Rent a Fire Lookout Tower and you will be sleeping in the honeymoon suite of the camping world. These things are pure romance.
You'll feel like you're on an island in the sky, and the 360-degree views of California mountaintops are sure to make your head spin. Relics from the US Forest Service, lookout towers were used to spot fires in the backcountry. As land management practices and technology have changed, lookout towers are disappearing from the Western landscape. Lucky for us, many of these towers have been converted into affordable mountain top penthouses, ripe for our camping adventures! We've included five of California's best, and if one strikes your fancy, we recommend you book ahead. Like, way ahead. Fire Lookout Towers have somewhat of a cult following.
(Photo by Mike Downey)
Calpine Fire Lookout, Tahoe National Forest
At an elevation of 5,980 feet, your chance of reaching the stars just improved significantly. Calpine Fire Lookout is located in the Tahoe National Forest and offers inspiring vistas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The cozy interior features two single beds, propane lights, a sink, a stove, and an oven so you can bake your own high elevation cookies. In the daytime, there is hiking and lakes nearby, but honestly you'll be content enough with a flask of whiskey, a deck of cards, and the unending views of pine-covered slopes and snow-capped peaks. // hipcamp.com/california/tahoe/calpine-lookout
(Photo by Chris D 2006)
Bear Basin Lookout Tower, Six Rivers National Forest
If you're looking to get really remote this is the place. Located in California's Northwest Corner, Bear Basin Lookout offers jaw-dropping views of the Siskiyou Wilderness to the east, and the mighty Pacific and the Coast Range to the west. Spend your days disconnecting from the internet, and reconnecting with Mother Nature. Time will slow, the red-tailed hawks will soar, and the winds will roll across the mountainside. And then there is the miracle of experiencing the night time sky, sans light pollution. We'll toast to that! // hipcamp.com/california/six-rivers/bear-basin-lookout-and-pierson-cabin
(Photo by Brian Lee Clements)
Oak Flat Lookout Tower, Sequoia National Forest
Located in the Sequoia National Forest, the Oak Flat Lookout Tower commands incredible views of the Kern River Valley. You'll quickly loose superlatives. Breathtaking. Stunning. Awesome. This lookout comes with two twin beds, a kitchen with a propane range, propane lights, and a wraparound deck to scout for wildlife or gaze into an ocean of stars. We recommend bringing the binoculars, and brushing up on your constellations before you come. // hipcamp.com/california/sequoia-forest/oak-flat-lookout
(Photo by Emily Hildebrand)
Black Mountain Lookout Tower, Plumas National Forest
Warning: your Instagram is about to explode. Black Mountain Lookout towers over mesmerizing places like Honey Lake, the Diamond Mountains, and Last Chance Creek in the Plumas National Forest. By day you can splash around and catch some trout in the nearby Antelope Lake. By night, you can lose yourself in the Milky Way. Black Mountain comes with two beds, a small refrigerator, small stove, a heater, and even electricity. Now that's some wilderness glamping! // hipcamp.com/california/plumas/black-mountain-lookout
(Photo by Michael McCullough)
Little Mt. Hoffman Lookout, Shasta-Trinity National Forest
It really doesn't get much better than this. An adorable abode, Little Mt. Hoffman Lookout offers sweeping views of Northern California's volcanic country. Little Mt. Hoffman is a cinder cone on the flanks of Medicine Lake Highland, the largest volcano in the state! The lookout is perched on the rim of this caldera at 7,309 feet, providing a panoramic vistas that extend all the way to Mt. Shasta. This place is a photographer's dream. Plus, with Medicine Lake nearby there'll be no shortage of outdoor pursuits. This lookout does not have a kitchen, and only cot beds are provided, so be prepared to get rustic! // hipcamp.com/california/shasta-trinity/little-mt-hoffman-lookout
This post was originally published in June 2014.