Your tent-door view may be perfectly framed, but nothing compares to the bird's eye vantage you'll score from a backcountry fire tower. Now add stoves and refrigerators, beds, tables and chairs, and outhouses. Also included: Unlimited wilderness right outside your front door. Hike to one of these towers for a perfect weekend.
Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout
Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana
Set on the 8,245-foot apex of Garnet Mountain, this tower’s wraparound catwalk offers views of the 11,000-foot Spanish Peaks to the west and the 10,000-foot Gallatin Range to the south. It’s 3.5 miles deep into the wilderness, so while you’re there, don’t miss bagging 7,165-foot Storm Castle Peak, about 5 miles east of the tower.
Get there Take the Garnet Mountain Lookout Trail 3.5 miles to the lookout. Cost $30/night Max group size 4 Contact bit.do/GarnetMtnLookout
Clear Lake Cabin Lookout
Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon
Get up close and personal with Mt. Hood: This 40-foot-tall tower’s 14-by-14-foot cab sits on the mountain’s southern slope. The tower is only open November through May, so you’ll have to ski (or snowshoe) the 4 miles in. Tour 4.5 miles over to frozen Little Crater Lake while you’re there.
Get there Park at the Skyline Road Sno Park and ski, snowshoe, or hike (weather permitting) .8 mile on FS 42 to 240 Spur Road; continue 3.2 miles to the lookout. Cost $50/night Max group size 2 Contact bit.do/ClearLakeCabin
Shorty Peak Lookout
Idaho Panhandle National Forests, Idaho
Perched atop a knob on 6,515-foot Shorty Peak, this 15-by-15-foot cabin comes complete with 360-degree vistas including 6,265-foot Red Top Mountain to the south and 6,732-foot Lone Tree Peak to the west. For an even better vantage point, bag Lone Tree Peak via a 1.5-mile walk from the tower.
Get there Park at the trailhead on Road 282; then hike 2.5 miles beyond the gate to reach the lookout. Cost $25/night Max groupsize 2 Contact bit.do/ShortyPeakLookout
Three Fingers Lookout
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Built atop a narrow cliff at 6,850 feet, this 14-by-14-foot tower is well worth the 7.5-mile haul in: Windows on all four walls give overnighters both the perfect sunset (over the Puget Sound) and sunrise (over Mt. Baker).
Get there From the Saddle Lake trailhead, take #641 about 7 miles to Tin Pan Gap; from here, traverse Three Fingers Glacier (mountaineering know-how required) for a half mile and climb the three wooden ladders to the lookout. Cost Free (first-come, first-serve) Max group size 2 Contact bit.do/ThreeFingersLookout