Lookout There!

Overnight escape at Oak Flat fire lookout in Sequoia National Forest

Perched at 4,900 feet in the Greenhorn Mountains amid majestic oaks and huge, cleaved boulders, Oak Flat Lookout in Sequoia National Forest (named for the Giant Sequoia groves and namesake monument within its boundaries) is a point of geographic lucidity. You can see for miles in every direction from its wrap-around deck (perfect for birdwatching and stargazing). Even inside, wall-to-wall windows bestow 360-degree vision. The cab is preserved much as it was, its interior painted Forest Service light green and equipped with a gas stove, sink, lantern, propane heater, and two twin beds (linens not provided).

There’s no water or electricity on site, so pack accordingly. You’ll cherish the on-deck basket pulley system, which lets guests hoist provisions up the tower’s side rather than lug them up a steep catwalk. Dawns and sunsets are spellbinding here, but the night is full of marvels too — whether it’s the sight of Bakersfield glittering below a dustbowl haze, or a full moon bathing the mountains in an ethereal blue glow.

In the morning, prep a hot breakfast and head down Badger Gap Trail just yards south. This lightly used, 11-mile mountain biking path rambles through oaks, chaparral, and lichen-flecked boulders before tracing the slopes of heavily grazed meadows (where cow pies abound) and eventually descending to Delonegha Creek.

Gallery image 1 of 4
Gallery image 2 of 4
Gallery image 3 of 4
Gallery image 4 of 4

Rental season runs April 15 until the end of November. Book a reservation at recreation.gov. This popular site fills up fast! If Oak Flat is booked up, check for cancellations, or reserve up to six months in advance.

From Los Angeles, take the I-5 and CA-99 north to Bakersfield and then head east on CA-178. After roughly 12 miles, turn left onto Rancheria Rd., which reverts to dirt and winds up into oak woodland. Follow for 10 miles. Finding the unmarked turnoff to Oak Flat is a bit tricky, but it is distinguishable by a thick-beamed gate at right painted light green. A high clearance 4WD vehicle is strongly recommended for this final stretch of rough road. Dogs are allowed but not recommended due to steep staircase.

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Tam Slam!

    This 8-mile (round-trip) hike is a pure classic, with redwoods, water-flows, and soaring views of the coastline. Oh yeah, and that ladder!

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Secret Beach

    A hidden beach and a killer view? Those are hard to come by, but that’s exactly what you’ll get at Perles Beach on Angel Island. This pocket cove is worth the 1.5-mile trek to get there.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Magical McClures

    McClures Beach is a seductive little spot: small, beautiful, and quiet. It’s easy to while away an afternoon-turned-sunset at this pocket cove in Point Reyes.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Road Trip Ahead: Oregon Outback

    Remote open spaces, camping under true Dark Skies, hiking and biking trails galore, wildlife refuges, and hot springs! Plan your road trip to the Oregon Outback this summer.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Road Trip Ahead: Oregon Outback

    Remote open spaces, camping under true Dark Skies, hiking and biking trails galore, wildlife refuges, and hot springs! Plan your road trip to the Oregon Outback this summer.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Easiest Best Hike in the World

    Choose the easiest and most view-rewarding hike in Yosemite. Okay, we’ll go first: the combination of hiking to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. Both of these lookouts are within a couple miles of each other on Glacier Point Road

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    All Roads Lead to Rogue

    Idea for your next road trip: Go Rogue! The Rogue Valley in beautiful Southern Oregon has some of the state’s best hiking, swim holes, and wineries, and the charming historic towns of Ashland, Medford, and Jacksonville.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Bouquet of Waterfalls

    Like a good love letter, some of the best hiking trails are short and sweet. Cue the hike to Bouquet Falls in Santa Clarita Valley’s Bouquet Canyon.

    View