Montana Outdoors

October 19, 2016

Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout 1

The Big Hole lookout sits on a peak a little southeast of Big Hole Peak at an elevation of 6,922 feet, having been built there to provide better visibility of the surrounding forest than would have been obtained from the peak itself. It is an L4 type cabin and has stood there since 1930. It has not been actively used since 1972, but it is an excellent example of the L4 type cabin.

The peak and lookout are on the northeastern corner of KooKooSint Ridge within the TeePee/Spring Creek roadless area in the Cabinet Mountains of northwest Montana and can be reached by USFS trail 368. It has long been appreciated by a whole lot of folks from the local area as well as many other visitors over the years. It has been under renovation for the past two summers and completion of the project was expected to be this past summer. However, that project was suddenly interrupted by the very close proximity of the Copper King fire which burned all of August and September and covered about 45 square miles of the forest just to the east and north of the lookout. When the fire broke out, a crew was sent up to wrap the cabin with fire resistant foil, but many people feared that it would still fall victim of the fire. I’m happy to say that it survived untouched by the fire and now will await the completion of its renovation (I assume to be) in the summer of 2017.

Big Hole Lookout 2

Big Hole Lookout 3

Big Hole Lookout 4

Big Hole Lookout 5

Big Hole Lookout 6

Big Hole Lookout 7

Big Hole Lookout 8

Big Hole Lookout 9

Big Hole Lookout 10


  1. These are so wonderful. They speak to me in ways I cannot explain. When I saw the first one I got goosebumps … Your photographs almost put me there and I thank you ….

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — October 19, 2016 @ 11:06 am

    • Sometimes when I’m at a place like that, especially in a storm, I feel as though I’m in a completely wild place between the sky and the world as we usually know it. It’s a perspective that I find nowhere else.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — October 19, 2016 @ 11:37 am

  2. Terry:

    Does BHLO have a door in place? Or was it left open to the elements? Can’t tell from the photos.


    Comment by Chad — October 19, 2016 @ 11:22 am

    • I was afraid that the door was left open or off when I first saw the place from the trail below. It just has the old door on it, but it is well secured against the weather.


      Comment by montucky — October 19, 2016 @ 11:31 am

  3. Great pictures! Definitely a room with a view.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — October 19, 2016 @ 11:31 am

  4. Your photos are beautiful. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ellen Grace Olinger — October 19, 2016 @ 11:47 am

  5. Nice to hear about the renovation work.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — October 19, 2016 @ 11:56 am

    • It was nearing completion when the fire started. Most of it has been restored, at least to the extent that it is secure and won’t suffer any more winter damage.


      Comment by montucky — October 19, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

      • Maybe another summer’s worth of work, and it will be done.


        Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — October 19, 2016 @ 12:33 pm

        • I think before the fire interrupted the work they said there was only about a week’s worth of work that needed to be done. All of the major stuff has been completed.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by montucky — October 19, 2016 @ 7:52 pm

  6. I’m glad the cabin made it through. It looks to be well cabled against wind too. That’s probably the biggest danger up there.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — October 19, 2016 @ 3:43 pm

    • The wind and the critters. I think they have it pack rat proof now though. It has been a real “rat’s nest” for years. The heavy shutters keep everything else out and the bad logs in the base have been replaced.


      Comment by montucky — October 19, 2016 @ 7:55 pm

  7. It makes me happy to see the old lookouts being maintained. So many in the east have been vandalized beyond repair.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by windyhillx — October 19, 2016 @ 6:15 pm

    • I’m also happy to see the cabins that still remain get some protection and restoration. Vandalism hasn’t been a big problem with the lookout cabins here because they are quite remote and a bit difficult to get to.


      Comment by montucky — October 19, 2016 @ 7:57 pm

  8. It looks like a very, very, very cold place! Must be heaven in summer though, being so isolated from the rest of humanity!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by de Wets Wild — October 19, 2016 @ 6:53 pm

    • Yes, it will be from cold to very cold up there until May or June now. Maybe I can get up there one more time before the road to the trail head is no longer passable.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — October 19, 2016 @ 8:22 pm

  9. What a spectacular view in all directions. So good to hear it didn’t burn down and remains ready for final restoration.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Anonymous — October 20, 2016 @ 6:29 am

    • There are a lot of folks who feel the same. So few of the old lookout cabins remain that each is priceless.


      Comment by montucky — October 20, 2016 @ 8:04 am

  10. Beautiful views from there!
    Did the fire get close to the lookout?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Tammie — October 20, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

    • On all of the fire maps it looked as though the fire was much closer, but I think it came about a mile from the west side of the lookout. It was closer on the north, but that was below the cliff on which the lookout sits.


      Comment by montucky — October 20, 2016 @ 9:36 pm

  11. It look chilly but so wonderfully wild and isolated up there, and what views! Beautiful! Nothing like Brisbane at the moment. Here the mozzies, snakes and heat are in abundance right now. I am craving just a little bit of snow. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jane — October 21, 2016 @ 5:47 am

    • I love that place, especially when the weather is called “inclement”. It felt so good to spend the day in snow and wind and wonderful solitude!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2016 @ 8:17 am

  12. Whew! That is some lookout! What a view!


    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — October 21, 2016 @ 9:22 am

    • Interesting place, isn’t it. I’m glad it is being restored and will be protected now for a long time. Only a few of those old cabins remain.


      Comment by montucky — October 21, 2016 @ 9:38 pm

  13. What a wonderful place, I’m really glad it wasn’t consumed by the fire.

    Generations of intrepid explorers must have been grateful for the use of it to protect against the elements – the snow and wind too, judging by the cables holding it in place!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Finn Holding — October 22, 2016 @ 3:33 am

    • I’m very glad that it was not damaged too. I understand that it will be in the Forest Service’s rental program when complete and so people will be able to enjoy some time there in summer.

      Most of the lookout cabins saw use only in summer time. Snow and ice close the high country in winter, although I’m sure there have been times when it provided shelter to someone who was able to make it up there on snowshoes. Several years ago, about this time of year, a friend and I hiked to another peak not too far from there and found a stiff wind and four inches of snow at the lookout. We were happy to see that the door wasn’t locked and we were able to go in and get out of the wind in order to open our packs and put on additional layers of warm clothing!


      Comment by montucky — October 22, 2016 @ 9:22 am

      • You must have been very happy to find that. Did you post about it? I seem to recall a post of yours from a while ago included photographs of one of the cabins.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Finn Holding — October 23, 2016 @ 9:22 am

        • I have posted about the lookout several times over the years. I visit it every summer. A friend even sent me some photos of it from the summer of 1966 when he was stationed at the lookout.


          Comment by montucky — October 23, 2016 @ 10:17 am

  14. Hi Montucky, It is finally Fall here in Central Florida as we were in the upper 50s this morning around 9:00am. Nothing like your snowy wonderland there where you live. My hubby’s late grandfather used to be a Forest Ranger in both Montana and Idaho in the early 1900s. He may very well have lived in a cabin such as the one you photographed. Have a great coming week!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — October 23, 2016 @ 5:24 pm

    • Yes, he easily could have spent time in a similar cabin. They are wonderful places!


      Comment by montucky — October 24, 2016 @ 7:17 pm

  15. What a place! Wonderful images ..

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Julie@frogpondfarm — October 24, 2016 @ 10:50 pm

    • It looks especially lonely in winter, but it is a wonderful place to visit.


      Comment by montucky — October 25, 2016 @ 7:54 am

  16. I’m glad it was spared from the fire. Will it be a staffed lookout when the renos are completed? With all the snow, the first word that came to mind was “desolate.”

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Candace — October 28, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

    • This cabin will be part of the Forest Service rental system when the restoration is completed. Reservations are made in advance on the website. I would guess it will be available in the summer of 2018, although it might still be possible in late summer, 2017.

      I think of places like that as remote and lonely, but not exactly desolate. Personally I would much rather be there than in a city.


      Comment by montucky — October 28, 2016 @ 7:18 pm

  17. I’m glad to see it standing!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Juls — November 1, 2016 @ 9:56 am

  18. It was a survivor, that is awesome! Our trip this past summer out west, we camped in three destinations that had nearby forest fires. I plan on posting about them, mostly to showcase the two “super scooper” planes contracted under exclusive use to the U.S. Forest Service that can pick up 1,600 gallons of water in a single scoop. Have you seen them? While in Cody WY, we watched them come and go from Buffalo Bill Reservoir for the Whit Fire, scooping up the water. Soon as they have helped an area get under control, they head off to another fire. The U.S. forest fire fighters are a unique, amazing group of dedicated workers. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by bayphotosbydonna — November 5, 2016 @ 1:59 pm

    • I have seen videos of those planes, but it isn’t possible to use them in this particular area. Here they did use a huge helicopter that carries a payload of 3,000 gallons and I was able to watch it refill from the river and saw quite a few drops from it. It’s also awesome. I used to drive a water tender for the fire department that carried that much water so I know what that payload is like.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — November 5, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

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