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Top 3 Fire Tower Hikes

Want a backcountry room with a view? Climb these lookouts from Vermont to Washington.

Once the domain of solitary smoke spotters–and, famously, authors such as Ed Abbey–many fire towers are now open to the public. There are 557 on the National Historic Lookout Register. Climb to one of these three for panoramic vistas and plenty of writerly inspiration.

McCart Mountain, MT
Make it a first date

Nothing says romance like a cozy wilderness cabin on stilts with a wraparound catwalk, views of the sprawling Bitterroot Range, and a front-row seat for August’s blazing Perseid meteor shower. You’ll have someone special seeing stars at the McCart Mountain Lookout. Perched at 7,115 feet, it’s furnished with a propane stove, dishes, a wood stove, bed for two, and an outhouse. Best of all, the walk up Johnson Peak Trail, two hours south of Missoula, is an easy 1.5 miles, which means there’s no excuse not to pack in wine and treats. Open from mid-May to October; make reservations up to six months in advance ($30; recreation.gov). Call the Sula Ranger District a week before your trip for the lock combo. (406) 821-3201

After the Fire
Hoist a crisp Sawtooth blonde ale and a few Alaskan halibut tacos at Bitterroot Brewing in Hamilton. bitterrootbrewing.com

The Way
From Missoula, go south on US 93 for 69 miles to Sula. Drive 17 miles east on East Fork Rd. to Johnson Peak Rd. and go 5.5 miles south to Johnson Peak trailhead.

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