NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California


Lookout Towers for Rent

Want to rough it in style? Have a stove without wind protection? Too many kids for the tent? Want to improve the view without bringing a ladder? Rent a lookout tower. Here are the options:

Little Mount Hoffman- constructed in 1940. Restored in 1994. Ground house with catwalk. Active service until 1978. Views of Mt. Shasta.

Location: Shasta-Trinity National Forest; Siskiyou County

Elevation: 7,260 ft.

Coordinates: N41.578492 W121658192

Off-road Opportunities in Area: Medicine Lake Trail. 7.6 miles rated 2 (easy) for difficulty (4).

Girard Ridge Fire Lookout- Built in 1931. Restored in 1997. 14 by 14 ft. cab with catwalk atop 13 foot wooden tower. Oldest remaining structure of its type in state. Views of Castle Crags State Park and Mt. Shasta.

Location: Shasta-Trinity National Forest; Shasta County

Elevation: 4,753 feet

Coordinates: N41.12816 W122.279467

Camp Six Lookout at Bear Basin Butte- Not the original structure and not in the original location but still a tower. Administered by the Smith River National Recreation Area. Located in the Six Rivers National Forest, this site has the lookout tower and a primitive cabin that are rented together and can accommodate up to 12 people. The cabin has a wood burning stove, but no electricity, indoor plumbing or potable water. There is a kitchen area, a serving table and 3 double beds. In the lookout tower there is a futon. Outside there are picnic tables, a vault toilet and a campfire ring. The cabin and restroom are ADA compliant. The facility can be reserved from July 1 to September 30 at www.recreation.gov. After that the facility can accommodate walk-in visitors subject to the weather. Contact the Smith River National Recreation Area at (707) 457-3131 for availability. Rent is $75 per night for up to 8 people and $5 extra for each additional person.

Location: Six Rivers National Forest; Del Norte County

Elevation: 5,145 feet

Coordinates: N41.80918 W123.741051

McCarthy Point Lookout- Built by the CCC in 1936. One story residence with glassed-in bedroom. Views of the Ishi Wilderness, where emigrants traveled the Lassen Emigrant Trail, and the Mill Creek Wild & Scenic River, which supports one of the last runs of Chinook salmon in California.

Location: Lassen National Forest

Elevation: 3,762 feet

Coordinates: N40 11.078 W121 40.563

Off-road Opportunities in Area: Ponderosa Way. 59 miles plus 2.4 mile spur to the lookout rated 3 (moderate) for difficulty (4).

Calpine Hill Lookout- Built in 1934 by the CCC. 14 by 14 foot wooden cab with catwalk on an enclosed 17 foot tower. Living quarters on first landing.

Location: Tahoe National Forest; Sierra County

Elevation: 5,836 feet

Coordinates: N39.67884 W120.46331

Sardine Peak Lookout- Not the original, but this version was built by the CCC in 1935. 14 by 14 foot cab with an enclosed 17 foot tower.

Location: Tahoe National Forest

Elevation: 8,135 feet

Coordinates: N39 32.403 W120 11.272

Robbs Peak Lookout- Constructed in 1937 by the CCC. Restored with deck added. 14 by 14 foot cab with outriggers on a 9 foot enclosed wooden base.

Location: Eldorado National Forest

Elevation: 6,686 feet

Coordinates: N38 55.468 W120 24.193

Hirz Mountain Lookout- Built by the CCC in 1937, one of the last. 14 by 14 foot live in cab. In 1949 raised on a 20 foot steel tower with catwalk. Restored in 2005.

Location: Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Elevation: 3,451 feet.

Coordinates: N40 53.817 W122 14.727

Pine Mountain Lookout- Located in Mendocino National Forest not far from Lake Pillsbury and the village of Upper Lake on the eastern side of the forest. A different idea, this 2 room cabin has a restricted 180 degree view with one room having windows on 3 sides. It was built in 1933 and used as a fire lookout from 1936-1942 and from 1942-1945 by the U.S. Army as an aircraft warning station. There is no heat or indoor plumbing or cooking facilities and no potable water. Bring everything you need.

Location: Mendocino National Forest. The easiest way to get there is from the village of Soda Creek on the east side of Lake Pillsbury. From Soda Creek drive south on Forest Road M1, aka Elk Mountain Road, to the junction with FR M8. Continue south on M1 for 6.2 miles to the junction with FR 18N05. Turn right (east) on FR 18N05 and watch for signs. A warning. You will encounter a sign inscribed "Pine Mountain." Pass that and continue until you see a sign noting "Pine Mountain Lookout."

Elevation: 4,017 feet

Coordinates: N38 51.344 W122 57.200

Footnotes:

Assume that cabins have no electricity or running water.

Check on access. These aren't served by superhighways and some require a hike in.

These are usually the highest thing in the neighborhood. Be careful during thunderstorms.

Reservations: www.recreation.gov.

Info. & photos- www.nhlr.org or www.firelookouts.net. These are the official sites of the National Historic Lookout Register. States other than California are also listed here.

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