Type: L-4 Ground Cabin
Visited: July 1-5, 2020
We rented the Bolan Mountain Lookout for four nights. Due to the pandemic I heard about a lot of people whose lookout reservations around the Pacific Northwest were canceled. It seemed that it was up to each ranger district whether or not they wanted to cancel reservations or keep them. The Wild Rivers Ranger District decided not to cancel reservations at Bolan Mountain, so we got to go, for which I was extremely grateful. Honestly when things started shutting down in March I really thought this reservation would be canceled.
After driving down from Portland, detouring over to the Babyfoot Lake hike, then driving to the lookout, we arrived shortly before sunset on Wednesday:
The toilet is about to fall over:
On our first morning we were surprised when a Forest Service truck drove up. Two maintenance workers were delivering a mattress for the bed, which didn’t currently have one. They said they had been up to the lookout several times in the previous week to get it ready for the rental season (we were the first renters of the summer) and the mattress was the last thing they hadn’t gotten done before our arrival. They had removed an old falling-down shed, re-painted the exterior of the cabin, installed a keypad on the door (there hadn’t been one previously), and completely removed the shutters because they were rotting, to be replaced later this summer. We really could have used the shade from those shutters, which normally would have been bolted to the outriggers, but it makes sense that they would just take them down if they’ll be replaced.
The guys also pointed out the flat spot by the road where the new toilet will be installed this summer. The old one will be removed. I said that it was VERY full and they said that it had been pumped out last year but filled up with snowmelt. Before they headed out we thanked them for all the work they’ve done on the lookout.
We were surprised how few things were in the lookout. Although we always come prepared with everything we need, many lookouts we’ve stayed in had any number of things including matches, silverware, pots and pans, plates and bowls, games, and of course the ever important logbook. This lookout had a handful of games and that was it, not even a logbook. We had a notebook with us that we left here.
We used one of our camping cots as the second bed during our stay:
Looking northwest. Cave Junction is down in that valley there:
Looking southwest. That prominent peak is Preston Peak in California’s Siskiyou Wilderness:
Looking north out over Bolan Lake:
Looking east. The sloping mountain at center is Swan Mountain:
Looking slightly southeast. Those mountains are in the Red Buttes Wilderness, and you can just barely make out Mt. Shasta beyond, towards the right side:
Zoomed-in view of Mt. Shasta with my point-and-shoot:
Still to the southeast, this is the rugged ridgeline of Bolan Mountain:
One day Greg made his way out along that ridgeline to grab a geocache. I took this photo of him from the lookout:
We visited Bolan Lake on Thursday, July 2. People were starting to arrive for the holiday weekend and it was getting pretty busy, so we didn’t go back the rest of our time here:
There’s an eroding dirt boat ramp at the tiny day use area:
Road 538 heads north from Road 040 near Bolan Lake and there is a lovely meadow at the intersection:
Charming gurgling Bolan Creek flows through this meadow:
Pussy paws flowers growing by the side of Road 041:
It was a full moon on Saturday, July 4 and it was high in the sky all night long during our entire stay:
However, our first night we did get a window between moonset and first light when the skies were dark enough to see stars. We set our alarm for 3:30am to get up and see it:
This lookout is perched on a very exposed summit and I imagine it gets pretty battered by weather during the winter. We did not have strong winds during our stay, but there was never anything less than a steady breeze.
It remained clear and cloudless during our stay so sunsets were not spectacular, but still nice:
Sunrise Sunday morning:
This is the original 1917 cupola lookout:
In 1951 a road was constructed to the summit, and two years later in 1953 the former cabin was removed and a new one constructed, which is the cabin that still stands.
We were very glad to finally make it to this lookout, which I’ve been trying to reserve for years. And we’re very lucky and grateful that our reservation wasn’t canceled. This was a lovely spot!
If you go:
- The 1.5 mile access road to the top is a bit rough and rocky in spots, but should be passable in any vehicle as long as you drive slowly and carefully. There is one very short steep section at the end and you may need to park at the bottom of that part depending on your car’s capabilities.
- The gate has a pin that drops through a hole on the post and through a hole in the gate. Getting those holes lined up is tricky because the alignment of the gate is a bit off. It helps to have a headlamp for this.
- There are four windows that open, but none of them have screens, so maybe bring a flyswatter with you.
- There is no source of heat in the lookout, although the weather is plenty warm here in the summer.
- There is no cookstove so you’ll need to bring your own. There are also zero supplies here (no pots, pans, silverware, plates, bowls, etc.).
- The bed is a single so additional people will need to sleep on the floor or bring a cot like we did.
- You must climb a set of steep uneven stone steps from the parking area to the cabin. Plan accordingly with your gear hauling.
- Our phones had Verizon LTE much of the time, but the signal was spotty and sometimes dropped out altogether.
- On weekends expect plenty of visitors who hike up from the campground below.