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Spend the night in a California fire lookout | Bartell's Backroads

Not quite camping, but still not glamping, staying in a Forest Service fire lookout will likely give you one of the most memorable views of any outdoor vacation you'll ever take.

CALPINE, Calif. — Looking for a good get away with kids or significant other? How about spending the night in a Forest Service fire lookout tower? 

There are over a dozen lookouts the public can rent in California, but if you want a view of the Tahoe National Forest, the Calpine Fire Lookout is the best place to stay. It does, however, take a good set of tires to get there, and if you can look past the chipped peeling paint, the Calpine Fire Lookout will provide you with a view like no other.

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The fire lookout is about as authentic as it gets, from the Osborn fire locator to the rudimentary plumbing. During fire season, the lookout is staffed with people who spend weeks at a time looking for lightning strikes or smoke from a camp fire. 

In the off season, the public can reserve the lookout for themselves. There is no plumbing at many of the lookouts, but many of the facilities have been updated.

The fire lookouts are nicely set up for camping with a fire pit and picnic table. Also, you can’t beat the price. It’s just over $40 a night, which is the same price you would pay for a cabin at any national forest. 

Here's where you can get more information on renting a fire lookout.

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