Fire towers are like little cabins on stilts. They were originally built as lookout platforms to watch for fires in the trees below, and people lived in them all summer long, doing just that.
These days, you don’t have to get a job as a lookout to sleep in these structures. Many fire towers are now available to rent, offering campers a unique way to sleep in the sky. You won’t be responsible for watching for fires, but you’ll likely find yourself drifting into a dreamy state while gaze across the forest, regardless.
Where to Find the Best West Coast Fire Towers
Here are 5 of our favorite spots for camping in the sky.
Evergreen Mountain Lookout, Washington
Situated atop picturesque Evergreen Mountain, this 1930s-era fire lookout tower gives campers sweeping views at a breathtaking height of 5,587-feet. Its large windows and open-deck space provide guests with ample opportunities to spot elusive wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, elk, bald eagles, and even wolves. Campers must hike through steep terrain in order to access this fire tower, but, in the case of this accommodation, the work is most definitely worth the reward!
Learn more about Evergreen Mountain Lookout.
2. Drake Peak Lookout, Oregon
Located at a dizzying elevation of 8,222-feet, this Warner Mountain Range favorite boasts views of Oregon, California, and Nevada. A must for stargazers and birdwatchers alike, this historic fire tower offers its campers a clear night sky, without a trace of light pollution in sight. The tower itself can be accessed by either foot or horseback, on the same trail that leads to the ever-popular summit of Drake Peak.
Learn more about Drake Peak Lookout.
3. Calpine Fire Lookout, California
A quick trip away from Lake Tahoe-adjacent Truckee, Calpine Fire Lookout provides its guests with spectacular year-round sights and secluded access to California’s most beloved recreation area. As a bonus, this $45/night gem can be accessed directly by car in the warm months. If backpackers choose to book during the winter, they must be prepared to either cross-country ski or snowshoe to the tower. Since the area can reach a blistering -21-degrees in the dead of winter, cold weather gear and survival supplies are required.
Learn more about Calpine Fire Lookout.
4. Warner Mountain Lookout, Oregon
The only replica fire tower to make our list, Warner Mountain Lookout is best known for its sweeping views of its namesake mountain’s highest peak, Warner Ridge. Like Calpine, this tower sees a lot of snow during the winter season, so guests must be prepared to either cross-country ski, snowshoe, or take a snowmobile to this rustic accommodation.
Learn more about Warner Mountain Lookout.
5. Oak Flat Lookout, California
Nestled against a picturesque backdrop of the treasured Sequoia National Forest, Oak Flat Lookout serves as a cool escape from the often muggy and desolate towns of the Central Valley. With spectacular views of the Kern River Valley below, it’s no wonder this tower has become a favorite amongst backpacking Instagrammers. While weather stays temperate year-round, due to steep terrain, visitors must drive a 4-wheel vehicle in order to safely access the tower.
Learn more about Oak Flat Lookout.
Sleeping in a fire tower is a magical way to get closer to the stars for a camping experience that is thrilling and unique.
Because each and every one of the aforementioned lookout towers are situated on or near mountain peaks, visitors would be smart to pack along some Boost Oxygen in their backpack. This ‘oxygen mask in a can’ works to quickly alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness, so you can focus on the incredible views.