Renting Fire Lookouts in the Pacific Northwest
From Tiller, Oregon, travel northeast on County Road 46 along the South Fork Umpqua River. This road parallels the river for 6.5 miles, where it becomes Forest Road 28, at the Forest boundary. You will be traveling a two-lane paved road through a lush forested canyon, leaving the broad Umpqua Valley behind. Along the way there are several campgrounds with access to the river, as well as waterfalls, hiking trails, and swimming holes.
Travel on Forest Road 28 for 12.2 miles. Turn right onto Forest Road 29 over a bridge across the South Umpqua River. At this point the road becomes a single-lane road with turnouts. Wonderful views of Acker Rock await you on the approach.
After 5.7 miles on Road 29, turn left onto Forest Road 2838, the turnoff for Acker Rock. This is a single-lane gravel road. After 1.6 miles turn left onto the 950 spur road, which is often gated and locked. Check with the Ranger Station to make sure you'll have clear access to the trailhead.
Unlock the gate and travel one mile on a steep, narrow road to the Acker Rock trailhead. The Acker Rock Trail (1585) is a half-mile, moderate-to-steep hike up to the lookout.
The trail cuts steeply through virgin Douglas fir forest. At the knife-edge ridgetop, climb the 27 wooden steps to the cabin's door. The fencing on the final stretch allows you to look ahead without worrying about your footing. Before the fence was built, all that existed on the precarious summit to guide your final access was a wire cable.
This lookout cabin anchored atop Acker Rock offers an expansive view of the upper South Umpqua watershed. The rock formation on which the lookout building sits is magnificent; sheer cliffs drop off for several hundred feet on the west and south sides.
Perched on an andesite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor, you must be half mountain goat to relish this place. If you are queasy at heights, we recommend you choose a different rental. For those who think like a cloud, this is your spot.
The structure is creaky and weather beaten, but solid. A narrow catwalk around the lookout offers views of a patchwork of timber-producing landscapes including reforested clearcuts old and new. The foreground is dominated by rocks, trees and mountain air. The immediate area offers many large"thinking rocks," that are suspended over the valley great places to ponder gravity and balance.
The open-air pit toilet has views of sky and branches waving in the wind. We noticed a knotted pull rope leading up to it, via a steep but short trail. If you got this far, you probably won't need it.
Before the advent of airplane surveillance for fire detection, more than a dozen lookouts guarded the forests of the Tiller Ranger District. Acker Rock Lookout and Pickett Butte Lookout are the only ones that remain. Pickett Butte is available for rent also.
Taking in the Sights
Panoramic view of landmarks along the Rogue-Umpqua Divide and magnificent peaks in the Rogue basin await you. On a clear day you can see the mountains in the Willamette, Rogue and Deschutes River watersheds. Several trails are maintained in the Tiller Ranger District for you to enjoy during your stay.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication