For an insider's perspective on the great outdoors, consider renting one of the U.S. Forest Service fire lookouts and ranger cabins available to the public. Situated amid some of the West's most stunning scenery, these rustic accommodations offer an experience more like camping than a stay at a swanky hotel. But what the lodgings lack in luxury they make up for in view and value. Ranging from $25 to $75 a night, these rentals book quickly. You can reserve early at www.fs.fed.us/recreation/reservations.
COLTON GUARD STATION Ashley National Forest, Utah. View: aspen, sagebrush, and wild roses. Amenities: flush toilet and kitchen utensils. (435) 789-1181, www.fs.fed.us/r4/ashley.
FIVE MILE BUTTE Mount Hood National Forest, Ore. View: snow-capped Mount Adams and Mount Hood. Amenities: a double bed and two stoves. (541) 467-2291, www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood.
LITTLE MOUNT HOFFMAN LOOKOUT Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif. View: Mount Shasta, Mount Lassen, and Little Glass, a mountain of solid obsidian. Amenities: two cots and a woodstove. (530) 964-2184, www.fs.fed.us/r5/shastatrinity.
McCARTHY POINT LOOKOUT Lassen National Forest, Calif. View: Mill Creek Canyon and the Ishi Wilderness. Amenities: propane kitchen appliances, running water, sleeping platforms. (530) 258-2141, www.fs.fed.us/r5/lassen.
PEARSOLL PEAK LOOKOUT Siskiyou National Forest, Ore. View: Cascade Range and Siskiyou Mountains; on a clear day, Mount Shasta. Amenities: restored 1950s furniture—a table, bed, and chest. (541) 592-4000, www.summitpost.org/mountain/rock/154790/pearsoll-peak-or.html.
SURVEYORS LOOKOUT Idaho Panhandle National Forest, Idaho. View: Mallard-Larkins Pioneer Area and Montana's Bitterroot Range. Amenities: a propane-powered refrigerator, stove, heater, and lights. (208) 245-2531, www.fs.fed.us/ipnf.
Photography courtesy of Shasta-Trinity National Forest
This article was first published in May 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.