Mount Hood National Forest
Active; Currently standing
Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.
July 24, 2021
National Historic Lookout Register.
My partner and I decided to explore somewhere a little closer to home this weekend. We set out seeking dispersed camp spots near Sisi Butte L.O. with the expectation of hiking to it before heading out the next morning. We figured we would have to spend the majority of the day finding a camp spot since Mount Hood NF is a popular area, but we were able to find one fairly early in the day. After finding camp we decided we had enough day light to hike up to Sisi Butte L.O. that evening instead. We found the gated road NF-120 off of NF-4220. Driving here with my Civic posed no issues. We almost drove past it since it wasn’t signed, but after seeing previous trip reports with pictures of the gate we knew we were at the right road. There are no trails up to the summit and they keep the road gated to help deter vandals. The only way to reach the lookout is via road walking. It’s a fairly easy 3 miles one-way with 1,400 feet of elevation gain. Just remember to not block the gate when you park your car. Given the condition of the road, we most likely would’ve had to walk to the summit even if it wasn’t gated. We passed a trailer camped in a pull out on the hike up where the full-time lookout attendant stays during the night instead of in the tower. The trailer didn’t appear to be currently occupied. Sisi Butte L.O. is staffed in high fire danger so we knew there would be an active lookout attendant when we reached the summit. Always make sure to be respectful of the active lookout attendant’s space and only climb the tower if you’ve been invited up. When we reached the summit we were greeted by Brent who was the lookout fill in for the weekend. We assumed the full time lookout that stays here during the week must have gone to town since they weren’t in their trailer. Brent invited us up and offered to let us explore the cab. It was his first official day up there for the season. Wildfire season had already started but we were lucky enough to get some spectacular views that weren’t completely hazy. We chatted with Brent for a while about wildfires and other lookouts in the area. He used to be a wildland fire fighter and was very knowledgeable on the subject. He showed us the active Bruler Fire, that was burning on the Deschutes NF, with the fire finder. He said it was the only one he could currently see. I found it interesting that he didn’t stay in the lookout cab either. He lived close enough to make the drive up and down everyday during the weekends. We didn’t want to pester him too long so we said our good byes, thanked him for the visit, and started our hike back down.
I couldn’t find information on the first lookout that was built on this butte except that it was sometime in the 1940s. It was later replaced with a 40′ tower and standard L-4 cab in 1953. It served as the main lookout until it was dismantled in 1997 to prepare for the current lookout to be built. Similar to Calamity Butte, the current lookout is a 50′ tower with an octagonal cab. I’m not sure how many other lookouts where built in this style between 1996 and 2001 but these are the only two I’ve seen so far. The tower was in good condition despite missing its copper wires. Those help to ground it during a lightning storm. Brent said that instead of replacing the wire they are expected to vacate the area whenever a lightning storm passes through. He stated that it was low on their priority list for budget in replacements. They did recently do some maintenance around the base of the lookout though. They cut down all the trees closest to the lookout on the summit when it was threatened by the Riverside/Lionshead Fires. They hoped to create a more defensible space for fire breaks.
2 thoughts on “Sisi Butte L.O.”
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