A few years ago Andrew and I filmed a gear review for Outdoor Gear TV from an old fire lookout, high above Evergreen, Colorado. Recently we thought of it again and decided to drive up from Golden, hike and catch sunrise. Sitting in the truck, on the way to the lookout, I discovered it was now available to rent. I wasted no time booking it.
The fire lookout can be booked six months in advance. Weekends were booked out about four months ahead, and I didn’t want to wait that long, so I grabbed the night before Thanksgiving. I was like a giddy kid, counting down the days until Christmas.
When it’s not snowy, the hike is a short mile walk up a dirt road. Because of the snow, we had to start at the bottom of the road, which adds about half a mile to the hike.
You arrive at the old lookout, perched on a granite rock field at about 11,500′. There are two floors. The top floor is surrounded with 360 degree views, has two twin beds, a desk, two space heaters and an old fire finder (which we spent a long time ogling over). The down stairs has two bunk beds, a space heater, a kitchen and a window looking out towards the south.
I’ve never seen a more beautiful sunset. Below us a snow storm covered the front range, but we sat high above the sea of clouds. Some of the mountains sat like little islands in the clouds. To the south sits Pikes Peak and to the north Longs Peak was glowing. Plan on arriving at least an hour before sunset—you don’t want to miss it.
Nighttime in the Lookout
When the sunset finally faded we were greeted with a full moon. The sea of clouds rose higher, covering the little mountain islands, but still never reached us.
The facility details say that the lookout is heated, which is true considering that it was seven degrees and a wind tunnel outside, but the rooms didn’t get above 45-50 degrees. Camping the weekend prior was 19 degrees, so 45 felt toasty.
The moon was like a spot light, shining into the upstairs of the lookout. When venturing outside to the bathroom, the lighting was nice, but for star gazing choose a darker night.
Morning from 11,500′
We woke to a frost covered lookout. After making some coffee we settled in for the sunrise. I can’t imagine sleeping in and missing the show. The sun glowed behind the clouds, and a light snow fell around us. We were still above the clouds, so it didn’t really start snowing hard until our hike down.
What to bring: In addition to your own water, sleeping bag and food, bring your camera, a head lamp for the trek to the bathroom and a camp pillow or pillow case (there were two pillows). We found a few decks of cards, but additional games would be a fun. During winter months: gloves, a beanie, a warm sleeping bag and cozy slippers are also nice to have.
Food should be put away or you’ll have visitors. We woke up to a half eaten chocolate wrapper sitting a few feet from the bed.
Respect the location. Considering its proximity to the Front Range, and just how awesome it is, I think this place is going to become really popular. No one is going to clean up after you like a hotel. Clean up before you go and pack your trash own out. And, please don’t put your food or drink on the fire finder. It’s such a cool historical part of the fire lookout and it was evident people had used it as a cup holder.
Elevation: This is a great place to bring friends and family, but consider that it’s not always easy to hike and sleep at 11,500′. Make sure out-of-town folks get acclimated and stay hydrated.