Grasshopper Point & Rocky Butte

Former Lookouts

Location.

Mt. Hood National Forest

Date visited.

October 29, 2022

Trip Report.

View from Rocky Butte
Conduit in tree
Where the trail meets NF-130
Dead end at NF-130
Where the trail continues from NF-130

Ever since our first trip up to Rocky Butte (post) last winter, we have wanted to connect the trail to Grasshopper Point. We also wanted to squeeze one last backpacking trip in before calling our end of season. This isn’t a traditional backpacking destination given that it’s not in a wilderness and the trail is short. We planned to hike to Rocky Butte and drop our gear before continuing our hike to Grasshopper Point. Directions to the trailhead for Rocky Butte can be found in my previous post. There is an old fire ring on the summit of Rocky Butte that was most likely left over from when it was in service and where we would set up camp for the night. Oregon Hikers (post) has marked this hike as a lost hike, so continue at your own risk. We pin pointed our bearing with a compass and ranger district map before starting the remainder of our hike. Or I should say, my partner did this and I watched to learn. This is helpful if you know where you are currently located on a map and where you are wanting to head. It will help keep you on track in the general direction from point A to point B. Continuing up and over Rocky Butte the trail is still well defined. We followed this to the first road crossing with NF-130 and picked the trail up down the road to the left. From here the trail alternated between visible tread and following the flagging. There were only a few spots that caused us to pause and search a bit harder for flagging, cut logs, or a blaze in the trees. The cross-country hiking here is fairly easy and could still be accomplished by following the path of least resistance along the compass bearing. We reached a second road crossing with NF-140 that had an OHV trail #475 sign on the ground pointing towards an old decommissioned road. We followed this well worn tread until we spotted an old trail sign for #475 nailed in a tree off to the left. Reading the detailed description from Oregon Hikers led us to believe we should turn here. There was also another old sign nailed to a tree off to the right side of the OHV trail. This implied that the hiker use trail crossed the OHV trail here. After searching around the signed tree we were unable to find any obvious tread or flagging to indicate a trail. We decided to follow the OHV trail instead since it was well defined and if it truly did follow the old NF-142 road it would get us close enough to cross country back to the actual trail.

Trail condition example: tree flagging & worn down log
Where the trail meets NF-140
Trail #475 OHV sign
Start of OHV trail on abandoned NF-142
Trail #475 hiker sign
Trail condition example: visible tread

We followed the road tread until it petered out and turned into a user trail with flagging to the left. This eventually connected to a more obvious trail that we could only assume was the one we needed. It seemed well defined heading both left and right, but given the lack of trail near the signs we found we didn’t believe it stayed that way for too long. We turned right to continue towards Grasshopper Point. There were patches of snow through out the trail as we gained elevation, but now most of the trail was covered. Someone had been here fairly recently as we started to follow footprints. I assumed they were a hunter given that it was Elk Season and not many other people head out this way during this time of year. It’s always good to be aware of your state hunting seasons when recreating in the shoulder season. We like to use the big game magazine to gauge the risk of the area by checking the type of hunt and number of tags taken out. We also wear blaze orange beanies while hiking during hunting season. This felt particularly necessary since we were hiking on a less traveled trail and somewhat cross-country. We followed the snowy track and footprints all the way to the NF-4860 road crossing. There is a post here to mark the trail for OHV users. The footprints and trail continued directly across the road to head up the final side of the point. We followed the footprints and flagging for a while but it seemed like the trail started to head down the slope. The footprints had also disappeared and deviated from the trail here. We decided to head straight up the slope instead of following the trail down. This is were things got confusing for us. We figured we were very close but couldn’t find anything in the obvious clearings. The description we had of the area wasn’t very helpful either and, if anything, confused us more. We spent a good chunk of time backtracking and circling around the broad summit. We were about to give up and start heading back when my partner stumbled upon the foundation blocks. Success! It looks like some of them have been moved from their original location, but they are still there. I will continue the directions from where we left the “trail”. After heading up the slope to the flat summit, you will continue farther until you reach a well defined road. This road was not listed on our ranger district map. Where we came out there was a post which made us think this was at one time a trail. Take a left on the road and follow it. The road makes a bend to the right where we found another post with a US Forest Service marker off to the left. This also seemed to be marking a “trail” and might be where the trail we were following earlier comes out but I can’t say for sure. We continued on the road past the bend. Shortly after this the road makes a fork. The left fork is faint while the right fork is defined. If you head down the faint left fork you can find the foundation off to the left of the road. It is in a rocky area and might be hard to spot if you’re not looking closely. We saved ourselves any further confusion on the way back by going the same way and avoiding the other potential “trails”. This hike was around 4.7 miles RT with 1,010′ in elevation gain.

The user trail we connected via NF-142 (left); Main #475 trail (right)
Where the trail meets NF-4860
NF-4860
Where the trail continues across NF-4860
Old post where we met the unmarked road
Unmarked road heading left
Where I think the real “trail” meets the unmarked road
Post at real “trail” junction
Fork in unmarked road, head left to find foundation

History.

Grasshopper Point (5,385′).

Former Fire Lookout Site Register: US 597; OR 38

A tower was first built on Grasshopper Point in 1933 as a 72′ timber tower with L-6 cab. The following winter it was blown over during a storm. They re-erected the tower in 1934. I’m inclined to believe they built it taller given other sources list it as an 84′ treater timber tower, but it’s also possible these are conflicting heights. It was used as an Aircraft Warning Station in the 1940s. Old photos show there was a cabin for living quarters and another structure that was either used for storage or a garage at the base. It was last staffed in 1964 and destroyed sometime between 1967 and 1969 by intentional burning.

Rocky Butte (4,796′).

Not registered on the National Historic Lookout or the Former Fire Lookout Site Register.

There is minimal information on when Rocky Butte was built but it pre-dates 1930. It was most likely abandoned in the 1930s or 1940s, but still stands today. This crows nest sits atop a 60′ Ponderosa pine. The guy wires, some of the top boards, and most of the ladder are still present.

a rudimentary outline of our route

Larch & Pepper Mountain

Former Lookouts

Location.

Mt. Hood National Forest; Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area

Date visited.

October 23, 2022

Trip Report.

The fires this season might have been late to arrive, but they have also been late to leave. Rain was finally in the forecast for the weekend after an unusually dry and smoky start to October. They were even calling for snow on peaks as low as 5,000′ which meant we would have to start limiting our options. We decided to focus on former lookout sites close by after I vetoed driving down to Bland Mountain and Tiller area for a one night trip. I was craving a slower weekend after being in Minnesota for a week, camping with Garnet’s dad for a weekend, and then Arizona the weekend after that. We settled on Pepper Mountain for one and decided to add Larch Mountain since they were off the same road. The gate up to Larch Mountain was still open for the season too (it closes around mid-November depending on snow levels). We headed out of town just after 8AM only briefly following I-84 into the Columbia River Gorge until we reached exit 22 towards Corbett. We followed Corbett Hill Road and signs towards the Vista House until it met up with E Larch Mountain Road. You will want to take the fork off to the right to head towards Larch Mountain. We stayed on this road for a little over 4 miles and turned left onto SE Brower Road. From this road we were looking for NF-1500 off to the right. This can be found just under 2 miles down Brower road and has a notable shelter at the junction. This is used as a private drive as well so we parked in a pull out just a few 100 yards past the road. This is where we started our hike up to Pepper Mountain.

Trail leading Left to summit
Trail leading Right to viewpoint

We hiked along the NF-1500 road to a junction just before we reached the residence. There is an old overgrown road off to the right of the house that you will want to take. We followed this until we met a fork in the trail. It is a faint junction, so pay close attention. If you head left, it will take you to the summit. If you head right, there is a view point out towards the Tualatin Hills. The trail heading left has a lot more brush and is less defined, but was still easy enough to follow. I would recommend long pants for this hike no matter the season since there are a lot of prickly berry bushes along the route. As we were hiking up, we spotted a cable along the side of the trail. I thought maybe it could be an old guy wire from the former lookout, but others mention it was used for logging the area. The trail eventually dead ends at a small clearing on the summit that was the former lookout site. There are no remaining views which made it an appealing pick for a rainy weekend. Most trip reports from the area mentioned there were no longer any remains on the summit. We found that hard to believe and did a thorough search of the surrounding area. I found a hole which I thought looked like a filled in pit toilet area (it’s possible it was just a hole though) and my partner was able to find some old cement blocks that must have been part of the foundation. Some were fairly mossy and appeared to just be large rocks at first, but upon closer inspection were obviously man made. They looked like they had been dug up and tossed from their original location. We speculated this probably happened whenever they logged the area. Fairly satisfied with our find, we headed back to the car to continue on to Larch Mountain. This hike was roughly 2 miles round trip with 700′ in elevation gain.

We headed back from SE Brower Road and turned left to head farther up E Larch Mountain Road. I didn’t do much prior research on how to get to Larch Mountain, but I was fairly certain this road would dead end at the summit. If not, I knew it was a popular enough area to have signs. Shortly after leaving Brower Road, we entered the Larch Mountain Corridor. This is a protected area around Larch Mountain designated for recreation. As we drove further up the mountain, we started passing multiple cars in pull outs. We joked that this was all the overflow parking for the Larch Mountain trailhead, but figured that they were more than likely mushroom foragers given the recent rain. That is until we passed the base camp of some very official white vehicles with flashing lights. It was a search and rescue operation. Who or what they were looking for was unclear, but there were a lot of them. Almost every pull out up to the summit of Larch Mountain was filled with official or volunteer vehicles. We continued on since there was no area closure or blockade, but it was a bit unsettling. A half of a mile from the summit we started seeing snow. It was mostly melted on the pavement, but it looked like it received at least an inch or two recently. This was a surprise given that the forecast only called for snow in the 5,000′ range. We seem to be making hard shifts into our seasons this year. We reached the summit shortly after we met the snow and parked the car. There were 11 other cars here around noon. I assume on a clear sunny day this parking lot is already full by this time.

From the parking lot, we decided to set out to find the old foundation spot first. We were able to locate this quickly by heading up the paved trail between the bathrooms and picnic area. It was less than half a mile from the parking lot. There isn’t much left besides a few foundation blocks, a cement slab where the storage shed was located, and the retaining wall. But, I’m glad they didn’t pave over it when developing the area. I believe you can connect to Sherrard Point from here and make a loop, but it looked slick with the recent snow coverage. We headed back to the parking lot and headed to the right where there’s a sign for Sherrard Point. This is a flatter portion of the paved trail that will take you to the stairs that lead up to the point. It is also less than half a mile from the parking lot. Both areas play a role in Larch Mountain’s fire history. We decided to have our lunch on Sherrard Point since no one else was here at the time. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much of a view due to the clouds. We had planned to continue our hike around the crater of Larch Mountain to get some additional exercise, but the unplanned snow and minimal day light left dissuaded us. We saw what we had set out to see and that was enough for us this time. We took the lazy approach to this summit by driving there and not hiking around the rim. But if you’re up for a challenge, Larch Mountain can also be accessed from the Multnomah Falls trailhead via a 14 mile round trip hike. As we drove back down the paved road, we passed the Search and Rescue team again. This time they had all gathered in a group and some of them even had overnight packs on. We tried to do more research on this when we were back in town, but they hadn’t posted anything about it. A healthy reminder to research an area before you visit, know your limits, and come prepared with the 10 essentials. We all assume a risk when recreating outside, but accidents can happen. I hope whoever they were searching for is ok and located quickly.

History.

Pepper Mountain (2,137′).

Former Fire Lookout Site Register: US 1759; OR 504

Built in 1937 as a 10′ wooden tower with L-4 cab. It was briefly used for the Aircraft Warning Service between 1942 and 1943. The tower was abandoned in 1955. It was removed sometime afterward 1957, but I couldn’t find a specific date or year. Old panoramic photos from 1933 show a crows nest style lookout in the picture. I am unsure how long the site was used for fire detection prior to that picture.

Larch Mountain (4,058′).

Former Fire Lookout Site Register: US 609; OR 50

The site was established for fire detection as early as 1910 when a fire finder was used on the rocky outcropping of Sherrard Point. Between 1914 and 1915 a platform cab was built atop two 90′ fir trees. It was replaced by a 90′ steel tower with 7’x7′ cab and accompanying ground house in 1924. This site was used for the Aircraft Warning Service as well between 1942 and 1943. The last structure to be built on the summit was in 1945. They replaced the steel tower with a tall timber tower and L-4 cab with observation deck below for visitors. I am unsure of the actual height of the tower due to conflicting information from multiple sites, but it was somewhere between 80′ and 100′. The lookout structure was removed in 1976.

More Information.

Oregon Hikers (Pepper; Larch)

AllTrails (Larch)

US Forest Service (Larch)

Friend of the Columbia Gorge (Larch)

Green Point L.O.

Former Lookouts, Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Siuslaw National Forest; Cascade Head Experimental Forest

Status.

Abandoned; Partially standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

2 hours

Date visited.

April 23, 2022

Elevation.

1,303′

National Historic Lookout Register.

No

Trip Report.

Green Point, not to be confused with Green Mountain, Green Butte, Green Peter, or Green Ridge, is a crows nest located outside the community of Otis within the Oregon coastal range. You can access the community of Otis via HWY-101 or HWY-18. From Otis, you will want to follow the Old Scenic Highway towards the Cascade Experimental Forest Headquarters. Continue on past the headquarters until you reach a four way junction. Turn right here onto NF-1861 until you reach the road with a gate off to the left. Park here. All roads were in good condition for driving a low clearance vehicle.

The above map shows our rudimentary route. The black dots indicate our driving route with the larger dots representing Otis, Green Point, Cascade Experimental Forest Headquarters, and our parked car. The purple indicates our hiking route. We parked the car in a pull out across from an old road with a gate. You could potentially park at the gate, but someone was already parked here during our visit. I’m not sure what they were doing since they were just sitting in their car, but I’m sure they thought the same about us. Especially, after we headed uphill into the brush. We had drove to the junction past this gated road initially because there was supposed to be another road off to the left that headed closer to the summit. We weren’t able to find any indication of an old road along this section. We hiked a bit up the gated road, but it just followed around the point. It was also significantly overgrown and brushed over by prickly berry bushes. It seemed easier to head cross-country to the summit instead. We started up at an angle from the junction towards the high point. It was fairly easy and open walking for a while, but as we grew closer to the summit we were met with downed trees and thicker brush. I didn’t expect it to be a walk in the park, it is the coast range after all, but this section made me want to turn around. My partner encouraged me to continue on and we eventually broke through into another open area. We followed some game trails until we reached the plateau that is Green Point. It is fairly flat on the summit with a nice park-like stand of trees. We searched around for a while until we found the correct tree. It was on the more northern side of the summit right before it slopes down again.

Heading back down, it was much easier to find a more open route that avoided most of the brush. We were even able to find the old road bed. It was only visible due to the cut bank, otherwise completely overgrown. It was virtually invisible from the main road and un-walkable. Actually, the whole area was overgrown near the main road. We had to push through a dense thicket to get back on the road to our car. There were two bikers stopped and talking on the road where we were headed out. I’m sure they were caught off guard when we emerged out of the brush for no apparent reason. We tried to act casual and headed back to the car. The only marker to identify where to start is a paper plate nailed to a tree with a 3 spray painted on it. This is the better route even if it might not look like it from the road.

History.

Green Point used to have a 53′ pole lookout tower with L-4 cab and garage built by the CCC in 1939. It was used for aircraft surveillance in 1942 and later destroyed in a windstorm during 1951. The crows nest pre-dates the tower and was added to the summit in 1933. I’d say this one doubles as a former fire lookout site and existing lookout.

Watson Butte L.O.

Former Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Collapsed during the winter season 2021/2022

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

July 2, 2022

Elevation.

5,687′

National Historic Lookout Register.

No

Trip Report.

Day 8/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

We headed out from camp towards HWY-138 once more. Today we were backtracking to Watson Butte and Pig Iron. They are located on opposite ends of the same ridgeline. This made it an easy day for driving since they were both along the same route. From HWY-138 heading east, we turned left on to Mowich Loop Road. The road does as it describes and loops back around to HWY-138. That means there are two opportunities to turn onto this road. If you are coming from Diamond Lake, you will want to take the second turn off to the right that is across from Stump Lake near milepost 67. Technically, both will get you to where you want to go but it’s shorter from this route. We bumped down a pothole filled road until we came to a junction. If you continue straight, it will take you to the Clearwater Forebay. You will want to turn right to stay on Mowich Loop Road. There is a gate here that is seasonally closed to winter traffic. The road improved after the gate but still had a few potholes to avoid. Eventually, you will come to an unmarked T-junction. Mowich Loop Road continues to the right and NF-100 is to the left. We turned left on to NF-100. If you stay on this road it will take you all the way to the gate for Pig Iron L.O. We decided to visit Watson Butte first.

NF-170 sign
Looking at Watson Saddle junction from NF-170

From NF-100, we turned on the first road off to the right. This is the NF-150 spur and does have a sign. We were slightly worried about the roads after seeing the condition of the Mowich Loop Road. The rest of the route was along three number spurs and we hoped we would be able to get close enough to make the hike. We were pleasantly surprised to find the three number roads were in better condition. The only road hazards we met along NF-150 were downed trees. Some of the trees were already cleared by tree cutters, but some were not. We had a buck saw with us and decided to do some road maintenance for the Forest Service. And by we, I mean my partner. I helped clear the area once the trees had been cut though. NF-150 eventually leads to a odd 5-way junction at the Watson Saddle. On the topo map, the road we wanted was labeled NF-164. Based on the directions from the Forest Service, you should take the road farthest to the right. Most of the roads at the junction are not marked though. We were able to find an NF-170 road marker on the road farthest to the right. This was confusing to us since it didn’t match the road numbers on the map and NF-170 should be off to the left. But, It did look like the road most traveled and was farthest off to the right as the Forest Service had recommended. We headed up NF-170 to the right until we were met with a section that started to get brushy. This made us second guess our decision and we headed back to the odd junction. We walked around the junction looking for any confirmation that NF-170 was the correct road. Eventually, we gave up and drove back up NF-170 to the brushy section. We parked in a pull out on the exposed portion of the road just past the brush and decided to start walking.

Where the old road bed starts
Where the trail starts
trail conditions
can you spot the trail?

The Manzanita and Ceanothus were encroaching on the road in some portions and there were a couple down trees, but otherwise it wasn’t in terrible shape. There was a point in the road where it opened up to a view of what we assumed to be Watson Butte. I could see signs of a structure, but it was hard to tell exactly what I was looking at from that distance. I thought it looked collapsed, but I was hopeful my view was just obstructed. We walked for about a mile until we came to the trailhead. There is still a sign noting where the Watson Butte Trail #1443 starts. There was even enough room for a couple cars to park. It is obvious that this trail doesn’t see much use. From the trailhead, it is another 1.1 miles to the summit gaining around 600′ in elevation. We started out by following an old decommissioned road bed until it met with the base of the butte. The trail started to gain more elevation once we left the road. The trail continues faintly through a mostly shaded forest. It was especially faint among the switchbacks. We were able to stay on track by looking for the trail bench in the more overgrown sections. The final push is steep, but eventually opens up to an exposed summit. My partner had made it to the summit before me and I called out to ask if it was still there. He was oddly quiet in response. Eventually, I rounded the corner and saw why. We were too late. We had known Watson Butte L.O. was in bad shape and had been for years, which is why it was on our priority list to visit. There were posts of it standing the year before and we thought we had time. But, we were still too late. Watson Butte L.O. was nothing more than a pile of boards.

I’m not sure if we were the first to discover this or even hike the trail this year, but we were the first to report on it. Nothing can prepare you for coming upon a fire lookout you thought would be standing only to find it destroyed. My partner was in disbelief and even speculated that maybe someone vandalized it. But, to me, it looked like it had succumbed to the elements and time. We had a moment of silence for the lookout that once was before heading back down. It was a sad reminder that we are not going to be able to see them all standing. Some will burn in our ever present fire season, some will be removed by the Forest Service, and others will simply waste away in time. But for now, up a confusing network of poorly marked roads to an overgrown and fading trail you can still hike to what remains of Watson Butte L.O.

History.

Umpqua National Forest Archive – Sept 1942

Normally, I only like to post pictures I’ve taken myself of the Fire Lookouts but I decided to make an exception for Watson Butte. This lookout was built in the 1930s as an L-4 ground cabin. The Forest Service notes this as being built in 1934, but other sources claim it was built in 1937. Either way it had been standing for at least the last 84 years. Before the lookout structure was built, it was established as a camp and a telephone line was extended to the summit in 1920. It hasn’t been actively staffed since the 1960s. At one point there was talk of salvaging it for the rental program, but this never happened. According to Facebook, the last person to have record of it standing was on May 24, 2021. It most likely collapsed under the snow during the winter of 2021/2022.

4 Popular Hikes That Are Former Fire Lookout Sites

Former Lookouts

In the prime of fire suppression, Oregon had over 800 fire lookouts and Washington had 750 fire lookouts topped on almost every high peak in both the states. Many were dismantled, destroyed, or burned down in a blaze of glory. But remains of the foundation can usually be found on the summits as a reminder to what once stood. Below lists 4 popular hikes close to Portland, OR that have a history in fire detection and lookouts.

Beacon Rock

Location.

Beacon Rock State Park – Columbia River Gorge

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1 hour

Mileage.

1.5 miles RT

Elevation.

730′

Beacon rock is one of the tallest monoliths in North America and stands at 848 feet tall. It is also considered one of the most distinctive geological features in the Columbia River Gorge. The route follows a mostly blasted and bridged trail on the exposed west side of the rock. Parts of the trail have been paved over throughout the years and is completely lined with handrails. It is basically just a series of short continuous switchbacks to the summit. The history behind Beacon Rock is extensive and interesting. The feature itself was once the core of a volcano and what remains is what was able to withstand the force of ice-age floods. It was noted and named as Beacon Rock by Lewis & Clark during their voyage in 1805. Though I’m sure it had a different name for those native to the area. It was even slated for demolition at one point for either railroad construction or a new jetty on the Columbia River Gorge. Henry Biddle bought the rock and surrounding area before this happened. He is also the one who originally built the trail between 1915 to 1918. His property was later offered to the Washington State Parks by his estate for $1. The Washington State Parks originally refused this offer until Oregon expressed interest in maintaining it as a park. It was purchased by the Washington State Parks in 1935. Although you won’t find any remnants of a former lookout structure on the summit of this rock, it does have a history in fire detection. Given the height of the rock, it was used as a fire detection camp from the 1930s up until the 1950s when it was abandoned. I’ve hiked this trail more than any other trail and with more people than any other trail I’ve every hiked. It is a good beginner trail or trail for showing your out of town friends to a quick hike.

More Information.

Oregon Hikers

AllTrails

Saddle Mountain

Location.

Saddle Mountain State Natural Area

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1-1/2 hours

Mileage.

5.2 miles RT

Elevation.

3,283′

The top of Saddle Mountain offers expansive views from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Mt Hood. It is no question why they would want to have a lookout on this summit. The trail switchbacks through an old growth forest until you reach the last push up the rocky slope. Parts of the trail are covered in mesh wiring to help with erosion and traction. It is a steep 1,640′ gain in elevation over 2.5 miles to the summit. Saddle Mountain was established as a fire camp in 1913 with a log cabin situated below the summit. In 1920, a frame cabin with observation platform was built. It was replaced in 1953 by a 2-story live-in cabin. The lookout structure was destroyed in 1966. I have been on this summit a few different times but didn’t take the time to look for any remnants of foundation.

More Information.

Oregon Hikers

AllTrails

Dog Mountain

Location.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest – Columbia River Gorge

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1-1/2 hours

Mileage.

6.5 miles RT

Elevation.

2,480′

Stretching my calves on the way up
wildflowers on the trail!
Near the summit where we turned around

Dog Mountain is a very popular hike in the Columbia River Gorge due to its proximity to town and being right off of HWY-14. In the spring, between March 31st and July 1st, permits are required to hike this trail on the weekends. This is due to the hazardous conditions created for the cars on the highway by the overflow of people during wildflower season. There are a few different routes and loops that can be done to reach the summit once at the trailhead. My friend and I completed this hike on a hot July day before the permit system was in place. We arrived to the trailhead early to give us enough time to reach the summit and attempt to beat the crowds. We took the “less difficult” route which is the newer trail and offers more views on your steep climb up. We made it just past the former fire lookout site, also known as the Puppy Dog Lookout site, before turning around. I vaguely remember there still being some foundation there. The trail originally was developed to service this fire lookout that was destroyed in 1967. The original lookout was constructed in 1931 as a gable-roofed L-4 cab with windows only on three sides. It was replaced in 1953 by a standard L-4 cab. Both structures were located 1/4 mile from the actual summit of Dog Mountain. I used to have more pictures from this hike, even one of us standing on the former lookout site, but they have been lost in multiple phone transitions since 2017.

More Information.

Oregon Hikers

AllTrails

Mt. Defiance

Location.

Mt Hood National Forest – Columbia River Gorge

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1 hour

Mileage.

12.5 miles RT

Elevation.

4,960′

Mt Rainier
Mt Adams
Mt Hood
Mt Saint Helens & Wind Mountain

Mt. Defiance is one of the more brutal hikes I’ve done. It is the highest peak in the Columbia River Gorge and offers views out towards Mt Hood NF as well. This made it the perfect candidate for a fire lookout site. I recommend starting this hike early if you want to make it to the summit and back before dark. Or at least hike a lot faster than I do. We didn’t start this hike until mid-morning and ended up getting back to the car after dark. The hike starts out paved and passes some pretty waterfalls. Once you have reached the junction with the un-paved trail you will start to go up and continue to go up the rest of the way. There are still some communication buildings on the summit and I’m sure there are foundation remnants if you spend some time looking for them. We didn’t spend much time here since it took me so long to get there. The trail had recently re-opened after the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. The ashy portions of the trail made for un-stable ground and was hard for me on the hike down. By the time I got back to the car my feet felt like they were going to fall off completely. The first fire lookout on this site was a crow’s nest and tent in 1925. A more substantial structure was built in 1934 as a 40′ pole tower with L-4 cab. This was eventually replaced by a 41′ treated timber tower with L-4 cab in 1952. In 1959, the lookout was destroyed by a windstorm. The Forest Service didn’t build a replacement lookout until 1962 which was a R-6 flat top cab and 41′ treated timber tower. It was completely removed from the summit in 1971.

Struggling on the way up, but with a view!
Dying on the summit, also with view!

More Information.

Oregon Hikers

AllTrails

Bull of the Woods L.O.

Former Lookouts, Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Bull of the Woods Wilderness; Mount Hood National Forest

Status.

Burned in Bull Complex Fire; September 6, 2021

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1-1/2 hours

Date visited.

September 23, 2018

Elevation.

5,520′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Incident Management Team officials confirmed last night that the Bull of the Woods Lookout located within the Bull of the Woods Wilderness was lost due to fire activity yesterday. This lookout was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and frequently visited by those who enjoy the history and background of Fire Lookouts. “We acknowledge that losing this historic Lookout is a loss that will be felt by many in the area and beyond,” said Rick Connell, Incident Commander of NR Team 4.

Over the past several weeks as the fire moved towards the historic Lookout, several actions had been taken by firefighters to protect it. Plans to wrap the Lookout in structure wrap material were made several times but had to be cancelled due to dangerous conditions to firefighter safety and the unavailability of trained personnel. Working on dangerously high and structurally compromised materials in a remote wilderness location to wrap a structure requires firefighters who are specifically trained for that type of work. If a person falls from a high surface without appropriate fall protection training and equipment the consequences could be severe. The extremely steep terrain on all sides of the Lookout’s location also creates dangerous wildfire conditions where fire can move quickly uphill without warning. The combination of safe forecasted fire behavior conditions and trained personnel needed were never able to converge for structure wrapping. The safety of the public and firefighters is always the highest priority in fire response.

On August 31 a helicopter rappelling fire crew flew to the site and cleared trees and brush around the Lookout to make it more defensible. The crew could not safely remain at the site since it was on steep terrain directly in front of the approaching fire. For the past six days numerous hours of helicopter flight time had been used to drop water to slow the movement towards and intensity of the fire near the lookout. Yesterday, smoke obscured visibility on the north side of the fire and it wasn’t safe to fly aviation in that area.

On September 5 fire activity increased on three slope aspects below the Lookout site. This type of fire behavior is what was concerning for firefighter safety every time the discussion came up about firefighters working at the Lookout site. A smoke inversion and active fire behavior limited visibility for aircraft to safely fly and limited the tactical operations that could be performed for fire suppression. There are no safety zones or roads near the Lookout for firefighters to safely engage in firefighting on the ground. The fire was also making a push and threatening multiple values at risk on other portions of the fire at the same time. It is disappointing to see a historic structure like this Lookout destroyed by fire. However, many photos and stories have been preserved to continue to tell the story of the Bull of the Woods Lookout for years to come

-Mt Hood NF, September 6th 2021

Trip Report.

I’m reminiscing about this beautiful fire lookout in the middle of a rugged Oregon wilderness. Unlike most fire lookouts, there are no roads that lead here. Access was via the multiple interlocking trails found in the wilderness. The most direct route, and the one I took to get there, was the Bull of the Woods Trail #550. The trail switchbacks through shady woods until you crest the ridge line. You will gain 1,250 feet of elevation over 3.2 miles. Once you reach the ridge you are exposed to spectacular views as far as Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, and Three Fingered Jack.

I hiked this trail with one of my good friends back in September 2018. I feel lucky now that we were able to see this when it was still standing. NF-6340 was a decent gravel road up until the end where it was rutted out due to people driving it in wet conditions. But my Civic was able to make it to the trailhead with some careful maneuvering. It was a colder day that felt like the beginning of fall. The understory was still wet from a recent rain and the clouds were rolling over the sun throughout the day. We had the trail to ourselves for the entire hike up and our summit lunch. It wasn’t until we were packing up to leave that we met an older couple and their dog at the summit. They even made a comment about my Civic being at the trailhead and that they were impressed it made it up there.

History.

This lookout was an L-4 built in 1942 and regularly used until 1963. The forest service intermittently staffed it in high fire danger until the mid-1980s. In the early 2000s, volunteers with the Sand Mountain Society helped renovate it but it had seen better days. When I visited in 2018 the cabin was shuttered and locked aside from the few boards that were pried off and a broken window. The catwalk was mostly useable but had some broken boards as well. Unfortunately, its structural integrity is a moot point, given that it burned in the 2021 Bull Complex fire. The trail and forest will recover and still make for a great day hike once the area is reopened.

My heart breaks as we lose more of these historic structures every year. All I can do is hope that I get a chance to experience them while they’re still here!