​​Fire Lookout Rentals in Idaho

​​10 Unforgettable Fire Lookout Rentals in Idaho

Renting an Idaho Fire Lookout is hands down one of the most memorable experiences you can do. The views, sunset, sunrise, storms, and that feeling of sitting on top of the world are something everyone should experience.

From sweeping views to some of the best hiking in the nation, Idaho is an ideal location for camping novices and veterans alike. One of the latest additions to the Idahoan camping world are fire lookout rentals. 

Idaho is one of the few states left with multiple fire towers available for rent. Read on for ten Idaho fire lookout rentals ideal for your next adventure!

How To Rent An Idaho Fire Lookout

Booking an Idaho Fire Lookout can be tough especially for the more popular locations. The majority of Idaho Lookouts release their rental dates in early July and they do fill up quickly.

I recommend picking a few lookouts that interest you and setting a reminder in your calendar for when the reservations start. The booking dates can be found in the links provided for each fire lookout and generally start in early July but some come as early as February so plan ahead.

Fire Lookout Renting Tips

Below I’ve done my best to accurately list all amenities for the fire lookouts but things can change so be sure to check with the Forest Service for additional details using the links provided.

In addition here are some basic things to know and do when renting a fire lookout tower.

  • Entry is by combination lock; Refer to combination code on your rental confirmation.
  • Fire lookouts don’t have drinking water. Some may have springs or creaks nearby but you must treat or boil your water
  • Bring garbage bags; all lookouts are ‘pack it in-pack it out’ and try to leave them better than you found them
  • Lookouts have brooms and mops, please use them
  • Wastewater should be strained and all food particles should be packed out; remaining water should be poured in a hole away from lookout
  • No smoking allowed in lookouts and some do not allow cooking indoors.
  • Please seal food in rodent-proof containers or coolers. Some lookouts in Bear country require Bear proof containers.
  • Bring your own sleeping bags, pads and warm clothes for cold nights as only some lookouts offer heating.
  • No electricity so bring headlamps and extra batteries.
  • All lookouts have primitive pit toilets that are located nearby but bring toilet paper as that is not provided
  • Don’t Move Firewood: Prevent the spread of tree-killing pests by obtaining firewood near your destination and burning it on-site. For more information visit dontmovefirewood.org.

Arid Peak Lookout

arid peak fire lookout rental idaho
Photo Credit: Forest Lookouts

Access: Hike in only, 5 mile round-trip

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own or filter from nearby creek

Facilities: Propane stove and lights available(must bring your own 16oz (green) canisters

Season: Late June to September

First established in 1934, the Arid Peak Lookout was primarily used for watching fires caused by the nearby railway. 

The observation post closed in 1969 and sat abandoned for almost 30 years. A team renovated the lookout tower for campers in the 90s, and it has since become a beloved fire lookout rental.

Arid Peak delivers an unflinching look at Bitterroot Mountains. The famed Hiawatha Bicycle Trail cuts through the lookout base and offers views of the Loop Creek area.

Arid Peak Lookout may be best suited for those with hiking experience. Getting to the tower requires a 5-mile steep hike, and it is not accessible by car. 

Arid Peak has specific dates set for booking. The dates available are generally June through August. Make sure you book ASAP to secure your stay!

Bald Mountain Lookout

bald mountain idaho fire lookout rental
Photo Credit: Nez Perce

Access: High clearance vehicle, trailer not recommended

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own

Facilities: Propane stove and lights available(must bring your own 16oz (green) canisters. Cooking utensils and plates provided.

Season: July to October

If you or your camping partners are a bit less experienced, Bald Mountain Lookout is perfect for you. Unless of course you don’t like heights as this lookout sits over 50 feet high.

First built in 1956 and operated until 1984, Bald Mountain first served as a lookout over the stunning Nez-Perce National Forest. The lookout tower sits 5,334 feet above sea level. Bald Mountain is one of the highest peaks in the Hoodoo Mountain range.

The Bald Mountain Lookout is accessible by car, although taking trailers up the summit is not recommended. Bookings operate on a 6-month rolling basis, and the watch is open from July to October.

This location is also excellent for wildlife enthusiasts. Bears, elk, and moose frequent the bottom of the structure.

Castle Butte Lookout

castle butte fire lookout rental idaho
Photo Credit: Flickr Helpcraft

Access: High clearance vehicle, trailer not recommended. 100 foot walk to Lookout

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own

Facilities: No electricity. Propane stove and lights provided including propane

Season: July to September

Situated on top of a boulder field, Castle Butte is one of the more unique lookouts on this list. You can access the lookout base by road, but getting to the entrance requires a 100-foot climb on rocky terrain.

Castle Butte was initially a cabin constructed in 1916 and remained a cabin until 1950. Eventually, it became a fire lookout. 

The Castle Butte Lookout towers at almost 6,000 feet above sea level and overlooks the Seven Devils Mountains and the Great Burn region. The Lolo Trail is a short walk away from the outlook, allowing visitors to hike the path once explored by Lewis and Clark.

Bookings operate on a rolling basis, and dates become available every six months. Castle Butte opens in early July and closes in September. 

Deadwood Lookout Recreation Cabin

deadwood fire lookout rental

Access: High clearance vehicle

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own

Facilities: No electricity. Wood burning stove, firewood not provided

Season: June to October

Historical, minimal, and surrounded by the Deadwood Forest, this fire lookout is one of the most popular lookout rentals in the state. 

Constructed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and in operation until 1974, the Deadwood lookout offers legendary views, visits from wildlife, and colorful wildflowers in the summer season. 

Things to keep in mind about the Deadwood cabin: 

You can access the cabin by car, but only in a high clearance vehicle. Deadwood has two lodging season options

The cabin is first come, first serve, which lasts for one week in June, and standard booking opens in late June and closes in October.

Deer Ridge Lookout

deer ridge fire lookout camping
Photo Credit: Sunset Magazine

Access: High clearance vehicle

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own

Facilities: No electricity. No cooking in the lookout tower

Season: June to October

This observation post has a 40-foot timber base and offers panoramic views of mountains in Idaho, Montana, and Canada. Explore the famous Kootenai River and mountain range, known for its glaciated terrain and challenging hikes.

The surrounding area is a mecca for hiking, wildlife and Fly fishing. During August and September you can even treat yourself to Huckleberry picking.

Accessing Deer Ridge Lookout is surprisingly easy. The gravel road leading to the outlook is well-maintained and accessible by most vehicles. 

You can reserve the Deer Ridge Lookout from early June to early October. The campsite releases availability every six months on a rolling basis.

Little Guard Lookout

little guard fire lookout camping
Photo Credit: Corey Vogel

Access: High clearance vehicle

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own, natural spring 1/2 mile by trail

Facilities: Downstairs kitchen with propane refrigerator, stove and basic cooking utensils(propane provided for these). Upstairs propane heaters and lights provided but must bring your own 16oz (green) Propane canisters.

Season: June to September

One of the last remaining towers in the Coeur d’Alene region, the Little Guard Lookout served as an operational fire lookout until the 90s. It was the first lookout tower in Idaho listed on the National Historic Lookout Registry.

Hiking is the primary recreational activity at Little Guard. Shoshone trail #81 is a short distance from the tower and is a great way to explore the area.

Little Guard Lookout consists of a two-story structure with a kitchen on the bottom level and living/sleeping quarters up top.

Little Guard Lookout opens in late June and closes in mid-September. Peak season dates are available starting in June. 

Lookout Butte Lookout

lookout butte idaho
Photo Credit: The Dyrt

Access: High clearance vehicle

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own

Facilities: No electricity, propane stove and oven provided

Season: July to September

Beloved for nearly 80 years and perched almost 6,000 feet above sea level, Lookout Butte is another most-visited fire lookout tower.

The Lookout Butte overlooks the Selway Crags in the Bitterroot Wilderness area, one of Idaho’s finest areas. A high-clearance vehicle can access the fire lookout by road.

Although this outlook is one of the most popular among campers, it is also one of highest and requires you to climb 5 flights of stairs.

Booking starts every six months on a rolling schedule. Peak season begins in mid-July and goes through mid-September.

Lunch Peak Lookout

lunch peak fire lookout

Access: High clearance vehicle

Bathroom: Pit toilet 300 feet away

Water: Bring your own

Facilities: No electricity, heat, or cooking utilities

Season: July to October

Lunch Peak is your best bet if you want to try living off-grid. This lookout offers no heat or water in the cabin and no cooking appliances. 

Do not let that deter you, however. Lunch Peak offers legendary views of the Cabinet Mountains that give you a camping experience you will not soon forget. The lookout tower stands at 6,414 feet above sea level. 

Bears, deer, elk, and cougars visit the areas around the lookout frequently, so make sure you and your camping partners practice proper safety measures. Lunch Peak enforces a food storage policy that requires any food to be kept in air-tight containers.

Lunch Peak is accessible by high-clearance vehicles, as the last four miles of the road leading to the tower are rough and unpredictable. 

The lookout begins bookings in late January. You can stay at Lunch Peak from late July to early October.

Shorty Peak Lookout

renting shorty peak lookout Idaho

Access: Hike in only, 5 mile round-trip

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own

Facilities: No electricity or cooking utilities. Propane heat is provided.

Season: June to October

Do not let the name fool you. This lookout sits up high in the alpine country! Accessing the outlook requires a steep 2.5-mile hike with a 1,300 elevation gain.

Equestrians enjoy the Shorty Peak Lookout as horses are allowed on the premises. Horseback riding is one of the top activities that draw visitors to the site. Those interested in birding will love Shorty Peak as birds of prey frequent the area. 

Shorty Peak accommodates two guests, so big camping groups may want to look elsewhere. Corrals and hitching racks for horses are not on the premises, so guests with horses should bring hobbles. 

Shorty Peak opens booking in January and July. Reservation season begins in late June and continues through early October.

Surveyors Lookout

Surveyors Lookout rental
Photo Credit Musgrove and the Pumi

Access: High clearance vehicle

Bathroom: Pit toilet

Water: Bring your own

Facilities: No electricity, propane stove, lights, and refrigerator provided(fridge did not work last time we went). Cooking utensils included.

Season: August to October

Perched atop a 30-foot timber structure over the hills of the Mallard-Larkins Pioneer Area, Surveyors Lookout is perfect for those looking for mind-blowing views.

Surveyors Lookout began operating as a fire lookout in 1931 and ceased operation in 1964. The lookout is on the National Historic Register for Lookouts list and offers views of the other unoccupied lookouts, such as: 

  • Snow Peak 
  • Middle Sister
  • Mallard Peak

Hunting, fishing, and rock climbing are the main recreational activities at Surveyors Lookout. Getting to the lookout by car is a straightforward approach, but low-clearance vehicles may struggle with the terrain and slick mud.

Hiking enthusiasts have several trails to choose from, such as:

  • The Scribner Falls Trail #106 
  • Surveyor’s Ridge #40
  • Horseshoe Loop Trail #141
  • Northbound Creek Trail #111

The lookout is available for rent from early August to late September. Booking schedules open in February.

Final Thoughts

Whether you want endless mountain and canyon views, rugged hikes, or rock climbing, renting a fire lookout tower in Idaho ensures you will have an unforgettable camping trip. 

Explore new terrain, see unique wildlife, and experience top-notch trails for the ultimate getaway. As cabins such as these are a popular camping style, ensure you book your dates as soon as possible. The fire lookout rentals in Idaho can fill up quickly!

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