Pine Mountain Lookout in Mendocino National Forest reopens in April

One of the great opportunities that the United States Forest Service offers in California’s National Forests is the opportunity to rent Fire Lookouts for overnight and multi-day stays. The Fire Lookouts offer some of the greatest views you can hope to get – and you can rent these lookouts for virtually nothing!

The Pine Mountain Lookout in the Mendocino National Forest was threatened by the Ranch Fire in 2018, and closed to the public until roads were repaired and hazards – like fallen trees and debris – were removed.

The work necessary has been completed, and according to the Upper Lake Ranger District of the Mendocino National Forest Pine Mountain Lookout will reopen to visitors and overnight guests for the 2020 season on Thursday, April 30. If you’d like to make reservations, you can do this through www.recreation.gov starting today. The lookout will be open through Wednesday, November 11, 2020.

As with most fire lookouts, the place is “rustic.” Rustic is a U.S.F.S term that means “bring your own water, food, cooking utensils, bedrolls, pillows, and warm clothing.” The bunk bed has metal springs, there are no box springs or mattresses. You also get to pack out what you bring in – that includes your garbage.

Guests are responsible for their own travel arrangements and safety. Pine Mountain Lookout is accessible to vehicles and hikers, thanks to the efforts of the recreation, fire, engineering staff and road contractors.

The extremely reasonable rental fees help complete the restoration, and maintain the lookout.

According to information from the Mendocino National Forest section of the U.S Forest Service website:

The rustic Pine Mountain Lookout was constructed in 1933 on the western shoulder of Pine Mountain overlooking the Van Arsdale area, on an outcrop about 4,000 feet in elevation, and was used for fire detection until 1942. During World War II, the lookout served as part of an aircraft defense monitoring system that extended throughout California. The lookout is historically significant because it offers 180-degree views of the surrounding terrain instead of 360-degree views at other lookouts.

The lookout is perched on an outcropping, at an elevation of 4,400 feet. It is in a mixed forest of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, black oak and madrone trees. Bucknell Creek and the Eel River are the major drainages in the area. The windows afford views of endless mountain peaks and offer a good vantage point for watching the evening sunsets. A variety of bird species (eagles, owls, hawks, and osprey), mountain lions, black bears, black-tailed deer, flying squirrels, bobcats, Tule elk, and snakes inhabit the area.

The historic town of Upper Lake is approximately 19 miles to the south and the Lake Pillsbury recreation area is seven miles to the northeast.

To rent the lookout, go to www.recreation.gov.

For more information, please call the Upper Lake Ranger District at 707-275-2361