a nuisance to visitors.
  • High winds are common at the tower, due to its elevation and exposure on the mountaintop, so be sure to pack appropriately and be prepared. 
  • A basket pulley system is available for getting small and light supplies up to the tower's deck instead of hauling them up the 40 steep stairs.
  • Pets are allowed, but not recommended due to the steep stairs up the tower.
  • The tower area is private, so be sure to lock the road's gate behind you to prevent unexpected guests. 
  • All trash must be packed out from the site, as no disposal facilities are available. 
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Tags

Chillin
Camping
Photography
Mountain Biking
Hiking
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Forest
Romantic
Scenic
Wildlife

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