Renting Fire Lookouts in the Pacific Northwest

Considerations, Part II
What to Bring: The Essentials
* Special Use Permit
*Drinking water and/or water filter
*Toilet paper
*Waterproof matches
*Garbage bags
*Pocket knife
*Rental key
*Sleeping bags
*Ax and shovel
*First-aid kit
*Sleeping pads
*Full tank gas
*Good tires
*Area/topographic maps
*Extra batteries and bulb
*Spare tire
*Sunburn protection
*Clothing (dress for extremes)
*Change tire kit


Most lookouts and cabins do not have safe drinking water, and many have no water at all. Cleaning and washing water can sometimes be obtained from streams or melting snow; however, safe drinking water cannot be assured unless it is purified, filtered or boiled for five minutes. If you are bringing water, we suggest a gallon per day per person.


At most lookouts you will find the Osborne Fire Finder, a standard piece of equipment for observing and mapping smoke and wildfire. You are welcome to use it for identifying landmarks and natural features of the area. But use care when handling it.

Rental Conditions

The Forest Service is eager to point out that it is not interested in the motel business. You will find no bed linen at any of these rentals and you may not find mattresses in some places. You won't find towels or chocolate mints on your pillow, and in fact, you may not even find any pillows. In most places there is no potable water-until you purify it yourself, no sink, and only in a few places will you find electricity or plumbing.


First consult our Quick Reference Chart, and when you have decided on your destination, contact the managing Ranger District for an application packet, maps, and further information. The rentals are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some Ranger Districts have specific check-in/check-out times, some do not. We specify those that do. Some Ranger Districts limit the duration of your stay to three nights, others allow as many as ten, others are undecided. We specify this information wherever possible. Again, check with the managing Ranger District.

For some rentals, such as Hamma Hamma, Interrorem, Two Color, Lost Lake, and Snow Camp, you may need to make reservations up to six months in advance, particularly on holiday weekends; however, advanced reservations are required for all rentals.

The rental fee for each structure is used exclusively for the maintenance of that particular structure, and is not lost, as you might expect, in the black hole of bureaucracy. Some Ranger Districts require a deposit, others do not. We specify those that do. If your plans change you may request a rental refund or a credit transfer, but you must do so at least three weeks before your reservation date. If the Forest Service determines the weather conditions are too severe for you to reach the rental safely, you will be given credit toward the next available date.

Most cabins and lookouts are well supplied with a heat source, pots and pans, and eating utensils, though some are not. Inquire at the managing Ranger District office.

Responsible Use

Please leave the cabin or lookout as you found it, or as you would like to have found it. Leave all pots, pans and utensils clean and ready for the next guests. Sweep the floor, pack out garbage, turn off all appliances, lights and propane, and lock the door.

If you are renting a lookout in the winter please leave the catwalk and steps clear of snow.

If you bring pets, make sure they don't disturb wildlife, and please clean up after them. If you bring stock animals, keep them tethered when not in use, and bring weed-free feed for them.

If you bring stoves or lanterns, we suggest propane fuel since it burns cleaner than liquid gas.

Most of these lookouts and cabins already have an established fire ring. Please use it. Do not establish another. Campfires are a luxury. Please be kind to the woods by keeping your fire very small.

Hunters, should hang any kill outdoors (on meat poles when provided); Butchering of animals should be done outside and obviously not in cabins.

Finally, no shooting within 1/4 mile of these rentals.

Though we traveled thousands of miles visiting these destinations in an attempt to give you the best possible directions, due to ever-changing road names and numbers on Forest Service lands in the Pacific Northwest, and seasonal road closures, we urge readers to consult knowledgeable Ranger District personnel prior to each trip in order to get the most current information. We would greatly appreciate being notified, via Wilderness Press, of any changes that may have occurred since the books publication. Your correspondence will help us improve later editions.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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