Montana Outdoors

September 17, 2012

Cougar Peak Lookout

About three weeks ago I visited Cougar Peak and the Cougar Peak lookout on the way to a trail head that leads beyond it. The lookout cabin there has recently been restored and is part of the Forest Service Lookout rental program I understand. Although there is a good single track road up to the peak, the lookout sits right at the edge of the Cataract Roadless area about 22 miles northwest of Thompson Falls, Montana in the Lolo National Forest at an elevation of 6694 feet and has nice views of the Clark Fork River valley and the surrounding Lolo National Forest.

The current lookout cabin is an L4 model, built in 1952 to replace an older one from the 1930’s. It is in very nice shape now and I’m glad it has been restored to provide an insight into what those old L4’s were like.

Cougar Peak Lookout

Cougar Peak Lookout

Cougar Peak Lookout

Cougar Peak Lookout

Cougar Peak Lookout

Cougar Peak Lookout

Cougar Peak Lookout

Restroom with a view!

Cougar Peak Lookout road

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64 Comments »

  1. Away from the frenzy…Nice!

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    Comment by Roberta — September 17, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

  2. Oh my lord. Does that look fun. What a view. That might have to go on my bucket list.

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    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — September 17, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

    • I will post some of the views from there perhaps tomorrow. On a clear day you can see quite a ways.

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      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2012 @ 10:29 pm

  3. Oh, my gosh! How did you get those five little words to flash like carnival lights? “Forest Service Lookout Rental Program”. I’ve already looked at the prices. My word. Yes, there’s the matter of getting there, but still… many of them are $30/night. This one’s pretty uptown. I love that baffle around the stove – very creative. There are more windows than I had in my hill country cabin of course – it is a lookout, after all – but it clearly has everything a person would need. That view is spectacular. And the wind chimes are a nice touch! Are those lightning rods on the roof, antennae, or a combination?

    What a great post – I had no idea such experiences were possible.

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    Comment by shoreacres — September 17, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

    • This one is in the Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger district Phone 406.826.3821. There is a lightning rod up there (notice the braided copper cable in the 5th photo), but I think the others are antennae. The L4 cabin was a very popular configuration but there are few left. This one is nice for a rental because of the road up to it. I haven’t had much interest in the lookout rental program myself, but I know there are several still around.

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      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

      • The one at Fort Missoula is also an L-4, but it is not available to rent. You can go up into it, though, if you arrive when it is manned during the warmer months. In another month or two, they’ll be putting down the shutters for the winter.

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        Comment by Kim — September 19, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

        • The L-4 on Big Hole was supposed to be restored too, but the FS keeps on postponing it. It won’t last forever.

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          Comment by montucky — September 20, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

  4. Ooh… I want to go!

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    Comment by A Nature Mom — September 17, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

    • If you get interested, start early, I think they reserve them pretty far in advance.

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      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

  5. i sure hope whoever stays there doesn’t sleepwalk…and don’t even get me started on that privy! =o)

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    Comment by Sandy — September 17, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

    • This one is pretty safe. I visit a similar cabin every summer on Big Hole Peak. It has the same cabin, but on one side there is a 500 foot drop about 10 feet off one side. Now there’s where you wouldn’t want to sleepwalk!

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      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

  6. Beautiful! What a place to get away from it all. As long as there’s no fire and you have to go into work mode.

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    Comment by wordsfromanneli — September 17, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

    • This one hasn’t seen service as an actual lookout since the 80’s I believe. Nearly all of the fire spotting now is from the air, although there is one about 15 miles from there that is manned each summer, and one about 15 miles from my house that is too.

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      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

  7. Is that really the bathroom? Are you pulling my leg? I guess it makes sense being that far out in the boonies! Ya gotta remember, I’m far from the mountains, so I gotta ask questions like that…. Hey, don’t laugh! =)
    You’re not kidding about the view, either… Phenomenal!

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    Comment by Tricia — September 17, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

    • Yes, that’s it, with a deer horn handle on the door, too. It’s the kind you don’t have to flush.

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      Comment by montucky — September 17, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

  8. Wow, that is the ultimate get-away cottage!! Look at the views!!! You would feel as if you were flying. I guess the toilet arrangement is only the same as everyone used to have about 150 years ago. I’m only surprised it’s still standing, in the face of the gales you must get up there.

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    Comment by Jo Woolf — September 18, 2012 @ 1:42 am

    • That was pretty much the standard setup for a lookout, the cabin and the outhouse. Water had to be packed up or acquired from a nearby lake at (usually) great effort. I think I could handle that assignment for a summer!

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

  9. I reckon you’d get some breathtaking views of the night sky from up there too!

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    Comment by Finn Holding — September 18, 2012 @ 2:16 am

    • No light pollution! They are also exciting places to be in a thunderstorm!

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

  10. Haha, I was going to say that it needs a little work! But wow, what a view!!! (Would prefer a little more modern restroom, too! LOL)

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    Comment by TheDailyClick — September 18, 2012 @ 4:10 am

    • Well, there is a modern restroom about 25 miles away!

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

  11. Great shots of an interesting place!

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    Comment by Roberta — September 18, 2012 @ 5:45 am

    • They have a very interesting history. I wish I could find a story or two about each!

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

  12. Sigh… How I’d love to live there. Except perhaps for the nightly visits to the outhouse. Knowing me, I’d meet a bear.

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    Comment by FeyGirl — September 18, 2012 @ 6:06 am

    • That’s always a possibility in those places. I saw no bear sign around the area that is in, but I know they are around.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  13. Oh my goodess, sign me up! Just what the Dr. ordered, right? !

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    Comment by Homestead Ramblings — September 18, 2012 @ 6:17 am

    • I would recommend a week or so there as a good therapy for just about anything!

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  14. Terry:

    Wonderful photos; sure conjures up memories of Big Hole lookout. Wish the USFS would get their act together and restore Big Hole LO before it crumbles to dust.

    Chad

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    Comment by Kinzel, Charles H. — September 18, 2012 @ 9:46 am

    • I wish they would too, Chad. I’m very disappointed in them for that whole situation. Also Priscilla. It could use some work as well to keep it from deteriorating. The numbers of those old cabins are dwindling! I haven’t visited Big Hole yet this year. Tomorrow I’m going to try to find a lost trail about a mile below it where the Spring Creek trail and Munson Creek meet. Probably won’t get up to the lookout though.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

  15. I wonder where they keep the stove wood, and who gets to cut and split it.

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    Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — September 18, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    • I don’t know, but I imagine one would have to bring or cut their own. There is plenty of available wood not far below the cabin if someone wanted to cut it.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

  16. Lookouts (of course) have the most wonderful views!

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    Comment by Tammie — September 18, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

    • They sure do. I often choose a peak that was the site of a lookout as a hiking destination for the pack trail that leads to it and the views that are sure to be there. I like the views, but along with them comes a good look at the surrounding terrain and I get to study the area for other navigation information.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

  17. I will bet a lot of folks who visit never want to leave. Well, except for the outhouse part. Do you have to haul in water, or is there some sort of pump?

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    Comment by sandy — September 18, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

    • No well there. I don’t know where the water for Cougar came from. Perhaps just hauled in by pack string. Now you would just have to bring plenty along. There is a lake about 2 miles away but it’s not the greatest trail over that way and the lake is perhaps a thousand feet below.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

      • Mightn’t there be a small spring nearby with potable water? A backpack water carrier could bring 5 gallons at a time back to the lookout. You’d learn to conserve water if you had to pack it in on your back, wouldn’t you?

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        Comment by Kim — September 19, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

        • There might be a spring around, but I saw no sign of one. The lookout on Pat’s Knob had a spring about a quarter of a mile below it on the south side. The one on Baldy had to hike a half mile below to the lake for water. I know that trail and I’m glad I didn’t have to do that!

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          Comment by montucky — September 20, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

  18. What a beautiful place. Still, I wonder how much wind the windows keep out.

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    Comment by jomegat — September 18, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

    • The cabins are not all that drafty, and that little stove does a pretty good job heating it.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

  19. Oh my gosh, what a VIEW!! Simply splendid!

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    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — September 18, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    • It’s nice to spend some time up there with a good pair of binoculars too.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

  20. Along with lighthouses, lookout cabins are among my favorite buildings!

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    Comment by Watching Seasons — September 18, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

    • Me too. I have now visited the site of about 20 of the old Montana lookouts although very few still have cabins on them.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

  21. oh wow. you mean this is to rent out? I wondered what that meant…would be a great place to camp out-gorgeous-but the outhouse…..well….it might be worth it….

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    Comment by skouba — September 18, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

    • When I was young, some of my relatives here who lived in rural areas had only an old outhouse. We have kept the one that was used at this house and it’s still usable.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

      • my grandparents had one at their cabin….my grandpa would bring a bucket into the house for us girls. for a few years anyway….

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        Comment by skouba — September 21, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

        • The “bucket” or “chamber pot” reminded me of my grand parents house here in the early 40’s when that was a nightly convenience in winter.

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          Comment by montucky — September 21, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

  22. Those views are beautiful!

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    Comment by Maggie — September 18, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

    • Next post I will include some photos taken from the lookout deck.

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      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

  23. Oh, to spend some time there….

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    Comment by seekraz — September 19, 2012 @ 8:23 am

  24. On top of the world!!!!

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    Comment by dhphotosite — September 19, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

  25. That would be a fun getaway although, I, too, would be a little wary of the outhouse. A friend of mine once spent several days in a USFS lookout and said it was one of the funnest times of her life. There’s a creepy B movie I’ve seen on TV before, too, that takes place in a lookout where a young girl is spending the summer there doing research. Spooky. Can’t remember the name of it.

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    Comment by Candace — September 19, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

    • I like the idea of the lookout rentals. It gives folks a chance to experience the high places in the back country and yet have enough security (with the cabin) to be able to relax while doing it.

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      Comment by montucky — September 19, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

  26. I am out of words. That’s the place where I would like to admire the scenery for hours and hours. I guess that the road to there must be worth to be seen.

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    Comment by Sartenada — September 20, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

    • Yes, that is a road worth taking. I find that a place like that brings a perspective about this earth that everyone should feel.

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      Comment by montucky — September 21, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

  27. If i could muster the courage to get there I would LOVE it I’m sure!! Nice outhouse pic. 🙂

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    Comment by Anonymous — September 22, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  28. That would be some place to stay overnight, with all that great view.

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    Comment by bentehaarstad — September 23, 2012 @ 5:00 am

    • I understand that this lookout is a very popular rental.

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      Comment by montucky — September 23, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

  29. What a fabulous place and what a panorama all around! I would love staying up there a few days, even for a night. I imagine a starry sky, peace all around, cool air. A storm would be… rather frightening ! Beautiful pictures.

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    Comment by isathreadsoflife — September 24, 2012 @ 2:53 am

    • Those old cabins are real treasures I think. I’m so glad there are still a few left.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 24, 2012 @ 8:45 pm


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