Hike to a Lookout in Washington

All that’s required to see one of the state's fire lookouts is a pair of hiking boots and knowing where to look.

Beginning in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps erected thousands of fire lookouts throughout the West. Today, modern technologies handle most of the fire-spotting duty, yet some of these outposts remain open to visitors.

Desolation Peak
Jack Kerouac logged more than two months atop this 6,100-foot peak deep in North Cascades National Park in 1956. With eye-popping vistas of jagged Ross Lake and the twin-towered visage of Hozomeen Mountain, you’ll never want to leave.

Red Top
A short one-mile hike leads to this alpine perch in the Wenatchee National Forest between Cle Elum and Leavenworth. Because the structure remains in use by Forest Service rangers, the kids might even spot a real-life version of Smokey Bear.

Hidden Lake
Clinging to the top of a nearly 7,000-foot granite peak in the North Cascades, and surrounded by a panorama of saw-toothed and snow-jacketed peaks, the 81-year-old structure at Hidden Lake is Washington’s quintessential lookout experience.

Erected in the 1960s, this station is more than just a mountaintop cabin: It rises close to 70 feet—plenty high to enhance the sight of the rugged Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Easy access from Highway 2 near Index makes this a popular outing.

—Brian Barker