Okanogan Highlands | Kettle River Range
Colville National Forest
Location: 48.620664, -118.48228
Summit Elevation: 6,782′
Lookout Type: 12’x12′ log cabin
Site Established: 1912
Current Structure Built: 1914
Date Visited: 11/21/18, 5/26/19
The Columbia Mountain fire lookout is one of the oldest structures remaining in the Colville National Forest, dating back to 1914. This 12’x12′ log cabin is a fantastic historic landmark that was beautifully restored in 2010.
Photos from 2018 and 2019.
The Columbia Mountain Lookout was designed by C.C. Reed, an early Forest Service supervisor, and constructed by the US Forest Service on the Colville National Forest in 1914. The 12’x12’ log cabin is made of hand hewn timbers at one time it supported a 15′ overhead platform with another roof. The platform was removed during restoration in 2010.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built another lookout on Columbia Mountain in the 1930s, relegating the original lookout to a storage shed, then both lookouts were decommissioned in the 1970s.
In 2010, Forest Service archaeologist Stuart Chilvers partnered with volunteers and members of the Forest Fire Lookout Association to restore Columbia Mountain. The team worked from original photos and records, using traditional techniques. When the crew removed the lookout logs for restoration, they found magazines from the 1920s that were used as chinking, some containing articles on silent film stars. Names are also etched in some of the logs, including the name “Slagle”. In fact, two Slagle brothers served as lookouts at Columbia during World War II.
A special place for me.
I had no idea when I visited Columbia Mountain in November 2018 that it would be not only my last fire lookout I’d visit with my long time adventure dog Jake, but also our last adventure together. A short time later he was diagnosed with cancer at age 13. Columbia Mountain was my 80th Washington State lookout and Jake was right by my side for nearly 60 of those lookouts.
In May 2019 I returned to Columbia Mountain to remember crazy Jake dog at the last fire lookout we visited. I remember at the time how strange it felt to hike to the summit without him, one of the few times in 13 years I didn’t have a dog in tow.
I won’t ever forget that November visit to Columbia Mountain with Jake. We managed to just barely sneak in the visit to the lookout before a snow storm, hiking down as the snow started to fall. I’ll always remember Jake dog, the craziest, best darn adventure partner I could have ever asked for.
Distance (RT): 5.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,110′
Summit Elevation: 6,782′
From the Kettle Crest Trailhead at Sherman Pass, follow the Kettle Crest Trail north to Columbia Mountain. The trail switchbacks up before passing a spring. There are cattle in the area, so it’s advised to use a filter if drinking the water.
Just after the spring, the Columbia Mountain trail takes a turn to the right. In a short distance there is a sign for the summit loop. Clockwise is the shortest route to the summit, but the entire loop is certainly worthwhile for the views.
This historical structure is invaluable, so please, no open flames or candles anywhere inside and treat it kindly so generations to come can enjoy. Thank you!
Travel Highway 20 to Sherman Pass and park on the north side of the highway at the Kettle Crest Trail.