Type: 15′ L-4 tower
Visited: June 29 – July 4, 2021
Fall Mountain is the only lookout rental on the east side of Oregon. We managed to get a reservation for the 4th of July weekend.
When I booked the lookout back in winter, I of course had no idea we’d be in a severe drought by the end of June. A week prior to our reservation, on June 23, the Malheur National Forest posted an ominous news release that stated “Malheur National Forest Fire crews are responding to new smoke reports following passing thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday. Significant lightning activity occurred across much of the Forest, with new incidents reported to Burns Interagency Communication Center (BICC) and John Day Interagency Dispatch Center (JDIDC).” It also said: “More reported fires are expected, and existing incidents may produce additional smoke into the next week.” Immediately after suffering through the record-breaking heat wave in Portland we headed east towards more heat, hoping the fires wouldn’t be too bad (they weren’t). The heat, though, was inescapable. Even at this elevation we experienced some pretty hot weather. It got into the 90s every day, or close to it, and stayed warm enough at night that we didn’t really need sleeping bags.
The lookout is a 15-foot-tall tower with one set of stairs:
There is a sign at the tower about not disturbing the guests. We were always gone during the day, but did have some visitors drive up in the morning and evening. They did not disturb us, thankfully:
This is one of the cleanest vault toilets I’ve ever used:
There’s an old garage:
There was a fire ring and someone had even left behind some firewood. It was FAR too hot during our stay to consider building a fire:
This lookout has electricity, which was quite a luxury. Therefore the stovetop and oven were electric instead of gas:
There was a microwave and toaster:
And even a fridge:
The windows were strange, unlike any lookout windows I’ve seen before. When open they hung out over the catwalk, so if you walked around out there you had to duck to avoid walking into them. Also: no screens! Keeping bugs out was a fruitless exercise.
The views were pretty great:
The best view was of Canyon Mountain to the east, except for one thing: the mess of communications towers in that direction:
There was another really tall tower about a quarter mile away from the lookout, which we got a good look at when we went to find the geocache:
A view of the lookout from the tall tower:
We had fun watching the little golden mantled ground squirrels scampering about, but we didn’t feed them:
The fire situation wasn’t nearly as bad as we had feared. We did have thunderstorms both Wednesday and Thursday and we saw smoke from new wildfires a few times. Crews got on these fires right away and the smoke later disappeared:
We had one good sunset
And one good sunrise, which was somewhat marred by that tall communications tower:
During the last half of our trip we had haze from California wildfire smoke, and some nights were cloudy too, but we were still able to see the stars several nights which was fantastic:
If you go:
- Our confirmation email from Recreation.gov noted “The last road leading to Fall Mountain Lookout is exceptionally narrow, rutty and rough. Visitors are encouraged to use a high-clearance vehicle and use caution while driving up to the lookout.” Actually Road 607 to the lookout wasn’t bad at all. It was rough in a few spots but nothing compared to other lookout roads we’ve been on.
- Unlike other lookout rentals there is no gate on the access road so anyone can drive up at any time.
- The lookout has electricity and electrical outlets in addition to a mini fridge, a microwave, a toaster, and an electric stovetop/oven.
- There were A LOT of pots, pans, dishes, and silverware scattered throughout the cupboards, none of which we used.
- It was HOT during our stay but if you’re here in colder weather there is an electric heater.
- The windows don’t have screens so be prepared to have bugs in the cabin, everything from mosquitoes to flies to yellow jackets. There was a flyswatter in the cabin.
- The stairs aren’t steep for a lookout, but they are a bit narrow.
- The bed is a futon with room for two. Additional people could sleep on an air mattress on the floor.
- I’m guessing one of those towers is a cell phone tower because we had excellent reception on our Verizon phones.
- Make sure ALL your food is in the fridge, your car, or in hard-sided containers. We accidentally left a bag of chips out while off for a hike and when we came back a hole had been chewed in the side by a little critter.
From John Day head south on Highway 395 for about 15.5 miles. Turn west onto Road 4920 and follow this for about 4.5 miles. Turn right onto Road 607 and follow it for about a mile to the lookout. There are no gates.
In 1933 a 15′ tower with an L-4 cab was constructed on Fall Mountain, pictured here in 1942:
The lookout was no longer being staffed and was added to the recreation rental program at some point. It is the only lookout rental in eastern Oregon.