Type: 20′ R-6 tower
Elevation: 5,405 feet
Visited: August 31 – September 2, 2019
After years of trying to reserve the Indian Ridge Lookout in the Willamette National Forest I finally managed to get a reservation, and for Labor Day Weekend no less! I had driven up to see it in 2015 and gotten a taste of what the views were like, so I was looking forward to our stay.
We left Portland first thing Saturday morning and headed south. Before heading up to the lookout we did a short hike to Lower and Middle Erma Bell Lakes. We hung out by the lower lake for a long time, relaxing and enjoying the beautiful afternoon. Greg went for a swim:
After our little hike we drove up to the lookout:
Inside there are some counters, a table, and two beds:
The views were AMAZING and stretched up and down the Cascades. Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack:
Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater:
The Three Sisters and Broken Top:
That “lump” at dead center in the photo below is Rebel Rock. There used to be a fire lookout near there (not on the rock itself). We hiked there in 2017 just a few weeks before the Rebel Fire burned a lot of that area, including the old lookout:
Mt. Bachelor at far left:
French Pete Creek drainage:
The view to the east is partially obscured by trees, but we could see Sardine Butte. This was once the site of a fire lookout, and there was a geocache up there I had hoped we could go find, but we never had time:
We found the survey marker, which dates back to 1938:
We sat on the catwalk enjoying an appetizer before dinner:
I made dinner on our camp stove at the picnic table and we ate in our chairs facing the mountains:
Sunset wasn’t spectacular, but it was pretty:
When we woke up Sunday morning we found that we were under a cloud deck that was bumped up against the mountains just east of us. As often happens, it was clear on the other side of the mountains, so the sun was shining through the gap as it rose and it looked really beautiful:
We went for a hike at nearby Chucksney Mountain (read more about that here). On our return to the lookout we stopped at Hidden Lake, which is off a spur road on the way up to Indian Ridge. This place is REALLY popular and had probably been very busy and crowded earlier. But we arrived right as the sun was dipping behind the mountain, so there were only a few people left. Greg went for a swim:
We drove up to the lookout and closed the gate behind us (there is no lock, so we just rested the end of the gate onto the post. We hoped that it being closed would deter people from driving up. (Wishful thinking since we had closed it in the morning and found it open upon our return. No doubt there had been many visitors up there during our absence.) As I was cooking dinner at the picnic table we heard a truck drive up. A woman and two kids and two untrained unruly dogs got out and started walking around and exploring. She asked if we had rented the “treehouse” then she said they were planning to camp up there on the ridge with us and promised they wouldn’t be a bother. I told her camping wasn’t allowed up there, and pointed out there were three “no camping” signs on the gate she opened to get up here, not to mention the sign we were standing next to:
She told us the ranger at the hot springs had told her she could camp up here. “That wasn’t a ranger,” I told her. “He’s a concessionaire. He doesn’t work for the Forest Service and he’s just contracted to run that site.” Then she tried a different tactic, saying that she had camped up here before and asking if the “no camping” rule was new. I honestly had no idea and I told her so. I suspected that the signs were relatively recent and were erected because of complaints from renters about people camping up here, but I didn’t know for sure. She seemed disappointed and I was dead sure she was going to camp up there anyway, rules be damned. But after looking around she and her kids got back in the truck and left.
Once again we ate dinner with a nice view, although it was not as clear as the previous evening, with clouds hovering over the tops of the Three Sisters:
Sunset comes so quickly this time of year!
That night we had clear skies and stars. There was some light pollution from Bend and Eugene, but with no moon in the sky the star-gazing conditions were pretty great:
In the morning I got up to take a few photos of the sun rising behind the Three Sisters before going back to bed:
It was a beautiful warm morning and we lingered for awhile before finally leaving to go hike Lowder Mountain and then head home:
A note about the gate:
I sent a message to the Willamette National Forest to ask why they don’t lock the gate and give renters the combination, which is what I’ve seen done at other lookouts I’ve rented. They ignored my message. I called to ask the McKenzie River Ranger District about this. They said there would never be a lock on the gate because it’s a public area and anyone is allowed to drive up there as long as they don’t disturb the renters. I pointed out that there are no signs to this effect and that people are in fact disturbing the renters.
For $55 a night I think the renters are entitled to a little privacy. Sure, anyone can walk up and that’s the case at any lookout. But to allow non-renters to drive up is far more disruptive. I’m glad that other ranger districts are not taking this attitude.
Reading through the logbooks (see some entries below), rude visitors are clearly a problem up here. For those of you heading up there, I think the advice from the last entry below about parking your car at the entrance to the loop is a great idea:
Was awakened in the morning by old guys up here at 7:30am to “look at the scenery” and the next morning by gunshots out the window and a man with a rifle coming up the stairs at 8am. Ridiculous! OMG 6 ATVs just showed up.
Our only disappointment was the number of visitors. We greatly appreciated those who drove up and then quickly turned around once they saw us. Some yahoos drove up Sunday afternoon and parked about 20 feet away from where I was (completely annoying) as they drank beer and listened to music.
Many stragglers showed up, one at 3am and camped 20 feet away until the next morning.
Our only frustration was that when we arrived we found a Cruise America RV with guests parked three feet from the picnic table. The couple was insistent that since they were here first and that it wasn’t posted no camping they would be staying and using the picnic table and fire pit while we camped up in “that tower”!! Eventually they must have realized they needed to at least move a little bit away as that is what they did.
This lookout site is a revolving door of visitors and people attempting to camp up here. Solitude not so much.
Several visitors. I wish the gate would work again.
We’ve stayed at several other lookouts on the west coast and this one had the most visitors at all hours of the day. Someone even showed up on a loud ATV at 7am. Sort of annoying.
After reading posts we figured a way to close the gate and parked our car at the entrance to the loop around the lookout to deter visitors which helps.
If you rent Indian Ridge:
- The road access here is one of the best I’ve ever encountered for a lookout rental and is passable by any car.
- There is no cookstove at this lookout. We brought our Coleman car camping stove and cooked meals on the picnic table. This was much easier than hauling our stove, food, water, pots, etc. up the tower.
- There is no propane heater or woodstove. If cold weather is in the forecast bring warm clothes!
- As mentioned above, the gate does not lock, so you can expect drive-up visitors, especially on weekends.
- There is a picnic table and a fire ring, but no firewood is provided. DO NOT CHOP DOWN TREES FOR FIREWOOD. Bring some with you.