Okanogan Highlands | Southwest Selkirks
Colville National Forest
Location: 48.527143, -117.452815
Summit Elevation: 5,474′
Lookout Type: 41′ tower with R-6 cab
Site Established: 1932
Current Structure Built: 1959
Date Visited: 9/11/18
Timber Mountain in northeast Washington is a lesser known and visited fire lookout but offers a beautiful view of the surrounding Pend Oreille Valley and Selkirk Mountains that are home to abundant wildlife including moose, wolves, and grizzly bears.
Photos from 2018.
The first fire lookout on Timber Mountain was a 50′ tower with L-4 cab built in 1932. It was replaced by the existing 41′ R-6 tower in 1959. The lookout was staffed until 1981, after which it was abandoned and fell into poor shape.
The Pend Oreille Anthropological Society and the U.S. Forest Service teamed up to do restoration to the lookout and in 2017, more work was completed thanks to the “Passport in Time” project.
Some interesting history about the area surrounding Timber Mountain is that it’s been a commonly used area for military SERE specialist training—SERE being the acronym for survival, evasion, resistance, escape. In fact, since 1964, the Colville has provided a rough wilderness setting for thousands of service members in survival training.
The Cusick Survival Training Site is located very near Ruby Creek on the way to Timber Mountain and when I visited in 2018, I indeed came across a team of Air Force trainees out in the woods who waved me a hello. I suppose you know your lookout chasing is getting remote and wild when you encounter troops in SERE training! It seems as though the training center has been moved since my visit but if you visit Timber and see troops in training, now you know why!
Distance (RT): 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,100′
The road to Timber Mountain is gated a little over 2 miles below the summit and requires a road walk to the top. About a quarter to half mile before the gate the road becomes pretty rough and rocky so a high clearance 4WD is suggested. The road is an easy walk up through thick forest, meaning the lookout isn’t visible until you’re nearly right on top of it. The lookout is locked but the catwalk was open during my visit in 2018 and allows beautiful views of the surrounding country. Please be respectful of closed lookouts so that these structures can be enjoyed for generations to come!
There are numerous ways to access Timber Mountain. I approached from the east side north of Cusick, WA turning west off Highway 20 onto Forest Road 2489 (Ruby Creek Road) near the Blueslide Resort. In about 7.2 miles from the highway, the road branches. Stay left, continuing on 2489 another 2.5 miles to a gate at the intersection of NF-265, then walk the remaining 2.2 miles to the summit. During 2018 the road was nicely graded and easily passable for most vehicles until near the road gate below the lookout.