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The Best Watchtower Hikes in the U.S.

These towers offer the best views in town, and you can hike to them.

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This 35-foot tall tower in the Adirondacks was nearly demolished in 2001 after the state recommended its removal, but activists waged a successful…

This 35-foot tall tower in the Adirondacks was nearly demolished in 2001 after the state recommended its removal, but activists waged a successful campaign to list it on the National Register of Historic Places and ensure its preservation. [image: John Sweeney/Wikimedia]

Skip the national park crowds and hike 4.5 miles (one way) this to this early-season gem just 30 miles south of Jackson Hole. Views from the…

Skip the national park crowds and hike 4.5 miles (one way) this to this early-season gem just 30 miles south of Jackson Hole. Views from the abandoned lookout stretch across the scenic Hoback River valley, and moose are often seen browsing in the aspens below the ridge. [image: Paul Chisholm]

Different seasons bring different joys on the 1.9-mile hike to this fire tower atop Red Rock Mountain. Go in spring for blooming wildflowers, summer…

Different seasons bring different joys on the 1.9-mile hike to this fire tower atop Red Rock Mountain. Go in spring for blooming wildflowers, summer for high bush blueberries, fall for autumn foliage, and winter for peaceful solitude. [image: Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr]

You’ll need an ice axe, crampons, and glacier know-how to reach the lookout tower on Three Fingers Peak, but unparalleled views of the Puget Sound…

You’ll need an ice axe, crampons, and glacier know-how to reach the lookout tower on Three Fingers Peak, but unparalleled views of the Puget Sound sunrise make this 15-mile roundtrip hike worth the effort. [image: Walter Seigmund/Wikimedia]

You could drive to the highest point in Washington’s San Juan Islands—but why? Take the 4-mile (one-way) Twin Lakes Trail to the top of Mount…

You could drive to the highest point in Washington’s San Juan Islands—but why? Take the 4-mile (one-way) Twin Lakes Trail to the top of Mount Constitution and savor your hard-earned views of the Cascades and Puget Sound. [image: Paul Chisholm]

Crater Lake is known for the depth of its waters, not the height of its mountains. Still, this 2.5-mile trail to the park’s highpoint packs plenty of…

Crater Lake is known for the depth of its waters, not the height of its mountains. Still, this 2.5-mile trail to the park’s highpoint packs plenty of visual punch. [image: PetrBroz/Wikimedia]

New England is renowned for its fall color, and one of the best places to catch it is from this fire lookout in Vermont’s Norwich Town Forest.  It’s…

New England is renowned for its fall color, and one of the best places to catch it is from this fire lookout in Vermont’s Norwich Town Forest. It’s a scant .7-mile up to the prettiest view around. [image: Sage Ross/Wikimedia]

The massive granite formation known as the Devil’s Head is one of the most prominent Front Range landmarks between Denver and Colorado Springs. Bring…

The massive granite formation known as the Devil’s Head is one of the most prominent Front Range landmarks between Denver and Colorado Springs. Bring your kids on the family-friendly 1.4-mile trail to the Devil’s Head Lookout, but save your energy for the end: a 143-step climb up a staircase to the summit. [image: Heath Alseike/Flickr]

You’ll have to sneak past an army of giant granite gargoyles if you’re going to summit Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. Day-hikers…

You’ll have to sneak past an army of giant granite gargoyles if you’re going to summit Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. Day-hikers typically use the trailhead at Sylvan Lake, but backpackers can incorporate the summit into a longer overnight loop from the Willow Creek Trailhead. [image: Paul Chisholm]

Pastoral vistas have attracted hikers to this fire tower in rural Vermont for over a century, but an air of mystery hangs thick over the mountain…

Pastoral vistas have attracted hikers to this fire tower in rural Vermont for over a century, but an air of mystery hangs thick over the mountain after several people disappeared unexplainably during the middle part of the 20th century. [image: Andy Arthur / Flickr]

The 4.8 mile hike through ponderosa pine forest to the Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout is fairly uneventful, but hikers are in for a big payoff at the…

The 4.8 mile hike through ponderosa pine forest to the Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout is fairly uneventful, but hikers are in for a big payoff at the end: front row seats to the jagged spine of Rocky Mountain National Park. [image: Kimon Berlin / Flickr]

The 3.2-mile trail to the manned lookout atop Mt. Washburn defies critics who claim you can’t see all of Yellowstone in a day. Look for bighorn sheep…

The 3.2-mile trail to the manned lookout atop Mt. Washburn defies critics who claim you can’t see all of Yellowstone in a day. Look for bighorn sheep on the way up before enjoying balcony views of the Absaroka Range, Hayden Valley, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. [image: Paul Chisholm]

The visual spectacle at the top of the .5 mile Heaven’s Gate National Recreation Trail may make you think you’ve been transported to the afterlife.…

The visual spectacle at the top of the .5 mile Heaven’s Gate National Recreation Trail may make you think you’ve been transported to the afterlife. Views extend from the top of He Devil Peak to the depths of Hells Canyon, 8,000 feet below. [image: Paul Chisholm]

One of the last remaining fire towers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this 80-foot tall fire tower commands the skyline above Fontana Dam,…

One of the last remaining fire towers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this 80-foot tall fire tower commands the skyline above Fontana Dam, the highest impoundment east of the Rockies. [image: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia]