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7 Fire towers you should visit in the Western U.S.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

With fire danger often high in the West, it's no wonder there are so many fire towers. California alone has at least 77 - some of which are still in use! We spread the love through a couple of western states to share beautiful tower locations you can visit!

Note: Please maintain extreme caution when climbing fire towers. Check with local authorities (like state parks or the DNR) to learn whether it's legal to climb these structures. Some are well taken care of and others are not maintained and can be dangerous. You are responsible for your safety.

1. Winchester Mountain - Whatcom County, WA

Distance: 3.28 miles | Elevation gain: 1,335 ft.

Photo by Beau Ramsey.

This well-loved out-and-back hike may offer the greatest views for the least work in all of the Northern Cascades! The hike is stunning in all seasons, but people recommend it in the fall for the amazing colors. Stay overnight and watch for the moon and Northern lights!

Outbound user Beau shared, "NOTE: A high clearance vehicle is required to drive Twin Lakes Road beyond the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead. Otherwise park at the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead and hike 2 miles and 1,600ft to Twin Lakes (5,200ft). This will change the total mileage from 5 miles round-trip to 9 miles."

2. Hidden Lake Lookout - Marblemount, WA

Distance: 7.39 miles | Elevation gain: 3,415 ft.

Image by Grant.

This out-and-back hike offers 360-degree views of the state! The trail often has snow - even in the summer - so dress appropriately! You may spot Mt. Baker, and nearby Forbidden and Klawatti Peaks! 

Outbound user Mike noted, "This one has it all doesn't it? Hike through a dense forest, coming up through the valley with wildflowers, climbing the ridge and stopping every 10 minutes to marvel at the peaks around you. And then the scramble to the lookout...breathtaking. Oh yeah and the ice blue lake ain't bad either. Perfect hike."

3. Granite Mountain - North Bend, WA

Distance: 7.92 miles | Elevation gain: 3,999 ft.

Image by Casey Sullivan.

This out-and-back is considered non-technical, meaning you don't need mountaineering equipment. However, winter and spring may come with avalanche warnings, so make sure to check snow conditions before heading out. Want to enjoy this popular hike without a lot of people? Try going out early, like around sunrise!

Outbound user Zachary shared, "Did this hike with a buddy of mine. Absolutely loved it. Was definitely a burner and I'm feeling it the next day but the views from the top were breathtaking. Only downside and the reason I'm giving 4 stars is because the entire time no matter where you are on the trail or mountain you can here the droning of I90."

4. Calpine Fire Lookout - Calpine, CA

*This fire tower is accessible via vehicle.

Feature image by Bruce Jensen.

The Calpine Fire Lookout is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The unique structure was built in 1934 and is reminiscent of a windmill. Visitors can drive up to the tower to enjoy the beautiful views for a brief visit or even camp here. There is minimal light pollution, so the night sky is a dream on clear evenings. 

Outbound user Clare said, "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."

5. Evergreen Mountain - Leavenworth, WA

Distance: 2.88 miles | Elevation gain: 1,522 ft.

Image by Michael Matti.

This short and steep hike is a serious leg workout but the views of the Cascade Mountains are excellent motivation! The lookout tower is open for camping from August to October but books up to six months in advance, so plan ahead! Visit during the late spring and summer to enjoy stunning wildflowers during your hike.

Outbound user Kelby said, "The drive up the trail head was amazing, the road was well maintained, views abundant and the road gets you as close to the lookout as a road could go. The hike is short but all uphill, incredible views from the moment you step foot on the trail."

6. Gold Butte - Marion County, OR

Distance: 2.44 miles | Elevation gain: 741 ft.

Photo by Jeffrey Green.

Visit Willamette National Forest to check out this ground-level lookout tower. Once used to spot enemy planes during World War ll, the structure is now available for camping rentals. The hike may take an hour or two and offers stunning sunrise and sunset views. Just be sure to bring a headlamp if you stay up past dark! The road to the trail start is gravel and requires vehicles with four-wheel-drive and decent clearance. 

Outbound user Jeffrey said, "Overall, I would highly recommend Gold Butte Fire Lookout as a great family friendly day-hike. It's not too long or strenuous at all. The mountain views are amazing. As always, bring plenty of water. "

7. Huckleberry Fire Tower - Moran, WY

Distance: 10 miles | Elevation gain: 2,600 ft.

Image by Elias King.

This dystopian out-and-back hike leads you along the Snake River through burned forest to incredible views of Lake Jackson and the Tetons. Expect snow from fall through spring for the top mile or so before the tower. 

Outbound user Elias said, "It is possible to spend the night in the fire tower, and there is a fire pit at its base. However, please treat this gem as if all of the Forest Service is watching you! This is a special structure, an old place that should be treated with care and respect."

Feature image by Beau Ramsey.

Check out the 7 Fire towers you should visit in the Eastern U.S.!

We turned this article into a list on the Outbound Collective app so it's easy to save the hikes you're interested in! Download the app and click the link above. If you're signed in, you can save the towers you want to visit to your profile and even download offline info to start your next adventure.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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