Active and non-active Fire Lookouts of the Sequoia National Forest.
Please click each name for the lookout history and travel directions:
Baker Point Lookout, Hot Springs Ranger District
Bald Mountain Lookout, Cannell Meadow Ranger District
Breckenridge Lookout, Greenhorn Ranger District
Jordan Peak Lookout, Tule River Ranger District
Mule Peak Lookout, Tule River Ranger District
Oak Flat Lookout, Greenhorn Ranger District -- Recreational Rental
Tobias Peak Lookout, Hot Springs Ranger District
Anchor bolts found in a rock know north of the base of the current lookout suggest that a first and original building was constructed at Baker Points. Maps indicate this structure was built around 1943, and there is evidence that it was a 7x7 observation only wooden cab and tower lookout. The current lookout was built in 1950 and overlooks the lower reaches of the Kern River and Lake Isabella, both very heavy recreation areas. Baker Point use to serve as the main communication link between Forest Service personnel in those areas and the District Headquarters, as well as the main link between all of the other fire lookouts south of the Great Western Divide.
The entire structure is wood and cost approximately $5,000 to construct. The cab is a 14x14’ “C-3-L” or “L-6” live-in style building. The tower is of non-battered, open, treated timber construction. The height from the ground to the floor of the cab is 20 feet. All of the materials for construction were packed by in by horse and mule. During construction, two pack animals were killed when a portion of the original trail gave away. Since then another horse lost his life while packing in supplies. Edwin Masonheimer, District Fire Management Officer in 1973 notes in a communication to Dave Bula that the trail gave away underneath his saddle horse while packing in supplies to the lookout in 1963. Luckily the horse regained his footing and Masonheimer was unharmed.
Standing next to the lookout is a one room wooden cabin that was built in 1943.
Baker Point has not been used for fire detection for many years and is in need of major repair work. The trail, which goes through a granite rock slide area and is tricky to follow, is two miles from parking area to the lookout Mark Thornton gives Baker Point 24 points for historical significance in “ Fire Lookout Evaluation Report” of 1988, making it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The lookout structure is not staffed and is currently closed to the public.
Location: Township 24 South, Range 32 East, Section 10
Online Map: Tobias Peak Quad
Bald Mountain Lookout, elevation 9,382 feet is located off the Sherman Pass Road near Black Rock Station in the southeastern most portion of the Sequoia National Forest. The history of Bald Mountain is sketchy and the actual date of when the location was first used for fire detection is unknown. It first appears on the 1935 Inyo National Forest map, but was abandoned when a lookout at Sherman Peak was built in 1936. The site saw use again in 1951 and the current structure was constructed in 1954. The lookout structure consists of a CL-100 live-in style cab with a flat low roof sitting on a metal tower. It is currently staffed full time during fire season and generally open to the public from 9:30am -6pm.
Location: Township 22 South, Range 34 East, Section 12
Directions: From Mountain 99/Kernville take the Sherman Pass Road (FS22S05) east or from Highway 395 take FS2205 west through Kennedy Meadows and past Black Rock Ranger Station. Turn onto FS Road 22S77 and drive 2 miles to a parking area. Hike ½ mile through a botanical area to the lookout.
Breckenridge Lookout, elevation 7,548 feet, is the southern most lookout on the Sequoia National Forest. It is located approximately 50 miles east of Bakersfield off of the Caliente-Bodfish Road on Forest Service Road 28S62. This fire detection location was established in 1912; the original lookout being a “crows nest” observation platform in a tree on the top of the mountain. The current lookout – a “C-3” style live-in cab, was built in 1942 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and as such is considered a historically significant structure. Breckenridge has been accepted to the National Historic Lookout Register. The lookout is open 5 days a week during fire season (Closed on W/Th) 9:30-6:00.
Location: Township 28 South, Range 32 East, Section 31
Directions: Take Highway 178 East from Bakersfield to Lake Isabella. Turn right (south) onto Road 483, the Caliente/Bodfish Road. Go past Havilah and turn right onto FS Road 28S06 and follow the signs to Breckenridge Lookout.
Jordan Peak has the distinction of quite possibly being the oldest lookout site in Sequoia National Forest. Dudley, in 1899, reported seeing a dozen fires burning from the summit of Jordan Peak in 1898. This may have not have been a true fire report, however. There is indication that it was used as a lookout observation post around 1914, when a smoke chaser would ride his horse to the peak and make observations using his compass, binoculars and a map.
Jordan shows up on the 1916 Sequoia National Forest map, although shown in the wrong quarter section. The original lookout may have been on a higher point northeast of the existing cab. The lookout was a 14x14 live in cab on 14 foot long timbers that made the tower. The current lookout was constructed in 1934 and is a modified L-4 style live in cab that measures 13 ½ x 13 ½ inside. The roof is a Hip-2 style and all of the materials were hauled in by pack animals. The 20 foot steel tower originally had open bracing, but in 1970, the tower was enclosed with metal siding. A cement staircase goes straight up on the outside of the structure. The lookout is considered a landmark for cattle ranchers who graze their beeves in this near wilderness territory north and east of the tower. It is open 5 days a week during fire season (Closed M/T) 9:30-6:00.
Location: Township 20S, Range 31E, Section 15
Directions: From Springville, take Hwy 190 east past Camp Nelson to FS 21S50. Turn left onto FS 20S71 and drive to the end of the road. Recommend parking near gate and walking the short trail. The road beyond the gate is a tough 4 wheel drive route.
Online Map: Camp Nelson Quad
Established in 1936 as a primary fire detection facility, Mule Peak Lookout was constructed for $2,800 on a rocky peak at elevation 8,142 feet. The C-3 live-in cab was built by the CCC’s who packed all the materials in by horseback. To this day, all materials and supplies must be packed in the 1.25 miles from the parking area or delivered by helicopter. There is a small gable roofed shed built near the base of the lookout. The lookout is in good condition considering the early construction date, and very little remodeling has been done. This sits well with Mark Thornton, who in his 1988 evaluation, gave Mule Peak a rating of 19 of a possible 30, and just makes the list of lookouts eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
The lookout is funded by the Tule River Indian Reservation and is staffed 5 days a week during fire season (closed on Tuesday and Wednesday). Mule Peak is usually open to the public from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.
Location: Township 22 South, Range 31 East, Section 15
Directions: From California Hot Springs (SM56) go 2.08 miles to the “T” junction. Turn left on SM50, going pass UHL Ranger Station, merging into Parker Pass Road for approximately 13.04 miles. Turn Left on Western Divide Highway (SM107) and go northerly for approximately 4.70 miles and turn left on FR22S03 for 3.82 miles to parking space and walk up the switchback trail (less than 1 mile) to the Peak and Lookout.
Online Map: Sentinel Peak Quad
Oak Flat Lookout was constructed in 1934 in the Greenhorn Mountains to provide fire detection views along the Kern River Canyon. Lookout towers such as Oak Flat have been used by the Forest Service for many years to spot forest fires and to provide vital communications and weather information to firefighters. In the early years of the Forest Service, lookouts provided a crucial link in wildland management, often being the only source of communication and fire detection for many miles. Most early lookouts were forest vantage points, equipped with a map board, Osborne fire-finder and mountain telephone line; some early sites were actually trees that had been topped off, with a platform and a rope ladder added. Oak Flat was on the front line of forest fire detection until 1984. Today aircraft and patrol trucks spot most fires within minutes of starting and fire lookouts are being closed. If you wish to visit an operating lookout, Breckenridge Lookout located southeast of Oak Flat is open during the summer months.
Oak Flat Lookout is available as an overnight rental
Probably first used as a lookout observation point sometime around 1912, Tobias Peak Lookout shows up on the 1913 Sequoia Forest work map. A mortar building was constructed on Tobias Peak around this time and was used as a Ranger Outpost and Lookout site. When Sunday Peak Lookout was built circa 1921, Tobias Peak became “inactive” as a lookout until 1935, when the Forest Service decided Tobias Peak was the better location due to its blocking the view from Sunday Peak. Sunday Peak Lookout no longer stands. Considered a hazard, it was burned down by the Forest Service in 1954.
The current Tobias Peak Lookout was built in 1935 by the CCC’s and is a “C-3” type 14x14’ live-in lookout. Supplies and building materials were brought in by mules and horses on a hard trail. In the early days of Tobias Peak a person had to park whatever brought them there in a flat area about one tenth of a mile from the actual tower. Today the road has been extended to within 30 yards of the tower, which leaves an easy climb for all. Currently this lookout is only operated during emergency situations and may not be open to the public.
Location: Township 24 South, Range 32 East, Section 7
Directions: From Glenville take Highway 155 for 11.35 miles to the Greenhorn Summit. Turn left on 25S15 toward Portuguese Pass for approximately 7 miles. Turn right on FR 23S16 towards Johnsondale and go approximately 2.4 miles to FR24S50, the Frog Meadow cut off. Go 3 miles to FR24S24 junction and turn right approximately 1 mile to sign indicating Tobias Peak and turn right traveling for 1 mile through the bottom gate to parking and a short walk to the tower. The last four miles are dirt roads.
Online Map: Tobias Peak Quad
Although the lookout tower is gone, visitors can still hike the trail to the lookout site. The trailhead is located off the Western Divide Hwy east of Springville and north of Kernville on FS Road 21S05. Park at the trailhead and hike 2 miles to the base of the closed stairway.
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