Guest Blog: Your Hiking Guide to 55 West Coast Fire Lookouts

Photo by

Guest Blogger: Keilah Keiser

There’s nothing quite like a good hike to clear the brain, recharge, take in the views and get those muscles working.

But with endless options of great hiking trails all over the U.S., it can be difficult to decide which one to tackle next. Of course, we all have our bucket list hikes, but there are some unique ones out there that might just offer you a fresh perspective — fire lookouts. 

What Are Fire Lookouts And Why Hike To Them?

First built in the 1930s as a network of towers to aid in forest fire detection, fire lookouts were an important component of our national forests.

However, with modern fire prevention and detection technology, many of these lookouts have been decommissioned and repurposed as cabins for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Most of these cabins are humble abodes measuring about 14 x 14 feet and are typically elevated and perched on mountains or ridges, offering striking 360-degree views of the surrounding scenery of the national forests in which they reside.

The incredible views that come along with these structures have made them incredibly popular for hiking and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Some lookouts are more off the grid than others and require more preparation in advance.

To save you the time searching for their exact locations and need-to-know details, CarRentals put together this awesome guide that highlights 55 of the best fire lookouts on the West Coast. 

This list includes everything you need to know to prepare for your fire lookout hike:

  • Exact map location
  • Elevation
  • Hiking distance
  • Type of road access
  • Cost (if any)*

*For example, some fire lookouts are part of the website and can be reserved just like a campsite while others are first-come-first-serve.

Soon you'll find an infographic that highlights fire lookouts found in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Montana.

But first, let's deep dive into how you can prepare for your fire lookout hike even more.

Know Before You Go: Hiking To Fire Lookouts

Of course, before you set off on your trek there are some additional things that you need to know about fire lookouts — they’re not your average camping or glamping experience. In short, be prepared to “rough it” a bit. 

It’s important to keep in mind that most of them were built back in the 1930s solely to spot wildfires, so their offerings are minimal. Most lack any kind of electricity, running water or toilet systems, so you’ll want to be prepared to bring essentials.

Essentials For Your Fire Lookout Hike

  • Food and drinking water
  • Sleeping bags or easy-to-pack bedding
  • Flashlights
  • Cookware and utensils
  • Firestarter**
  • Warm clothes*** 
  • First aid materials
  • Toilet paper

**make sure to follow any local forest service fire restrictions

***even during summer months, high elevation areas can be quite cold 

Lastly, you’ll want to check for any required wilderness passes or parking permits as these vary based on individual location and time of year.

Pick Your Next Fire Lookout Hike Now

To get started on the guide and pick out your next fire lookout hike, use the infographic below or reference the full post linked above.



Keilah is a freelance writer and content creator that focuses on all things travel, outdoors and lifestyle. When she's not behind a computer, you'll find her hiking in sunny San Diego with her dog.

Want to remember this? Pin this for later!

hike to fire lookouts

hike to the best fire lookouts

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published