Imagine waking up in a historic lookout tower with sweeping views of Mount Shasta, the Castle Crags, and Lassen Peak. If that sounds like a dream, you’re in luck. Girard Ridge Lookout, one of the few remaining historic lookouts in California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest, offers a unique, off-the-beaten-path travel experience that you’ll never forget.
Built in 1931 and used by the Forest Service until 1981, Girard Ridge Lookout is the oldest lookout of its specific design in California. The structure was lovingly restored to its original character in 1997 and now provides visitors with a primitive yet cozy overnight stay.
During the day, the main attraction at Girard Ridge Lookout is, of course, the breathtaking scenery. However, the area also offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, hunting, and fishing. For hikers, a 3-mile walk along the Forest Service road from the lookout leads to the Pacific Crest Trail, perfect for a day’s adventure.
The 14×14-foot Girard Ridge Lookout cabin stands 13 feet off the ground, accessible by a flight of stairs. Inside, you’ll find two twin beds with mattresses, storage cabinets, and a table for meals. While there are no cooking facilities, water, or electricity, the lookout does offer cleaning supplies such as a mop, broom, and cleansers. A separate building houses a vault toilet just a short walk away.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to bring your own water, dishes, utensils, cookware, linens, and bedding. A heat source will come in handy during cooler temperatures. Also, remember to pack garbage bags to take your trash with you when you leave. Portable stoves using gas, jellied petroleum, or pressurized liquid fuel are permitted with a valid California campfire permit, but wood or charcoal fires are not allowed.
Nestled at an elevation of 4,809 feet, Girard Ridge Lookout offers awe-inspiring views of the surrounding landscape. To the north, you can marvel at the majestic Mount Shasta, while the west presents an almost unobstructed vista of the Castle Crags’ striking gray spires. In the distance to the southeast, you’ll spot the silhouette of Lassen Peak. The lookout is enveloped by the mixed conifer forest of northern California, which is home to bears and other wildlife. Make sure to familiarize yourself with bear safety precautions during your stay.
For nearby attractions, consider visiting Castle Crags State Park, which boasts hiking trails, including access to the Castle Crags Wilderness in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. You can also fish and swim in the refreshing waters of the Sacramento River.
When planning your visit to Girard Ridge Lookout, be aware that a $10 service fee will apply for any changes or cancellations to your reservation. Late cancellations may also be subject to additional fees. For full details and to book the lookout, go here.
Watch this video to get an idea of the views: