Montana Fire Lookouts: Talk about a Room With a View - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Montana Fire Lookouts: Talk about a Room With a View

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MISSOULA - Built in the late 1920's, fire lookouts were built atop mountains to aid forest service fire managers in spotting wildfires. Today, there's an alternative use for these historic structures -- a place that you can rent that has a view like no other.

"You can't hear trucks. You can't hear mechanical equipment," Sydney Bacon, an archeologist with the Lolo National Forest, said.

But, you can hear the birds chirp and smell the fresh pines from atop the rocky knob where the West Fork Butte Lookout sits, which is just seven miles south of Highway 12 near Lolo.

"You come here and there's no one else around."

Farther south sits the Gird Point Lookout, which is just 14 miles off of the Skalkaho Highway, where Bighorn sheep rams and deer roam.

Both lookouts provide the ideal place for visitors to experience the mountains of Montana from a unique vantage point.

"Talk about a room with a view," Milo McLeod, a retired archeologist for the Lolo National Forest, said. "You can't find a better opportunity."

Built in the 1920's, these fire lookouts gave firefighters a chance to spot area wildfires from high above the mountain tops.

"But, the popularity came in the late 1930's with the advent of the Civilian Conservation Corps because of the extra man-work that was available," Bacon said. "So, thousands were developed at that time."

Four decades later, many lookouts lost their importance in spotting smoke.

McLeod added, "Air patrols was taking the place of manned fire lookouts. It was more efficient to fly around the forest to look for fires than it was to have someone stay in a lookout."

As lookouts became obsolete, the Forest Service found a new use for these historic structures.

"The idea of restoring them and using them as a cabin rental quickly gained popularity... What better form of recreation or a vacation than to rent a lookout and actually live on top of a mountain for two or three days," McLeod mentioned.

One of the interesting things to do during your stay at lookouts is to read through the log book. It tells where people are from and what they did during their stay. People come from all over and most said what amazing, spectacular and great views lookouts have to offer.

Lookouts range in price from $30-$45 and are booked on a first-come first-serve basis. If you would like to travel "off the beaten path" and reserve a lookout, click here.

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