Today, these buildings are much more than what they used to be and can be a perfect place to elope at a fire lookout. A fire lookout, also known as a fire tower, by definition is manned by a “ fire watcher, or a person assigned the duty to look for fire from atop a building known as a fire lookout tower. These towers are used in remote areas, normally on mountain tops with high elevation and a good view of the surrounding terrain, to spot smoke caused by a wildfire.
Once a possible fire is spotted, “Smoke Reports”, or “Lookout Shots” are relayed to the local Emergency Communications Center (ECC), often by radio or phone. A fire lookout can use a device known as an Osborne Fire Finder to obtain the radial in degrees off the tower, and the estimated distance from the tower to the fire.”
Although most fire lookouts are now inactive due to advance technology, we can still enjoy these historical markers for hiking, backpacking, or even for your elopement.
If you haven’t ever heard of a fire lookout or a fire tower before, you NEED to consider these epic locations for your elopement. Because you can avoid heavy crowds, see amazing 360 degree views, capture dreamy images, make it an overnight adventure, and even bring your dogs – you won’t want to toss this elopement option out the window.
The Best Fire Lookouts in Oregon and Washington
With over 93 fire lookouts in Washington, and 163 in Oregon still standing – these locations in the Pacific Northwest are in plentiful for your elopement location. With so many fire towers, we will cover general locations and a few of my favorites – but remember, there’s SO many to choose from! So definitely keep popularity of the lookout in mind if you okay with a few other hikers present, or you are wanting something very remote and private.
Just located outside the West Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, High Rock is one of the most dramatic of the remaining lookouts in the area. Built in 1930, this structure sits on a 5,685-foot peak along the Sawtooth Ridge – and it’s only a 1.4 mile hike to this exhilarating destination teetering above sheer cliffs over 600 feet high. You can see amazing views of Mount Rainier, Mount Jefferson, Mt. St. Helens, and even Mt. Hood. The best part is because it’s located outside the park, you won’t need a permit and you can avoid the big crowds.
Sitting on a 5,271-foot open knoll north of Mount Rainier National Park, is the restored 1934-built Suntop fire tower. Hikers and mountain bikes can access it by following a 7.5 mile trail with beautiful trails of lush forests and wildflowers. You can even snowshoe and cross-country ski here in the winter! Once at the top, you’ll enjoy views of Mount Rainier at your fingertips.
The highest remaining lookout in the Park, is Mount Fremont Lookout that rest on a ridge over 7,000 feet. Situated in the drier northeast side of the park, the meadows here are filled with beautiful pumice and rock. At the top – the views of of Rainier’s Willis Wall and Emmons Glacier will take your breath away. Thanks to the start of the trailhead at Sunrise Visitor Center in the Park (6,400’), you’ll reach the 7,000’ in just about 2.7 miles to this lookout.
Perched on the edge of a high desert in Southern Oregon, Hager Mountain Lookout feels like a trip back in time up the mountain’s 7,195-foot summit. After ascending 2,200 feet in 4 miles, you can opt to stay the day and view miles of endless desert with Mt. Hood and Mt. Shasta in the distance – or stay the night with a wood burning stove inside.
If you are looking to avoid hiking but still want all the benefits of a fire lookout – Fall Mountain is made for you. Not only does it feature panoramic views that stretch across Eastern Oregon’s Strawberry Mountains, but it also has a futon bed, electricity, a stove and a refrigerator. The drive south from John Day follows rough roads but is open to cars.
Although this fire lookout trek is short, is definitely steep. It requires 400 feet of climb over 0.75 miles – but the views are SO rewarding. Every Cascade peak from Mt. Hood to the Three Sisters is visible from this lookout, which was active during World War II as a station for spotting Japanese air attacks. This is another great option for those who want to spend the night at a fire lookout!
HOW TO ELOPE AT A FIRE LOOKOUT
Consider the Season, Weather, and Time of Day
Like we discussed earlier, with SO many fire lookout options – there is endless opportunities to specialize for your fire lookout elopement but you should consider the ideal weather, timing, and location for your wedding day adventure.
Because these locations are at high elevations, ideal weather for hiking is between July to beginning of October (although seasons change each year) – unless you are up for a winter adventure!
You should also keep in mind to avoid crowds and catch amazing sunlight, you’ll need to get up early or stay late for endless views of clouds, mountains, stars, and alpine lakes – but you won’t regret it.
Whatever you decide, I’ll be here as your elopement guide and photographer to help you plan for your ideal fire lookout adventure. I’ll be here to have back up plans, get you prepared what to bring, and inform you of the correct permits and paperwork. I’ll even create an individualized elopement timeline so that all of our ducks are “in a row” so that your elopement experience is worry free. Contact me here if you want to get started with your elopement.
How to Get Married At a Fire Lookout
Although eloping in the Oregon or Washington isn’t complicated, you could choose to skip the paperwork for your elopement day and just save it for the day before or after. After all your wedding day is the day you elope – not just that piece of paper. But if it is important to you to have your elopement day recognized as the day you’re legally married, you can do that, too – just make sure you take note of these State’s requirements below.
Both Oregon and Washington have the same set of requirements to get legally married. You will need an officiant and two witnesses to legally become married, but don’t let that worry you if you are wanting something very private – I’m legally ordained to marry you and hikers passing by are more than willing to sign your paperwork. There’s also some amazing officiants that are more than happy to hike with you to make your day extra special.
Prior to the ceremony you will need to apply for your marriage license, which you can do at the county government’s auditor’s office or online – please check which county you will be applying to for specific requirements. You can locate online access to Washington counties here and Oregon counties here.
Please note – there is a three-day waiting period to obtain your license so if you plan to apply for your permit in person you will need to be there several days in advance. You must get married within 60 days of obtaining your license, or it becomes invalid. Fees for your marriage license are different per county but usually are around $60. After you have held your ceremony and the documents are signed, do not forget to mail them back to the county office!
Another logistic to remember outside of the above legalities, is that you may need a permit for the location you have selected to elope at. If you are eloping in a National Park you will want to go to the park’s website and go to special permits and follow their instructions. With any questions or concerns it is always best to reach and speak to a ranger of the park/location. Outside of the National Parks, every location has their own set of rules, some places you will not need a permit at and some you will. It is best to start pulling permits as soon as possible to be able to get everything set in stone for your elopement day.
5 Reasons to Elope at a Fire Lookout
1. LESS CROWDS
One of the best reasons to consider a fire lookout for your elopement day is – less people! If you are choosing to elope, I’m guessing that you are choosing to avoid big crowds and maybe even your family and friends. Because fire lookouts are underrated and less known to tourists, you can typically avoid crowds, especially if you are hiking at sunrise or sunset. Not to mention you could get the entire lookout to yourself for an overnight stay – we’ll discuss this below on how you can book one to kick-start your honeymoon!
2. EPIC VIEWS
The best part about most of the fire lookouts in Oregon and Washington is that you don’t need to hike ALL day to obtain surreal views. Most hikes are under 5 miles and others you can simply drive up to! There are great options for every level of adventure for your elopement day.
The first hike I did to a lookout literally took my breath away, and I know you will feel the same. The 360 degree, panoramic views were unbelievable – I felt that I was standing on top of the world. You will witness miles and miles of mountain peaks, hidden alpine lakes, flowering wildflowers, and the fluffiest clouds you could imagine. They give some serious Lord of The Rings vibes! Take note – if you have a fear of heights, this might not be your jam to overlook the ridges, but there is a TON of wild lands to explore away from the ridges.
If you do choose to stay into the night, you won’t regret it. Because of the high elevation and remote locations, you will avoid light pollution and witness some of the most amazing star constellations! I personally am obsessed with star gazing and fire lookouts never seem to fail in this area. Can’t you just imagine saying “I do” under the beautiful, glimmering sky with your soulmate?
3. DREAMY PHOTOS
Because you will typically avoid large groups of people and obtain some of the most amazing landscape and sunlight views, you can guarantee epic wedding images. Whatever the weather chooses to throw at us, you could have moody fog and clouds, soft sunlight, or sparkling stars around you as you say your vows.
After or before you say, “I do”, we could adventure around the ridges with green forests, popping wildflowers, and even break open a couple of beers to start off your adventure. The endless exploration on these lookouts will not disappoint.
4. PRIVATE OVERNIGHT STAYS
As I mentioned before, if you do choose to stay overnight, you’ll want to book fast and in advance! There are only 20 overnight towers in Oregon and 7 in Washington – and have limited availability. You can check out reservation dates and fees here! There’s an overnight lookout for any adventuring type of couple – from backpacking your own gear, to driving to luxurious amenities, staying on top of a mountain peak is a perfect way to enjoy your first night as a married couple.
5. BRING YOUR PUPS!
One of the biggest perks of fire lookouts, is you can bring your dogs! If you don’t know, most trails in National Parks do not allow pets due to wildlife activity. But if you choose to elope on a mountain peak outside the park, most trails will allow your fur-baby to tag along for your adventure elopement, couple session, or vow renewal. This is a perfect option for all you animal lovers out there!
Regardless of how you choose to adventure for your fire lookout elopement, I’ll be here to guide you through the perfect lookout for you. You won’t get a more perfect option for less crowds, panoramic views, amazing images, an overnight stay, or inclusion of your dogs on your elopement adventure.
If you want to start your epic fire lookout in Oregon in Washington, get in touch with me here!