Return to Fivemile Butte

In September 2012 I visited Fivemile Butte to find the geocache there. No one was staying in the tower at the time and the catwalk is locked when no is around, so I admired things from the ground.

Six months ago my sister and I made reservations to stay at the lookout at the end of March. We expected to be snowshoeing from Billy Bob Sno Park, but we ended up having a very dry winter with very low snow pack, so we were able to drive right up to the tower when we arrived on Sunday.

Back to the tower

Fivemile Butte lookout

The cabin was well-appointed with a double bed, propane cooking stove, wood stove, and a table and chairs.

Lookout cabin

It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day with no wind. It felt like summer! After unloading the car we sat out on the catwalk reading, napping, and enjoying the views of Mt. Hood to the east…

Mt. Hood view

…and Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to the north:

Double mountains

I spent some time enjoying the journal entries from previous renters. I always like reading those when I rent a lookout. Unfortunately every page of every journal was full, prohibiting us from contributing. Fortunately I had a small Moleskine notebook in my pack and I donated it to the lookout to serve as the next journal.


Late in the afternoon we took a short jaunt along the Eightmile Loop Trail. Saw lots of manzanita blooming:


Walking the trail, with Lookout Mountain in the distance:


Sunset was lovely:

Mt. Hood at sunset

Mt. Adams illuminated by the setting sun:

Mt. Adams

And the stars were lovelier. We didn’t see as many stars as we might have because of the nearly-full moon. But thanks to the moonlight the tower and Mt. Hood were illuminated in my shots, which turned out well.

Starry night over Fivemile Butte

Stars over Mt. Hood

We built a campfire under the stars and enjoyed the beautiful clear evening. We could see Jupiter in the southern sky and Venus near Mt. Hood to the east.

Campfire at the lookout

We got up early to watch the sunrise, then went back to bed:

Fivemile Butte sunrise

We headed over to Lookout Mountain for a hike that day. We were able to get within half a mile of the trailhead before we grew uncomfortable with the amount of snow on the road. Nearly the entire hike was over snow, although the summit was bare. What a gorgeous day! (In a normal year we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the trailhead, but the snowpack is incredibly low this year.)

Cross country

Sisters on a mountain

We went back to the lookout to hang it in the warm sunshine. Deb whipped up a delicious dinner.

Lookout dinner

Lookout wine

We decided not to build a campfire again but stayed in and enjoyed the warmth of the woodstove as dusk settled.

Peaceful evening

The stars were once again a sight to behold.

Beautiful sky

Star trails over Fivemile Butte

By morning the weather had changed drastically. Heavy winds rattled the tower, and snow flurries flew through the air.

Change of weather

It was hard to tear ourselves away and start heading for home, but we’ll be back!

If you go:

  • This lookout is open year-round. When the roads are snow-free you can drive right up to the lookout. Fivemile Butte has one of the best access roads of any lookout I’ve ever visited. You will be fine if you drive a low-clearance car.
  • There is a double bed, which is not always the case at every lookout (many of them have only a single bed).
  • The gas range¬†works great for cooking. There are valves on the outside of the cabin that turn the gas on and off. When you arrive you’ll need to turn on those valves. Then lift the burner “lid” to light the two pilot lights, and then light the pilot light in the oven. If you don’t do this you’ll smell gas in the cabin. When you leave, turn the valves off outside.
  • The Forest Service has placed framed plastic “windows” over the regular glass windows. I don’t know if this is a winter-only thing, but for us it meant that only one of the windows could be opened.
  • The only visitors we had were on Sunday: a couple out for a walk and some mountain bikers. But past journal entries indicate that there are a lot more mountain bikers during the summer, so be prepared for company.
  • Several times in the journals there was mention of a volunteer group called Friends of Fivemile Butte Lookout and that they had a facebook page. I can’t find mention of them on facebook or anywhere else online. (UPDATE: Found it. I think it must have been set to “private” when I was looking for it before.)