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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Outdoors blog

Time to reserve forest cabins, lookouts for summer

A fire lookout has been restored and relocated on Quartz Mountain in Mount Spokane State Park.
 (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
A fire lookout has been restored and relocated on Quartz Mountain in Mount Spokane State Park. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

PUBLIC LANDS -- Most rentals for cabins and fire lookouts on national forests and parks are reserved on a national reservation system that allows the public to book dates no more than 180 days in advance.

Check out the National Recreation Reservation Service online or call (877) 444-6777 for a complete list of facilities, to check available dates or to make reservations for most federal facilities nationwide.

Click here for details on an exception to the national reservation system: the lottery for reserving the Red Ives Cabin, a modernized drive-up facility on the St. Joe River. Applications are due by the end of February.

  • Quartz Mountain Lookout in Mount Spokane State Park is a hot local item with a premium price of $88 a night for a room with a view. Reservations are accepted up to nine months in advance for the June 15-Oct. 15 season. Make reservations by phone at (888) 226-7688. 

Indeed, if you're making plans for prime time this summer, it's time to get your act together if you hope to reserve a night in a popular room with a view.

Read on for specific information regarding cabins and lookouts in the Idaho Panhandle and Clearwater national forests, including Kelly Creek areas.


Arid Peak Lookout is in the Bitterroot Mountains of the St. Joe Ranger District and is reached by a moderately steep 3-mile hike from a trailhead.  The lookout was built in 1934 to help detect fires that may have been sparked by the Milwaukee Railroad Line. It was last staffed in 1969 and sat idle for over 25 years before being renovated by a team of over 30 volunteers, the Forest Fire Lookout Association and the U.S. Forest Service. Arid Peak Lookout was restored to its original splendor in 1997 and is available for rent. The lookout is listed on the National Register of Historic Lookouts and sits on a 20-foot-high tower, providing epic 360 degree views of the Bitterroots. Access to the cabin is dependent on weather conditions.


Two cabins located on the North Fork Ranger District and a lookout tower atop Bald Mountain, on the Palouse District, are available to rent during the 2012 recreation season.

Cold Springs Peak Cabin53 miles north of Pierce via FS Road #250, is a primitive log cabin that sits at the base of Cold Springs Peak. Nearly vertical cliffs rise to the east, practically at its doorstep, and the views are spectacular. You can’t drive all the way to the Cold Springs Peak Cabin, so visitors headed for this 12-foot-by-14-foot “diamond in the rough” will have to hike or ride motorbikes the last mile or so. ATVers can make it to within a quarter mile of the cabin. The Cold Springs Peak Cabin is available from July 13 through September 30.

 Kelly Forks Cabin, situated near the confluence of Kelly Creek and the North Fork Clearwater River, is geared to people who desire a fully-loaded cabin in the thick of forest visitor activity. The cabin features electricity, hot and cold running water and up to date kitchen and bathroom facilities. The Kelly Forks Cabin affords easy access to blue-ribbon fly-fishing streams and unspoiled hiking trails. The cabin is available from June 13 through September 30. The site is extremely popular, so reservations should be made six months in advance of your arrival.

Bald Mountain Lookout offers a bird's eye view from its perch 5,334 feet above sea level. The lookout is located on the northern edge of the Palouse Ranger District and offers incredible panoramic views. The accommodations consist of one room that sits 50 feet above the ground. A stairway leads to a catwalk that surrounds the lookout; the catwalk is wide enough to pull up a chair, relax and enjoy the scenery. Visitors may spy deer, elk, bears, moose and eagles.

There is no electricity at the Bald Mountain Lookout, and there aren’t any modern bathroom facilities. A pit toilet is located just below the lookout. Visitors should bring the lock combination, directions to the lookout, sleeping bags, drinking water, flashlights and / or lanterns, insect repellent, garbage bags, and a sharp knife.

Liz Creek and Liz Butte Cabins, both administered by the North Fork Ranger District, will not be available to rent during the 2012 recreation season due to limited staffing and funds.

If you’re interested in renting a Forest Service cabin or lookout for a summer getaway, you can contact the National Recreation Reservation Service at (877) 444-6777 for a complete list of facilities, to check available dates or to make reservations. You can also log on to to plan your unique visit to a recreational cabin or lookout. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance.

For more information, contact the Clearwater National Forest Information Desk at (208)476-8267 or the Palouse Ranger District, (208) 875-1131.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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