• fire lookout

Southern California Mountains Foundation


For more information, click here to download the Fire Lookout Brochure.

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Black Mountain

Ed Harrison, Leader

Black Mountain Fire Lookout (elev. 7,772 ft.) is located in the San Jacinto Mountains. Built in 1926, Black Mountain was the third lookout built on the San Bernardino National Forest. In 1935 the original lookout was disassembled and rebuilt on Barton Peak. The lookout that sits on Black Mountain today was completed in 1962.

This tour is staffed between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm during fire season, and open to visitors during these hours from Memorial Day to November.

Directions:
Take Highway 243 north out our Idyllwild for 8.1 miles to the turn-off of Black Mountain Road (Forest Road 4S01). This dirt road climbs through a forest of oak and pine. After the Boulder Basin Campground, make a sharp left turn and drive a half-mile to the end of the road (5.8 miles from the highway). Walk the last quarter-mile and then take the paved walkway to the lookout.

  • black mountain fire lookout
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  • butler peak fire lookout

This tower is open to visitors from Memorial Day to November, but it is located at a higher elevation and the dirt access road and trail have been known to have up to five feet of snow as late as July 4.

Directions:

On the North Shore of Big Bear Lake, take Highway 38 to Fawnskin. Watch for signs for Forest Road 3N14. Follow 3N14 (it will change from paved to dirt) to a junction with Forest Road 2N13. Turn left on 2N13 and follow until junction with Forest Road 2N13C. This last road takes you to Butler Peak. High clearance vehicles are recommended.

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Keller Peak

P.J. Smith, Leader

Keller Peak, though not the first lookout built in the San Bernardino National Forest, is the oldest remaining original tower. It is located three miles east of Running Springs at an elevation of 7,882 feet. The lookout, road, and peak are named for Ally Carlin Keller, born in San Bernardino in 1868, who at one time was an employee of the Forest Service.

You can view two memorial plaques at Keller Peak lookout. The first designates the 1926-built tower as a historic landmark. The second, located 200 yards (175 m) to the west, marks the spot where a B-26 bomber crashed December 30, 1941. Some of the wreckage is still visible.

Directions:

Take Highways 18 or 330 to Running Springs. Go past the village and immediately after Deerlick Fire Station turn right on Keller Peak Road (1N96). This 5-mile road is paved all the way to the lookout. At a fork in the road, turn right and drive to the lookout.

  • keller peak fire lookout
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  • morton peak fire lookout

Staffing the lookout that day was Aleta Johnson who was airlifted to safety before the tower went up in flames. The tower was rebuilt in 1961 and closed in the 1970s. In 2001 the lookout tower was refurbished and weather permitting is staffed year round.

Directions:

From Redlands/Mentone, take Hwy 38 toward Forest Falls - Big Bear. Approximately 1.5 miles past the Mill Creek Ranger Station and across from the Vista Point parking area turn left and goes up dirt road 1N12. High clearance vehicles are recommended! Go approximately 1.5 miles to the gate (on left). Morton is located about another 1.5 miles past the gate on the top of the peak.

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Red Mountain is definitely a lookout for the adventuresome. From Tripp Flats it's a 9-mile journey up a dirt road. Please check with the Fire Lookout coordinator to ensure that the lookout is staffed before making your trip to visit Red Mountain.

Directions:

Take Highway 243 south from Idyllwild, continue on Highway 74 (toward Palm Desert). Turn on Highway 371 toward Anza. Turn right onto Cary Road, go 5 miles, turn left on the dirt road toward Tripp Flats Fire Station, and follow Forest Road 6S22 for 9 more miles to the lookout.

From the Temecula area, heading south on US 15, get off the freeway at Hwy 79. Go east on Hwy 79 to Hwy 371. Take Hwy 371 northeast toward Anza. Before reaching Anza and immediately after passing the Cahuilla Creek Indian Reservation Casino, turn left onto Cary Road, go 5 miles, turn left on the dirt road toward Tripp Flats Fire Station, and follow Forest Road 6S22 for 9 more miles to the lookout.

  • red mountain fire lookout
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  • strawberry peak fire lookout

The first, constructed in 1922, was 80 feet tall and made of railings donated by the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. It was eventually damaged by lightning and heavy snow in 1934.

Strawberry Peak tower is open to visitors Memorial Day to December. It is often open a few weeks earlier, and stays open for the remaining fire season, if volunteers are available.

Directions:
Take Highway 18 to Rim Forest (west of Skyforest). Turn north onto Bear Springs Road toward Twin Peaks. Follow the lookout signs. The lookout is 2 miles up the paved road.

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Tahquitz Peak

Bob and Norma Romano, Leaders

Tahquitz Peak was a working fire lookout until the end of the 1993 fire season and reopened October 1998 staffed by volunteers. At its elevation of 8,828 feet, it is the highest lookout in the San Bernardino National Forest.

It is also the forest’s longest continuously operated station, serving some 77 years, and is the only lookout located inside a Wilderness area. Tahquitz was actually built entirely by hand as all power tools are prohibited in the San Jacinto Wilderness.

Directions:

Access the lookout by either Devil’s Slide or South Ridge trails. Both require Wilderness permits and Adventure Passes. The route is a 4.5-mile hike.

  • tahquitz peak fire lookout