"Crawled sleepily out of the sack to face a foggy wet
morning. It sure feels good when my nice warm feet hit that cold, cold floor."
--Bob Chadwick, Lookout Guard July 27, 1954
We invite you to experience a taste of yesteryear by spending a day or two in a National Forest fire lookout or cabin. Choose from among several properties scattered across the National Forests of Washington and Oregon.
Renting a Cabin
A permit is required to rent the cabins listed in this guide. A rental fee, which is used by the Forest Service to help pay for the maintenance of the cabin, is also charged. Permits may be obtained by contacting the Forest Service office listed under the cabin you wish to rent. That office can provide you with additional information about the cabin including its location, access routes, and attractions in the surrounding area. You will also be provided with directions on how to submit the rental fees. Please note that rental fees noted in this guide are subject to change.
Most of the fire lookouts and cabins which are available for rental are in remote areas and have little in the way of amenities. Often there is no plumbing, no heat, and you must in most cases bring your own cooking utensils, drinking water, bedding and other supplies. Expect to use outdoor privies. See also - Lookout Types.
Traveling on National Forest Roads
Accessing the fire lookouts and cabins described in this guide will require driving on National Forest roads. Most of these roads are narrow and winding with turnouts. National Forest roads are designated by numbered signs that are posted at the entry of each road. When driving these roads proceed at slower speeds, be prepared for wildlife which may suddenly cross in front of you, and be alert for rocks and debris on the road surface.
Contact the Forest Service office listed with the cabin for current weather or road information. You can also request a copy of "Getting Along on National Forest Roads" for additional information. Some areas in the National Forests may not be accessible by auto during the winter due to snow pack.
National Forest Maps
National Forest Visitor Maps are available for each of the National Forests in Oregon and Washington. You may purchase these maps three ways:
- Order them from our online store
- Purchase at most Forest Service offices
- Contact or visit Nature of the Northwest
Some of the fire lookouts listed in this guide have been developed as interpretive sites and are not available for rent. These lookouts help visitors understand the role that fire lookouts have played, and continue to play, in the management of the National Forests.
There are several Cabins/Lookouts for rent in the Pacific Norhwest Region. They range in size and capacity. Please reserve early as they fill up rapidly. Call the Ranger District for reservations and/or availability.
Available cabins and lookouts are listed by National Forest. Click the name below to locate Northwest National Forests.
Deschutes National Forest
Fremont National Forest
Malheur National Forest
Mount Hood National Forest
Ochoco National Forest
Rogue River National Forest
Siskiyou National Forest
Umatilla National Forest
Umpqua National Forest
Wallowa Whitman National Forest
Willamette National Forest
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Olympic National Forest
Umatilla National Forest
Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest
The D-6 Cupola
The D-6 Cupola design prototype was constructed on the summit of Mount Hood, the highest peak in Oregon, in 1915. It was a 12 foot by 12 foot frame house with windows all around. What made it distinctive was a glassed-in, centered, second story cupola about 1/4th the floor space of the first floor. The cupola was used for observation. More than 60 were built in Oregon and Washington, but only 6 were still in place in 1993.
The L-4 (1930)
The first L-4s had a gabled roof. The structure's heavy shutters were hinged above the windows and were propped open during the summer to shade the windows. L-4s had a 14 foot by 14 foot cabin.
The L-4 Aladdin (1933)
Later models of the L-4 built between 1933 and 1953 had a hip roof. These were commonly referred to as "Aladdins" for their principle manufacturer. The Aladdin Company had plants in Portland, OR and Spokane, WA where they manufactured popular precut mail order bungalows. L-4s could be ordered for $500 FOB Spokane or Portland.
The cab measured 8 by 8 feet and was typically mounted on an 80 to 100 foot tower. The prototype for this style was constructed on Black Butte.
The Steel Tower
The steel tower was an interesting innovation of the CCC era. Most were manufactured by Aeromotor of Chicago -- the company that made hundreds of windmills so common in the West and Midwest. The towers were 35 to 100 feet in height and had a 7 by 7 foot all-metal cab. Window panes had to be puttied in carefully. Because of the expansion and contraction of the metal window frames, the glass had to be a little undersized. In old steel towers it isn't uncommon for the window panes to shatter when the putty stiffens up!
The R-6 Flattop
This style was first constructed in 1953 and became the Forest Service standard. It is distinguished by its large flat roof. The R-6 Flattop had a 15 by 15 foot cab that most often served for both observation and for living space. Larger window panes and greater window space greatly improved visibility.
The Transfer Act of 1905 transferred the Forest Reserves, created earlier by Presidential decree and Act of Congress, from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture. With that shift, the old Bureau of Forestry became known as the Forest Service. Two years later the Forest Reserves were renamed "National Forests." New programs aimed at professionally managing the nation's forest resources rapidly began to emerge.
With the efforts to actively protect and manage these new national forests came the need for a variety of administrative structures. These included ranger stations, guard stations, remount centers, trail shelters, and fire lookouts. Laws defining the Forest Service role in managing the national forest were at first slow in coming but did focus on protection from fire, the ravages of private logging on adjacent lands, and loss of timber through trespass.
In about 1910, the first lookouts were constructed in the Pacific Northwest. These structures were little more than trees with a few branches removed and a platform, of sorts, scabbed together in the treetop. A ladder nailed to the tree trunk provided access. Gradually, the quality and effectiveness of fire lookouts and fire detection improved. Plans for lookouts, and to some extent other administrative structures, were standardized in order to maximize efficiency in construction and maintenance.