I’m gently falling in love with Oregon’s many fire lookouts, and Hager Mountain is definitely on my lists of places to visit.
Although the structure is maintained by the Forest Service, this tower is actively used in the summer months to watch for fires. It’s tucked away in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, located in south-central Oregon on the crest of the Cascade Range. The fire lookout was built over 7,000 feet atop an 8 million-year-old silica lava dome formed from basalt lava flows.
The trip up is the most challenging part of the stay. It’s a four mile hike up – which sounds reasonable until you remember that you’re climbing 2,200 feet of elevation while carrying a pack with all your food and gear. But the solitude and views at the top are magnificent, with a 360-degree view of Mount Hood to the north and Mount Shasta to the south.
Due to its remote location, amenities are not part of the stay at Hager Mountain. The cabin holds a small bed and bunk bed (which can accommodate up to four people comfortably). There’s also a propane heater, a small fridge, some kitchen utensils and a wood stove. Note that there is no water source up there, so you’ll need to bring what you plan to use.
There’s no cell service, or people, or city light up here. Only the spill of the land below – rolling green hills of trees that dwindle into the mesas and canyons of the high desert. The evening sunsets are a glory to behold, and the Milky Way blazes interrupted at night. Read letters left by past travelers, and let the solitude soak in.
Note that depending on the season and weather, the trail up may require snowshoes or skis. Weather conditions can change quickly in this area, so pack with that in mind. The cabin costs $40 a night to rent, and requires booking months in advance. The site is available for rent from Nov. 15 to May 15.
(1st photo credit: Gabriel Amadeus)