Best Fire Lookout Hikes in Washington

6 Best Fire Lookout Hikes in Washington

Confession. I am always on the look for the best fire lookout hikes in Washington (and Oregon too). I have an obsessive love with fire towers, can you relate? As soon as you see a lookout perched on top of a mountain, it tends to give that last push to make it to the top. And if I can spend the night in one, it is pure heaven.

When I first began hiking, I would constantly search through blogs and browse AllTrails, eager to add as many lookouts as possible to the list. The “fire tower” bucket list kept expanding. With 93 fire towers still standing in Washington, it’s quite an extensive list. Each season, I strive to hike to as many of them as I can.

The list includes my favorite 6 Fire Lookout Hikes in Washington that I have enjoyed the most!

A few things to consider before heading out hiking.

Before setting out on any hiking adventure, it’s essential to pack the right things to be prepared for all situations. Firstly, make sure you’re equipped with the necessary tools to navigate safely through the wilderness. Consider utilizing mapping apps such as AllTrails or GaiaGPS but don’t forget the reliability of a physical map as a backup just in case. Electronics can run out of power as we all know.

Always let someone know about your hiking itinerary, including expected return times. Additionally, always carry the Ten Essentials, independent of the length or intensity of your hike. These items can be lifesaving in unexpected situations. You always want to plan for what you hope doesn’t happen! And of course, these items contribute to a smoother outdoor experience.

What are the 10 essentials?

The Ten Essentials are a collection of items to help you prepare for a diverse set of emergency situations as well as basic needs. These essentials can vary slightly depending on factors like location, season, and individual needs, but they generally include:

  1. Navigation: Map, compass, GPS device, or smartphone with a reliable mapping app like AllTrails.
  2. Hydration: Sufficient water and a method for water purification or filtration.
  3. Nutrition: High-energy snacks or meals to sustain you throughout the hike.
  4. Protection: Clothing appropriate for the weather conditions, including layers, hat, gloves, and rain gear.
  5. Illumination: Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries for navigating in low light conditions.
  6. First Aid Kit: Basic supplies for treating minor injuries and managing medical emergencies.
  7. Fire: Waterproof matches, lighter, or other fire-starting tools for warmth, cooking, and signaling for help.
  8. Shelter: Emergency shelter such as a lightweight tent, bivy sack, or space blanket.
  9. Multi-tool or Knife: For gear repairs, food preparation, and other tasks.
  10. Sun Protection: Sunscreen, sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing to prevent sunburn and sun-related illnesses.

Carrying these essentials can significantly enhance safety during outdoor adventures, whether it’s a short day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip! I typically don’t hit the trail without them.

How to Spend the Night in a Fire Tower?

Although this post is on day hikes, you can stay in many of the fire lookouts that are throughout Washington State. Of the 6 on this list, only 2 of them are available for an overnight stay. Park Butte and Pilchuck can host visitors on a first come, first serve basis. This means different things to different people so its important to have a back up in case sharing isn’t an option.

Another route is to reserve a lookout. You can reserve many of the lookout towers on Recreation.gov. Being as popular as they are, you either need to be really on it, reserving at 7am, 6 months in advance or look periodically (more like regularly) for cancellations. Good luck!

The list of Best Fire Lookout Hikes in Washington

Fire Tower Lookout Hikes in Washington State, Park Butte interior

1. Park Butte Lookout Trail – Best Fire Tower Lookout Hike in Washington

This one is at the top of the list of best fire tower hikes in Washington for very good reason. The views, like most Lookout Towers is incredible, yes, BUT Mt.Baker is RIGHT there. You can almost touch it. Indeed unbelievable.

The day I hiked here, it turned out to be foggy with little view in sight. After a while, the clouds began moving at such an incredible pace that it would slip over and around the trees in a way that felt like magic. Mt.Baker would come into sight for 10 minutes than disappear. And at sunset, the entire sky cleared up and it was cloud inversion heaven. You then realize how close Mt.Baker sits to this Fire tower, the view is pretty incredible.

I backpacked up to Park Butte hoping to spend the night in the lookout. This is one that you can spend the night and it is first come first serve. This can mean something different to everyone, so I packed my tent as a backup. In the end I slept in my tent 100 ft down from the lookout. I chose solitude over shelter. The stars shone bright, and the most beautiful sunrise welcomed the morning.

As either a day hike or an overnight, you really cant go wrong with Park Butte!

6 Fire Tower Lookout Hikes in Washington State - Tolmie Peak, Mount Rainier National Park

2. Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail – Best Fire Tower Lookout Hike in Washington

Hiking to Tolmie Peak to watch the sunset is an epic Washington experience. And standing on the deck of the lookout tower is just the best. Without question, this is also one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park.

At 5.6 miles and 1,541 ft of elevation gain it is a great for all hiking abilities. My kids really enjoyed so much about this hike. There is really something for everyone. Newts and frogs at Eunice Lake for the kids (this provided endless hours on entertainment), mountain views for me and my husband and shade most of the way for everyone.

The view of Mt.Rainier from the lookout is nothing short of majestic making it one of the best fire tower lookout hikes in Washington. I’d say its only downfall is that it’s very popular so if you can swing a weekday, do it.

3. Fremont Lookout Tower – Fire Tower Lookout Hike in Washington

My kids and I did this as a sunset hike, and it really delivered. The beauty of the sunset hike of course is the golden light. And it just feels cooler and when the sun gets low, the cold mountain air hits you and it’s AHMAZING. The downside to sunset hikes, you get home at midnight. My kids roll with it and are little hiking superstars. This is especially true when we play the Harry Potter audiobook as we hike. We were all hooked at the time. We even acquired a few followers, hiking right behind us so they could listen.

This hike is gorgeous from start to finish with absolutely awesome views all around. The views make up for the crowds. It is a popular hike known for insane sunsets. We went on a weekday, and I was thankful for it.

For me the only negative with kids on this hike is the trail drops off a lot and the trail is made up of rocky scree. I felt I had to constantly keep my eyes on my kids as they aren’t always paying attention. This only occurs in a few sections, so I wasn’t tense the entire hike. Thank goodness. We also saw mountain goats and deer on this hike which is always a treat.

We walked the last mile by headlamp which is always fun. You could see a trail of bobbing headlamps coming down all around. We weren’t the only ones with the idea. I clocked 5.9 miles and 1200 feet of elevation gain.

4. Mount Pilchuck Trail – Best Fire Tower Lookout Hike in Washington

A classic PNW hike, this is probably already on your list. And if isn’t, it should be, its a stunning 5.2 mile hike. (And it is not incredibly long and fairly close to Seattle.) The views come and go as you hike up. This is one you can sleep in and requires no reservations. It is quite popular so make sure to have a back up plan just in case it is full.

5. Granite Mountain Trail – Best Fire tower Lookout Hike in Washington

If you are looking for a terrific and challenging hike in the fall, this is a stunner! The second half of the hike is COVERED in color. It’s not easy though climbing 3,700 ft in just over 3 miles. But if you make it to the top you are rewarded by beautiful mountain views all around. This fire tower sits off the I-90 corridor approximately 50 miles outside Seattle making it an easy to get to day hike.

6. Goat Peak Lookout – Best Fire Tower Lookout Hike in Washington


What to pack for an overnight in a fire tower. Since most fire towers are first come, first serve and don’t necessarily guarantee a spot please pack as you would for any backcountry overnight. Hopefully it is not necessary but better to be prepared!

I hope you find this list helpful and that it inspires you to go check one of these fire towers out!

1 Comments

  • The Trekking Mama – top 10 hikes in Washington State

    July 5, 2024 at 10:57 am

    […] This is a beautiful hike with incredible unobstructed views of Mt.Baker, the Twin Sisters and the rest of the North Cascades. In fact, it feels as if you can reach out and almost touch Mt.Baker. Its right there! This hike also made my list of 6 Best Fire Tower Lookouts in Washington. […]

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