Enjoy beautiful 360 degree lookouts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The low-light pollution provides amazing night skies.

I think all explorers agree there is nothing more serene than being surrounded by nothing but wilderness. If you are one of these said explorers, a trip to Calpine's fire lookout is a must.

Calpine is a forest fire lookout tower that was constructed in 1934 and is one of 3 remaining examples of the enclosed windmill-style lookout in California. The lookout was actively used every summer until 1975, opening up for public rental in 2005. The historic lookout sits at an elevation of 5,980 feet in the vast, tree-filled Sierra Nevada Mountains of Tahoe National Forest, approximately 40 miles from Truckee, California.

From a plethora of hiking, mountain biking, and snow-shoeing trails to a fire pit and board games, this lookout has all one needs for a weekend away from reality during all seasons. The Pacific Crest Trail can even be accessed 20 miles away while Gold Lake and Sand Pond are both within short driving distance. If you are weathered in like we were, you will love the quirky books and games provided, the journals flooded with notes and drawings from past visitors, and the antique lookout equipment, manuals, and maps.

During heavy winter snow, visitors must be ready to hike from the main road to the lookout, but the road is typically open during other seasons. Despite hitting wailing winds and hefty hail throughout most of our stay, the incomprehensible views from the lookout kept us in awe of the experience.

The interior of the lookout measures 14' by 14', has 2 single beds, a dry sink, a table, 4 chairs, and propane-powered appliances like lights, a stove/oven, and a fireplace. There are also a limited assortment of pots, pans, and cooking utensils. An accessible pit toilet and a picnic table and fire ring are located outside the lookout (firewood is not provided).

To get here from Truckee, head north on the 89 for about 33 miles and look for the turn onto Calpine Co. Road. Follow to the end or park at the turnout if the road is closed for the winter.

Pack List

  • Bedding
  • Toilet paper
  • Water
  • Food
  • Firewood
  • Lighter
  • Clothes for the weather (layers for winter, shorts for summer)
  • Camera
  • Hiking boots
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Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Romantic
Scenic
Wildlife

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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