Not all Oregon fire lookouts last forever, but the vistas they oversee remain even after cabins and watchtowers are torn down. And many of these high points are worth hiking up to, even if you can’t stay the night in a cozy cabin.
One such place is Bear Point, once home to a now-abandoned fire tower that closed down in the 1960s.
Bear Point is located in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, just a few miles from the South Breitenbush Trailhead. It’s not a hike for fainthearted, but it starts gently enough by wandering along the rolling landscape above the south fork of the Breitenbush River. But when you hit the junction connecting with the trail up to Bear Point, the terrain changes suddenly into an all-uphill climb.
This part of the hike is straightforward – no turnoffs or junctions to watch for. But there’s plenty of color and variation in the surrounding forest to keep you engaged, especially in the summer months. Hike early in the season to catch wildflowers blossoming, with paintbrush and beargrass vying for sunlight under the trees. Hikers with a sweet tooth should swing by in the later months to get the best of the berry bounty, including huckleberries, blackberries and salmonberries.
Expect also to cross small streams on the two miles to the summit – although they dwindle to trickles in the warmer months. Towards the peak the trees become more sparse, and rocky openings start appearing. Look for pikas and chipmunks scurrying across the talus slopes, and listen for their squeaky calls. At about 1,700 feet up you’ll reach the summit of Bear Point, and you’ll be treated to fabulous views of Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and the forested hills of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
There’s not much left of the lookout building – just a few scraps of wood – but the vista is better without a building in the way, right? There’s no camping permitted at the summit, but if you have the energy you can head back down to the South Breitenbush trail and trek to the nearby Jefferson Park. This is also a great launching point for more hikes, lakes, and adventures in the area, so it’s a terrific overnight if you’re hoping to spend time exploring the surrounding landscape.
Directions: From OR 22, take the exit onto Forest Road 46 and drive about 11.5 miles. You’ll hit a junction and turn onto Forest Road 4685, which leads over the north ford of the Breitenbush River. Continue on this road for about 4.7 miles and you will come to a large parking area on your right. The trailhead for to Bear Point is to the right.