Fallback

A Hike From Hell & a Fire Lookout Tower With Views of Heaven

An arduous trek and a restless night made great by good company and panoramic views of Oregon's iconic Cascade Mountains

A Hike From Hell & a Fire Lookout Tower With Views of Heaven

Author

Graham Hiemstra

Photographer

Graham Hiemstra

Camera

Contax T2

Film

Porta 400

https://www.fieldmag.com/articles/devils-peak-fire-lookout-mt-hood-oregon-film-photo

Devil's Peak could have no other name. The trail leading to the craggy top runs just over 3.5 miles, but gains some 3200 feet in elevation. I assured myself and my father it'd be just fine. I mean, how hard could three miles be? Initial online research seemed to answer the question with an emphatic REALLY DANG HARD. I figured, what do they know? And either way, the views would surely be worth it. Right?

Exploring lookout towers has been a favorite #content building activity of the Instagram and Tumblr sets for some time—and for a good reason, they're really cool—but it wasn't really on my radar until I stumbled across an ancient looking online registry of US wildfire lookout towers a while back.

After a bit of clicking and comparing to google maps, it became apparent that one of the better looking towers happened to be located just about a mile from the small forest service cabin my family has owned on Oregon's Mt. Hood—about an hour east of Portland—for decades.

11-devils-peak-lookout-art-forest

Devils-Peak-Add-1
1-devils-peak-lookout-feet

The tower we settled on had been manned by the USFS through the 1970s, but the area had since been designated Wilderness, and the tower had officially been decommissioned and left to naturally decay. Word from the local Ranger’s office was a shadowy group made discrete efforts to keep the structure standing, while adhering to strict Wilderness rules.

What was once an integral part of the Forest Service—watching for forest wild fires during the dry summer season—has been all but forgotten. Now, day hikers looking for a solid challenge and a “nice” place to lay their head are responsible for slowing the surrounding forest’s impressive efforts to reclaim the mountaintop.

"Sheer stubbornness was to thank for reaching the peak, and that alone."

Devils-Peak-Add-3
3-devils-peak-lookout-hat

Since no one in the family had known of its existence, we gambled and hoped no one else in the Portland area did either (in hindsight, lol). So, on a warm, late summer morning my old man and I landed at the trailhead—after grabbing a maple bar from the world famous Huckleberry Inn in nearby Government Camp—and set out on what was to be a rather trying trail hike.

The trailhead is nearly a 45 degree angle from the gravel road where we left the old Subaru. By the time two hours passed we were sure we were merely a few feet away. I was totally spent, and my father was too. Then we passed a halfway marker carved into a tree and just about threw in the towel. But an hour longer and we reached the 5,045 ft peak, laying eyes on one handsome lookout tower. We have sheer stubbornness to thank for reaching the peak.

24-devils-peak-lookout

"Two creaky wire cots, a 300 degree view of The Great Northwest, and evidence of a very healthy mouse population welcomed us..."

14-devils-peak-lookout-art-inside
6-devils-peak-lookout-stove

13-devils-peak-lookout-door

Two creaky wire cots, a 300 degree view of The Great Northwest, and evidence of a very healthy mouse population—along with a couple well-earned cold ones. Once we settled in (read: cleaned up mouse poop and swept for an hour or two) two log books bursting with entries proved plenty of entertainment while we waited for sundown. They also proved the landmark tower had in fact been inhabited by curious folks like us for nearly every night for months prior to our visit, and likely for years before it.

In the end, both sunset and sunrise were more than we could have ever dreamed of. Witnessing a blazing sun rising over hundreds of miles of old growth forest in every direction is one of those life-affirming experiences.

2-devils-peak-lookout-gh

25-devils-peak-lookout-sunrise

15-devils-peak-lookout-hat
18-devils-peak-lookout-pot

16-devils-peak-lookout-feet

18-devils-peak-lookout-hoodsunrise
20-devils-peak-lookout-sunrise
19-devils-peak-lookout-sunrise
9-devils-peak-lookout-dark-forest

A word to the wise: If all the trail guidebooks say a hike is hard, it probably is.

Fallback
Related articles
Hiking to Three Fingers Lookout, Surprise Cargo & Film Camera in Hand
21 Disposable Film Photos From a Treacherous Hike to a 1930's PNW Fire Lookout Tower

A group of friends once again prove no good deed goes unpunished on an arduous hike to visit a historic 1932 Fire Tower in Washington's Cascade Range

60+ Black, Indigenous & POC Outdoor Organizations to Support
65 Black, Indigenous & POC-Owned Outdoor Collectives, Nonprofits & Orgs to Support

An evolving list of BIPOC-run outdoors groups, nonprofits, and community organizations promoting diversity and inclusion in nature

The 10 Best Vintage Hiking Boots Restyled for Everyday Wear
10 Best Vintage-Inspired Hiking Boots for Trails and Everyday Wear

The spirit of old-school mountain style is alive and well in a vintage-inspired breed modern hiking boots fit for wearing on and off the trails

125 BIPOC Outdoor Athletes, Adventurers & Photographers to Support
125 BIPOC Outdoor Athletes, Adventurers & Photographers to Support

Celebrate diversity in the outdoors with these notable nature lovers—from camping and hiking to climbing, cycling, and more

10 Best Vegan Hiking Boots from Our Favorite Outdoor Brands
The 10 Vegan Hiking Boots for Lovers of Adventure (and Animals)

No leather, no problem. Not a single ounce of animal products to be found on these hiking boots from our favorite outdoor brands

11 Best Anorak Jackets for Men and Women
11 Stylish and Weatherproof Anorak Jackets for Mountain and Casual Wear

Half a zipper, twice the style, and all of the weather protection you may need both in town and the backcountry

More articles
Fallback
Fallback
A Hike From Hell & a Fire Lookout Tower With Views of Heaven

Gallery Mode

Photographer

Graham Hiemstra

Camera

Contax T2

Film

Porta 400

Back to article
Fallback
☮️ Welcome to Field Mag

Get the best new gear, dreamy cabins, and epic adventure photography delivered to your inbox each week with Field Mag newsletters

Click Here to Subscribe
☮️  Welcome to Field Mag