8 amazing fire towers you can rent for your next vacation (starting at $20 a night)

What if we told you that you could spend the night in a cabin perched atop a mountain? The cabin’s amenities include an observation deck to show off the 360 panoramic views and wrap-around windows for epic stargazing as you’re falling asleep. But, wait, it gets better. What if we told you that you can rent these digs for as little as $20 a night?

The U.S. Forest Service has an inventory of more than 60 fire towers scattered throughout the United States, mostly in the West, that are available to rent.

In their past lives, these towers played a critical role in wildfire detection. They were built on mountain tops above the tree line, allowing people to be on the lookout for smoke, and alerting firefighters on the ground.

Now, these fire towers are enjoying retirement, hosting guests who are seeking a pastoral retreat. (Fun fact: Beatnik Jack Kerouac spent more than two months as a fire lookout at Desolation Peak, which is in the North Cascade Mountains in Washington state).

A word of caution, though: Getting to these backcountry towers requires a little work, including hiking in and packing everything from toilet paper to a sleep set-up. Each set up is a little different.

Without further ado, though, here are eight stunning places where you can stage a sleepover in a fire tower.

1. Squaw Mountain In Clear Creek County, Colorado

If you’re looking for an alternative to a swanky ski resort in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, you can book a night in the Squaw Mountain fire tower. The tower can serve as your basecamp for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter, or hiking amid the wildflowers in the summer months. Built in the 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this fire tower was constructed with granite sourced from the area.

The view: From one side, you’ll get a cityscape view looking out over Denver. You’ll also spot the Great Plains, and some of Colorado’s famous peaks including Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak and Long’s Peak, as well as other mountain peaks that are snow-capped year-round.

Elevation: More than 11,486 feet

Dates open: Year-round

Cost: $80 a night

Here’s a photo of this fire-tower-turned ski lodge, shared on Instagram by Colorado Made:


Here are even more amazing fire towers to spend the night in:

2. Bald Mountain In Harvard, Idaho

Bald Mountain is the ultimate tree house, surrounded by red cedar, hemlocks (the non-poisonous tree variety not the poisonous plant), western white pine, Douglas fir and spruce trees. It was a fire lookout between 1956 and 1984.

The view: Bald Mountain is one of the highest peaks in the Hoodoo Mountain Range. Guests at this rustic retreat also spot eagles soaring through the sky, as well as bear, moose, elk and deer in the area. To the south are the rolling hills of the Palouse.

Elevation: 5,300

Dates open: Typically July through October

Cost: $45 a night

Instagrammer Abel Galvan shared this photo of the scenic spot:


3. Evergreen Mountain Lookout Near Skykomish, Washington

In its past life, Evergreen Mountain Lookout was used as an Aircraft Warning Station during World War II. Then, it was an active fire tower up until the early 1980s.

Now, with the help of volunteer restoration projects, it’s one of the best places to catch a sunset (as seen in the photo below, shared on Instagram by @jboggs32). It does require a steep hike to access it.

The view: It’s a multi-sensory experience here. You might spot elk, bobcats and bald eagles as well as hear wolves howling. You’ll also be treated to views of the Mt. Rainier and Glacier Peak.

Elevation: 5,987 feet

Dates open: Aug. 16 to Sept. 30

Cost: $85 a night


4. Hornet Lookout In Polebridge, Montana

The Hornet Lookout is two stories and an ideal base camp for any Glacier National Park activities you have planned. The upstairs loft offers an ideal viewing point. It was built in 1922 and was a watchpoint for fires in the North Fork area.

The view: You can spot Glacier National Park and Kintla Lake on clear days. But the real treat is the ability to spot the Northern Lights from the lookout on some nights. Just look at the sunset view in the photo below, shared on Instagram by @bookmans_adventures.

Elevation: 6,744 feet

Dates open: June 15 to Oct. 31

Cost: $20 a night


5. Yaak Mountain Lookout In Lincoln County, Montana

This former lookout tower is now a prime place to catch a fireworks show. If the opportunity presents itself, book the Yaak Mountain fire tower over the Fourth of July. You’ll catch the nearby town of Troy’s firework display.

The view: Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, the Yaak Mountain Lookout also offers up stellar views of the Kootenai National Forest.

Elevation: 4,977

Dates open: May 23 to Sept. 30

Cost: $35 a night

U.S. Forest Service

RELATED: 6 Overwater Bungalows That Are Closer—And Cheaper To Get To—Than You May Think

6. Little Mt. Hoffman In Medicine Lake Area

Sleep nearby a volcano? You bet! Little Mt. Hoffman sits on the flanks of Medicine Lake Highland, which is the largest identified volcano in California.

The fire tower was built in the 1920s and used by the U.S. Forest Service regularly until 1978. In fact, the forest service still uses the lookout when there is an extreme fire danger.

The view: You’ll be atop the rim of a caldera and able to check out the diverse volcanic landscape that surrounds the area. You can also see Mt. Shasta, Mt. Lassen and Mt. McLoughlin, which is in southern Oregon. Bonus: Medicine Lake is open for swimming, something that @terlayton’s pooch (featured in her photo below) might love.

Elevation: 7,309 feet

Dates open: June 2 to Oct. 12

Cost: $75


7. Lake Of The Woods Lookout Near McCloud, California

Originally this cabin was a “ground house” situated on Barklow Mountain. But in 1974, the Lake of the Woods Lookout was flown in by helicopter and delivered to its present location. The 12-foot tower and catwalk was used to spot fires until 1996.

The view: From here, you’ll get sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean’s rugged vistas as well as the Kalmiopsis and Wild Rogue wilderness areas. Like @truenpence noted on Instagram (see photo below): “Soaked in some serious sky on this trip.”

Elevation: 7,309

Dates open: May 18 to Oct. 30 (Currently closed for the remainder of 2018 season.)

Cost: $65 a night


8. Thompson Peak In Superior, Montana

If you want to experience a fire tower with your children, Thompson Peak might be a good bet because of its enclosed stairway. This is also perhaps one of the most modernized towers, though it’s still remote.

The view: Splayed out before you is the 2 million-acre Lolo National Forest, home to mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, moose and bear. And as @zrakke captured in their photo below, you’ll also spot some serious views.

Elevation: 3,984

Dates open: May 20 to Oct. 10

Cost: $30

RELATED: 8 Gorgeous Cabins For Summer Getaways


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About the Author
Brittany Anas
Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure.

I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more. Visit Scripps News to see more of Brittany's work.

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