Author Archives: leslieromer


RT Distance: 8 miles

High Point: 1760 feet

Elevation Gain: 1450 feet

Season: All Year

Discover Pass is required.


In 1948 the Washington State Division of Forestry raised a 75-foot Navy surplus steel tower with a small observation cabin on the high point of the long Gold Mountain ridge, the highest peak in Kitsap County. That cabin was too small for staff lodging, so a 14×18-foot ground house was provided on a shoulder of the ridge, about 50 feet downhill. [1] Sometime in 1965, the then Department of Natural Resources replaced the tall metal tower with a 50-foot wooden tower with a live-in cabin on top on the next hill to the southwest, less than 0.1 mile away.[2]

Gloria and Dick Tyler were the staff on the Gold Mountain Lookout towers in 1965 and 1966. Gloria wrote about their experiences there for the Department’s lookout staff newsletter, Ten˗Eight. She reported they were stranded in the tall old tower when a 70 mile an hour wind came through, June 17, 1965. They stayed overnight in the tower, because Gloria was afraid to go down the ladder in the wind. “It was still blowing in the morning but by then I was so cold and stiff I thought I might as well go dramatically,” she reported. [3] In the July 1966 issue, she reported they were enjoying the new lookout tower, and not needing to climb the old 85 foot ladder several times a day.[4] Historical lookout inventories report the second Gold Mountain Lookout as “destroyed 1971.”[5]

A half dozen television stations, communication companies, and government agencies have erected their relay towers along the two-mile ridge since that time. Trees have grown tall on the summit, concealing the route foresters took to the first lookout tower. A timber harvest authorized in 2023 may restore some of the panoramic views the historical fire lookouts enjoyed, sometime in the next few years. A cultural resources review of the area, which is required as part of the timber harvest planning process, should result in a “Save Trees Area” that leaves the artifacts of the 1948 fire lookout tower and ground house undisturbed.


This hike visits both Gold Mountain Lookout sites. It begins at the Tin Mine trailhead in the Green Mountain State Forest and shares a narrow trail with mountain bikes for a short part of its ascent. Bikers appear mostly on weekends and are generally courteous. The trail connects with an old forest road crossing the Gold Mountain ridge on a route that primarily serves the modern communication towers standing tall above. The 1965 lookout site is easily reached by road. Access to the 1948 ground house and tower sites requires a short cross-country hill climb.

Getting There from Bremerton (coming from the east or north):

  • From Bremerton, take the Kitsap Way exit from State Route 3.
  • Drive 1.4 miles and take a slight left on Northlake Way NW.
  • At 2.5 miles, angle left on the Seabeck Highway NW.
  • At 5.5 miles, take the second exit at a traffic circle, to NW Holly Road.
  • At 9.7 miles, turn left on Lake Tahuya Road NW.
  • At 10.9 miles, turn left on to Gold Creek Road NW.
  • At 12.4 miles, turn left into the Gold Creek Trailhead parking lot of the Green Mountain State Forest. There are no signs announcing the approach to the parking lot, which is concealed behind foliage. Park between the outhouse and the picnic tables.

Getting there from Belfair (coming from the south):

  • Follow signs toward Belfair State Park from the traffic light on State Route 3, in the center of Belfair.
  •  In two blocks, turn right at the stop sign, onto the Old Belfair Highway.
  • At 3.5 miles from State Route 3 (just past MP 3), turn left on Bear Creek/DeWatto Road.
  • At 6.6 miles from State Route 3 (just past MP 3), turn right on NE Gold Creek Road.
  • At 9.0 miles, turn right into the parking lot. Small signs just before the entrance announce the approach to the Gold Creek Trailhead. Park between the outhouse and the picnic tables.


Follow the Tin Mine Trail signed for non-motorized use that starts to the right of the outhouse. In 2023 this trail name appears on signs throughout the southern part of this state forest, but not on the Department of Natural Resources’ website. The map there is dated 2009.

Hike 0.25 mile on a narrow trail through a young forest to a junction marked with a metal diamond trail sign on a tree trunk on the left side of the main trail. Turn right before getting to the diamond marker, onto a trail which has been designed primarily as a challenge for mountain bikes. The track remains in the trees for little more than 100 feet, then emerges to climb a hillside that was closely shorn in 2019. A lot of logging debris was left in place, but small shrubs—notably sword ferns, Oregon grape, salal, and lupine—have started doing their best to restore the landscape. Clear views of the Olympic Mountains, Hood Canal and Lake Tahuya are revealed as you ascend the hill.

The trail winds steeply up the slope, gaining about 500 feet in 0.55 mile. Signs at the ridgetop indicate the Tin Mine Trail continues, traversing to the east from its junction with a one lane forest road.

Turn right on the road to continue toward Gold Mountain ridge. The road quickly turns south. On its left side is an abandoned gravel pit. The trees in this area were harvested early in this century, and their replacements are growing quickly. Continue on this track for 0.7 mile. In spring watch for purple lupine and the bright pink blossoms of native rhododendrons beside the road.

At 1.5 miles from the trailhead, the track meets the main gravel road on the Gold Mountain ridge. This is Minard Road, a name that appears on historical maps of the route to the Gold Mountain fire lookout. Continue traversing the ridge toward the northeast. Trees on the downhill side of the road were harvested between 2010 and 2015. Their replacements have grown slowly on the sunny slope, allowing a broad panoramic view from the Olympics to Mount Rainier. Mission, Tiger and Panther Lakes are visible to the southwest, near the foot of Gold Mountain. A snippet of Hood Canal can be seen far south of the lakes while large segments of Puget Sound’s waters appear to the southeast, with Mount Rainier floating above them on clear days.

The ridgetop is reached in about 0.25 mile as you pass a gate identifying the large installation down its spur road as belonging to KCPQ, Channel 13. The development includes a tower tall enough to disappear in passing clouds. Something in the complex hums insistently as hikers pass its northern boundary, distracting briefly from forest views and bird songs.

Turn east and continue on the ridge. Rhododendrons thrive on the shadier north side of the ridgeline. Pass a gated road on the right that leads to a tower belonging to KTBW-TV, Tacoma. Views of a comparable tower on Green Mountain, about a mile to the north, emerge on the left as well.

The road continues eastward. At 2.5 miles keep right at a Y junction. The ridge road reenters the forest where openings allow broad views east and north. After trending downhill, the route circles the eastern end of the ridge. As the gravel track turns west to complete the curve, it climbs steeply. At 3.5 miles the main road widens and an unsigned spur leads south toward a metal tower visible over the trees. This site was identified in Harvey Manning’s 1979 Footloose 4: Walks and Hikes around Puget Sound, as the site of the 1965 Gold Mountain fire lookout tower. [6] Research by Eric Willhite and Alan Mainwaring in February 2023 found the correct historical location a short distance west of the 1948 fire lookout site.[7]

Continue west another quarter mile, passing a junction with an ungated road on the right that leads to two communication towers. Pass a hillock on your right and follow the road downhill and up around a curve to its end on another hillock. At the right side of the road end are several small buildings and a tall communications tower inside a chain link fence. This is a Washington State Patrol communications station. On the left side of the clearing is an L shaped one story building, marked with a Washington Department of Natural Resources facilities inventory number on its east side. The structure’s current use is not known, but several artifacts of the 1965 fire lookout tower remain close to this building. Three square concrete footing blocks, each with a pair of short galvanized rods protruding, stand close to the foundation of the building which replaced their tower. The footing blocks are located so close to the newer building, it is unlikely they are in their original positions. Additional research will be needed to learn more detailed information about the location of the 1965 tower, and about the building which replaced it.

To visit the well-defined site of the 1948 fire lookout tower, retrace your steps to the low point on the road between the two hillocks. Notice an informal trail leading to a green transformer box about 100 feet to the left of the road and a few feet higher than the road. Several artifacts of the ground house which supported the 1948 fire lookout tower are within 50 feet of the transformer box. A white porcelain sink sits against the slope of the hill; a 6-x 4-foot section of corrugated metal roofing leans against a tree between the sink and the road; and a set of three concrete steps which provided entry to the lookout staff’s ground house stands on the east side of a sturdy fir tree which was probably a sapling in the 1960s.

Sink 1Steps 1






The informal trail continues up to the top of the hillock where the 1948 fire lookout tower stood. Discover an open area on the higher hillock, covered with moss. A bronze disc set in concrete crowns the hill. It is engraved US Coast and Geodetic Survey and has GOLD HILL 1954 stamped into its surface. This is the principal survey station marker for this location. About six feet to the west a bit of concrete sticks out, with the stub of an angle beam barely visible above the vegetation. Three angle beams are usually easy to find on this site, located just far enough apart to support the original 75-foot steel tower here. The bronze Reference Mark No.1 disc that stood in the center of the tower supports [8] was uncovered in winter 2022˗23, confirming the exact location of the original Gold Mountain lookout tower on the top of this hill.

You may also meet other explorers while visiting Gold Mountain. This peak has been identified on the internet as both the high point of Kitsap County and as a geocache site.

[1] State of Washington, Forty-Third and Forty-Fourth Annual Reports of the Division of Forestry for the Period Commencing January 1, 1947 and Ending October 31, 1948, p. 24.

[2] The Department of Natural Resources received authority to withdraw 10 acres of Forest Board lands at this location for a “lookout and electronic site,”. Order 63˗302 signed by Bert L. Cole, Commissioner of Public Lands, March 15, 1963.

[3] Gloria Tyler. Ten˗Eight, July 1965, [p. 3.]

[4] Gloria Tyler. Ten˗Eight, July 1966, [p. 2.]

[5] Ray Kresek. Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, 2019 Revised Lookout Inventory, 23.

[6] Harvey Manning, Footloose 4: Walks and Hikes around Puget Sound. Seattle, The Mountaineers, p. 210˗212.

[7] Willhite and Mainwaring found a series of documents from the 1960s in Washington Department of Natural Resources regional property files which record the withdrawal from timber management of 10 acres on Gold Mountain ridge for “fire lookout and electronics,” The 1948 lookout site is at the northern edge of this 10˗acre site.

[8] US National Geodetic Survey Data Sheet PID SY5508 GOLD HILL LOOKOUT TOWER: 


HIKE SUMMARY: This hike in the Green Diamond Tree Farm on the Shelton˗Matlock Road in Mason County is behind a gate that is opened for motorized public access during the autumn hunting season. Non˗motorized recreation is allowed year-round, whenever forestry activities are not posted at the gate. Directions are provided for a variable length hike off the mainline forest road. Optional starting points are identified in the summary table below. Hemlock and Douglas fir are the predominant conifers in this 3rd, 4th or later succession forest. Long views are available close to where the trail leaves the road and enters the forest.

Starting PointRound-Trip Distance in MilesMaximum ElevationElevation Gain in FeetSeason
808˗808N Junction6.6 715 
808N4 sign5.4 700October
1330 T Junction4.81240 feet670Othrough December
Sideroad between MP 2 and 33.4 640 

No pass or permit is required. Visit the Green Diamond Company Public Access web page for details:


  • Drive west on the Shelton-Matlock Road from US Highway 101 at Shelton.
  • Pass through the village of Dayton and pass the Green Diamond Resource Company log sorting yard on the right side of the road.
  • At 9.7 miles from US Highway 101, between mileposts 10 and 11, turn right at the tree farm signs. Roads from here to the trailhead are generally well-maintained gravel.
  • Drive a short distance to a T junction and turn left. Pass through an open gate with a Green Dot sign. This mainline forest road is usually well maintained. The side roads are initially numbered in the 1300s, then 800 plus letters.
  • At 2.7 miles from the Shelton˗Matlock Road, park on the second prong of the two-pronged junction with Forest Road (FR) 808N for a 6.6-mile round-trip hike. The side roads are not frequently maintained. FR 808N has lots of potholes.
  •  Drive an additional 0.6 mile on FR 808N to a junction with FR 808N4 for a shorter hike. Park at this junction for a 5.4˗mile round-trip hike to the Simpson Lookout site.
  • Turn left and continue an additional 0.3 mile through a maturing tree plantation to a T-junction with FR 1300. Park here for a 4.8-mile round-trip hike.
  • Turn left and pass FR 1340 on the right. At the next T junction, turn right. Go to the unsigned junction on the left between mile markers 2 and 3. Park here for a 3.4˗ mile round-trip hike to the Simpson Lookout site.


6.6˗Mile Hike: Start hiking northeastward on FR 808N. Pass a side road on the left, headed north. This section of the hike route is pretty flat, but the gravel road is dotted with potholes that tend to retain water. After 0.1 mile the route turns eastward toward its junction with FR 808N4.

5.4˗Mile Hike: Hike northward on FR 808N. Pass side roads on both sides of the one lane gravel hike route. The elevation gain from the FR 808˗808N junction to the T junction with FR 1330 is 45 feet.

4.8˗Mile Hike: Hike west from the T junction, passing FR 1340 on the right. At the next T junction, turn right on the more heavily travelled roadway. Hike about two thirds mile from the FR 808N and 1330 junction to a side road on the left.

3.4 Mile Hike: Start hiking on the side road (FR 1330 on old maps) between mile posts 2 and 3. At 0.1 mile, pass a side road heading north on the right. At 0.3 mile, pass a road heading downhill and southwest on the left side of the road. The hike route is climbing uphill on a curving one lane road. The border between road and the surrounding evergreen forest is mostly comprised of salal, evergreen huckleberry bushes, and Oregon grape. Clusters of hemlock or cedar seedlings punctuate the border vegetation.

Less than half a mile from the last parking spot, the burbles of a nearby creek break the silence. At 0.6 mile, round a bend and hike parallel to a ravine bordered by taller, older trees.

The trees close to the creek were left standing to protect the water quality and wildlife when the forest around them was harvested.

The road curves around a narrow valley with younger, lighter green conifers, planted earlier this century. The hill top to the west is Simpson Peak. Although it is the highest point in this area, it was not the location of the Simpson fire lookout station. The lookout tower was built partway down the southern slope of Simpson Peak, at 1240 feet elevation.

The route traces the letter Z, from tail to start point, as it climbs the hill. At 1120 feet elevation the Z is completed at a switchback in the road. Look downhill across many miles of seemingly uninterrupted forest land. The landscape to the south spreads before you. Lake Nahwatzel provides the bright patch of blue against the dark green forest to the southwest. The one area of developed land to the southeast is the Green Diamond log sorting lot, which was passed on the driving route. All else appears to be forest!

After enjoying the view, stand at the corner of the road, looking west. A narrow foot trail enters the forest here without trailhead sign or flagging. Follow it about 100 yards, then turn left and go down a steep slope about 10 feet. I don’t know whether this is a natural ravine or a ditch, but I have (happily) not yet found water running through it. Climb up the bank on the south side and pause before continuing up the trail. On a November 2022 visit I noticed a white piece of paper tacked to a hemlock tree on the right side of the trail here. Despite assuming it would mark a Forest Harvest Boundary, I flattened the small sign and was startled to read:


What a nice surprise! I knew from previous visits to this trail that the rest of the route to the Simpson fire lookout site is used primarily by bike riders. Their tracks dominate the marks on the ground between here and Simpson Peak. I appreciate that someone within the life span of that piece of paper knew the historical significance of this informal trail.

Continue south on the steeply rising narrow trail. In less than 0.1 mile it merges with a well-traveled bike track descending steeply from Simpson Peak to the north. Continue southwest to the high point on this ridge. There is a notable clearing on the left and a smaller tree˗free area full of salal on the right at 47° 17΄ 32″ N 123° 18΄ 47″. W and 1240 feet elevation.

I have not found any recognizable artifacts of the lookout tower that stood here until 1961. But I have not searched the salal exhaustively; there might be metal attached to one of those logs under the low shrubs. The ridge drops off steeply to the west. Any large pieces of concrete could have been dumped down the hill. Perhaps if I return with a light weight metal detector ….


HIKE SUMMARY: This is a good example of hikes in the Capitol State Forest. There are several ways to reach the destination; each involves numerous junctions and a few road crossings. Trail conditions come and go, as do the well-intended trail signs. The trails to Rock Candy Mountain are shared with bicycles all year, and motorized bikes May through November. Despite these drawbacks, the views of snow-topped Cascade and Olympic peaks can be wonderful, and sections of the forest are truly beautiful. The convenience of the hike to the state capitol area cannot be beat.

Round trip Distance High Point Elevation Gain Season
6.4 miles 2364 feet 1700 feet Year-round; Best: April
A Discover Pass is required


  • From Interstate 5 in Olympia, exit to US Highway 101 northbound.
  • Drive west 5.8 miles and keep left on State Route 8, where US Highway 101 turns north.
  • Pass milepost 17. Get in the left lane to exit left.
  • A road sign indicates a left turn to the Rock Candy Mountain Road and a right turn to Summit Lake. Pull into the median left turn lane and cross the two eastbound lanes to enter the Capitol State Forest.
  • Drive a short distance and park in the parking lot on the right, or adjacent to it during the winter season when the lot is gated.
  • The trailhead is across the road from the parking lot.

HIKING ROUTE: Cross the road to a clearly marked trailhead for the Rock Candy and North Rim #1 trails. Do not let the trail names draw you in. The route that starts with the North Rim #1 Trail offers the most direct hiking path to Rock Candy Mountain. The route of the Rock Candy Trail is more than 2 miles longer and goes to the same destination. The 0.1-mile trail shared by the two routes briefly crosses open land before entering the forest. In winter 2022, the trail and land between the trail and creek showed clear signs of flooding that scoured the trail and forest floor.

The trail splits under the trees, with the Rock Candy Trail crossing an attractive bridge and heading east. The North Rim #1 Trail heads south into a mixed forest without any enticements beyond a well-maintained walking surface. The route’s first road crossing appears at 0.33 mile.

A sign before the road indicates the non-motorized trail ends here. About 100 feet into the trail across the road is a narrow brown sign confirming the North Rim #1 Trail’s continuation. A few corners later, the trail turns south and passes a recently replanted area with two spindly groves of seed trees offering filtered views of the south Olympics and western Capitol Forest.

At 0.8 mile, turn left (east) at a 3-way intersection. The sign here in early 2022 says North Rim Trail continues east and west. Maps indicate the North Rim Trail continues west from this point, not continuing toward Rock Candy Mountain.At 1.16 miles cross another section of old forest road whose use is now reserved for two-wheeled, horse, and hiking traffic. The shared trail starts with concrete trail support blocks, necessary for the heavy wheeled traffic. This fortunately leads to what is currently the prettiest section of trail ascending the west slope to the Rock Candy Mountain Lookout site.

The route climbs the hill in moderately steep zigzags, with more and more of the Olympic Mountains appearing as you ascend. The evergreens are tall here, making them subject to future timber harvest projects. The forest currently contains a mixture of conifers and low shrubs, with hedges of Oregon grape, sword ferns, and other native flowering and evergreen plants often bordering the trail.

At 1.8 miles, the trail ends just past a Divide Trail North sign. Turn right on a drivable road currently identified as the Divide Trail North on Capitol Forest maps. The west slope of this section of the ridge was harvested, 2018˗2021, offering broader views in that direction. In a short distance there are additional wooden signs on the left side of the road, identifying the destinations of downhill trails as Waddell Creek and Porter Creek.

Continue on the broad gravel road as it gradually becomes steeper, turns right, then left. At 2.5 miles it reaches a grand viewpoint offering Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens to the east, and a panoramic forested landscape at your feet.

The elevation is about 1700 feet, indicating that most of the elevation gain for the hike has been completed. After admiring the view from the road edge, cross the gravel to a fairly steep bank marked with informal trails. In 2021 several former trails resolved into one shared by hikers, bikers, and dirt bikes. Ten to twelve feet above the road this informal way-trail levels out and wanders through open forest. The route ascends very gradually at first, becoming steeper after 0.25 mile, when it approaches an area with sky visible above young trees.

The clearing is a road end; the road continues the gradual elevation increase for another 0.15 mile. When the road you are hiking veers to the right, take the trail opening in tall salal on the left side of the road, continuing the straight route. Follow the trail through salal and forest for little more than a 0.1 mile, where it emerges at a hilltop road end.

This is the top of Rock Candy Mountain and the site of its fire lookout. The curiously named hill offers panoramic views west and north, over many miles of forest to the Olympics and possible glimpses of the southern bays of Puget Sound. Most of the timbered acreage between here and the Pacific Ocean, and south to the Columbia River, is privately owned. There are only eight publicly accessible fire lookout sites outside of Capitol Forest in the Willapa Hills. Almost all you can see is commercial timber—private tree farms—grown to be harvested repeatedly with little regard for ecosystem health or wildlife.[1]

[1] This opinion echoes that of Robert Michael Pyle in his award-winning book about the Willapa Hills, Wintergreen, Listening to the Land’s Heart.


This is offered as an easier route than Hike 35 in Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills. It is still a short, low elevation, year round hike.

Drive to the junction of the Mason˗Benson Road and East Trails Road. Turn right on East Trails Road and drive almost one mile to a gated gravel road on the right. Park near Green Diamond gate number 2385.

Start your hike up the moderately sloped road beside Sherwood Creek. Trees have been retained close to the creek to protect water quality, offering a healthy mixed forest of cedars, hemlock, and fir on the left side of the hiking route. Keep left at the first Y, continuing to parallel the creek, which burbles audibly in winter and spring. Enjoy occasional views of the water, flowing broadly between thick grassy banks.

The road curves to the right (east southeast) at about 0.6 mile, tracing the water course that has gained a swampy patch featuring swamp lanterns (also known as skunk cabbage), before disappearing into dense forest.

At 0.8 mile the hike route turns southwest, away from the creek. After another quarter mile, take a grassy branch road to the right, continuing the moderate ascent through the tree farm. At 1.33 miles, this road ends at a logging landing on the top of a 260-foot-tall hill. Fortunately, the route’s continuation is visible a few hundred yards away, on the next small hill to the southwest. This short section of the road was half-heartedly covered with logging debris after the last harvest here, around 2018. Step over the small downed limbs, and continue your hike. Descending from the second hillock, a crossroad appears in a few hundred yards. When you reach it at 1.7 miles, turn right.

The original route turns left at the next junction, crosses a culvert, then climbs the next ridge on an old jeep track through evergreen huckleberry bushes and young fir trees. Instead, this alternate route continues on the narrow road headed north northeast for another quarter mile, then turns left at the next road junction, to hike southwest between conifers planted in the 21st century. This road’s border includes alder, manzanita, and scotch broom among its young fir trees.

After traveling about 0.4 mile to the southwest, turn left uphill on a narrow but drivable track. Hike a short distance to the viewpoint at the end of the road. No artifacts of the old fire lookout building have been found here, but the high point of this area is beside the ridge-climbing road, at 362 feet elevation. The high point’s coordinates are 47.3473°, ˗122.9145°. The best views are found here too. The view east offers a grand panorama of Mount Rainier and the Cascades. The western horizon features Mounts Elinor and Washington’s snowy peaks, among the Olympics’ rocky skyline.

When satisfied, descend the narrow road and turn right to complete the loop. Bypass a lesser road headed west on the left, but take the next left turn at a T. In another 0.1 mile, turn left again on the road that runs beside Sherwood Creek. You have completed the loop; the trailhead is just 0.15 mile ahead.

Lengthy Review of LOST FIRE LOOKOUT HIKES AND HISTORIES … on WWW.HIKING FOR HER.COM › lost-fire-lookout-hikes-and-histories-book-review.html

This review is about seven pages long. Here’s what the reviewer liked in the beginning of the book:

Here’s what I noticed within the first few pages of this book
Hikers love maps. It’s always gratifying to see a map with numbered hikes, first thing in a guidebook.
• It indicates the author is is paying attention to a reader’s desire to hone in on
specific hikes.
• It also provides an overview of the geographic locations highlighted in the book for
those who are unfamiliar with the area.

I noted 59 numbers on a map of western Washington State (Strait of Juan de Fuca south to the Columbia River and west of the I-5 corridor).
• These numbers corresponded to 59 hike descriptions.
• 59 hikes! That should make any hiker start salivating.

Romer shares “don’t miss” types of information in the preface, including which access passes are required.

This review was posted in February, 2022.


I have always enjoyed hiking to the Kelly Lookout site on the Mason ˗ Grays Harbor County border, and wondered where the roads connecting with the hike route go. Knowing the fire lookout station was on a low elevation ridge between the Middle Fork Satsop and the Canyon Rivers, with lots of hills and valleys interspersed, has intrigued me. Maps of the area are spider webbed with gated forest roads, making it an attractive area to hike throughout the year.

            The map below shows a 6.5-mile loop route with several side roads (thin black dotted lines) you may want to add to your exploration. Start at the junction of the gated Green Diamond Forest Road 6850 with the main haul road through the area, which has several names and no road signs in 2022. My 2007 National Geographic Topo digital background map labels it the Kelly Road. Washington DNR quadrangle maps of similar vintage label it the 500 Road. I remember seeing a road sign with that number, but I have also seen it called the 6800 Road— a number that is appropriate for the Green Diamond road number system.

            Hike up the road from the gate. It soon turns a corner and levels out a bit, then rises again a couple times before reaching the critical Y at about 0.75 mile. Keep right at the Y junction to visit the Kelly Fire Lookout site. Chapter 43 has a more detailed description, if you would like one.

            After visiting the fire lookout site with its green painted artifacts, the first option is to continue down the hill to a logging landing which currently has clear views into the valleys east and west. The rivers are not visible, but forested slopes and landscapes shaped by millennia of water carving through rocks and soil spread in all directions. 

            Return to the Y (where you kept right to visit the Kelly Lookout site). Turn right to continue around the loop. The route is comprised of narrow roads curving through rolling forestland. The curves prevent long views of the road ahead. Tree harvests in this century provide intermittent side views into broad forests as the hike route continues northeast. Self ˗seeded hemlock sprouts border the roadway, along with vigorous salal. The forest is generally a mix of Douglas firs and hemlocks, with occasional cedars and alders.

            The next major junction is at a corner with a 6850 road sign on the left. A side road on the right leads southeast, toward the Satsop River. I have not followed that branch. If you do, and it leads to a riverbank, please let me know. The loop route heads north from here.

            At K˗1 on the map (coordinates 47° 17′ 07″ N, 123° 29’’35″ W), follow the road left into a shadier section of the forest. The attractive uphill road on the right unfortunately ends in a logging landing in about a quarter mile. Continuing on the main route is a better choice here.

            This section of roadway travels northwest, with one surprise in the forest landscape. There is a logger’s memorial on a tree beside the track. A tin logger’s hardhat has been fastened high on a sturdy tree trunk on the right side of the road. It has been there long enough for bark to grow over the hardhat’s rim. A plastic vine with red flowers is draped over tree limbs just below the silver hat. Several other memorabilia, including a date plaque (12˗10˗12), sit at the foot of the broad tree base.

Not far beyond this landmark, the route turns left at a gate and continues a short distance southwest to reach K˗2 on the map. K˗2 marks the junction with a side road on the right that could have a panoramic view west—if a few trees fell or were felled. Only narrow gaps between the trees were found when the 0.4˗mile spur was explored in 2020. Perhaps it has improved.

            Turn left at K˗3 to include an interesting decommissioned road in the hike route (at coordinates 47° 17′ 11″ N, 123° 30’’36″ W). The landscape slopes downhill on the left toward an occasionally visible valley, and uphill on the right. The 1.2˗mile road was closed with two sets of berms and ditches. The first set is shallow; walking around the berm and across the depression requires little if any close attention. The second set has higher berms and an eight-foot-deep ditch with a usually thick mud bottom. An eight-foot-long split tree trunk and rocks were left in the winter mud in 2022 as a temporary aid for foot traffic. Cross with caution.

            Although we lacked a thermometer to test our intuitive assessment, the last section of the decommissioned road seemed significantly cooler than the rest of the route. In early February 2022 the only patches of snow we saw on the entire hike were beside the road in this part of the route. It does not have the highest elevation on the hike, and it did not appear especially shady, but it was definitely cooler. A look at the map reveals this section of the path parallels an unnamed creek that runs into the Canyon River a half mile west of the Kelly Road. The nearby creek may well contribute to the cooler microclimate experienced here.            

The decommissioned road ends on a maintained gravel road which is gated at its junction with the 500 or Kelly Road. Turn left at K˗4 on the map. Hike 0.6 mile to return to the trailhead and your vehicle. Keep an eye out for the creek crossing under the roadway in a forested valley. It is one of the subtle waterways that were the first designers of the area’s interesting landscape

Prepublication Reviews

I really love the book. It’s a great one.
This book is a welcome addition to my collection of Washington hiking and climbing guides. All of the hikes in this outstanding book lead to remote summits that are off the beaten path yet incredibly accessible. The historical research and maps add background and context to the scenic points and how they were important to the region’s history.
–Mike Gauthier, author of Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide

 Leslie Romer’s book brings the fire lookout era to life again, as well as offering wisdom and insight from one who not only has visited the sites but taken the time to observe, listen and learn what nature has to say about the past, the present and the future of the forest. There is a wealth of information, knowledge and thought to be found in these pages.
–Bryon Monohon, Forks Timber Museum Director

If you’re an admirer of Washington’s fire lookouts, seek off-the-beaten path hiking destinations, and have an appreciation for the state’s colorful logging, conservation, and war time history—you’ll want this guide on your bookshelf and in your pack.
Craig Romano, award winning guidebook author of more than 25 titles

I couldn’t stop reading! Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills is a must-have for anyone interested in fire lookouts, Washington State history and/or hiking. The book combines interesting historic facts with detailed driving directions and trail descriptions.
–Tammy McLeod, creator of Fire Lookouts of the West Coloring Book

Author Leslie Romer not only gives the necessary information needed to visit the “lost” lookouts of Washington’s Olympics and Willapa Hills, she has painstakingly researched and updated lookout histories. I am placing my copy of Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills on the shelf next to my well-worn copy of Kresek’s magnum opus, Fire Lookouts of the Pacific Northwest. That’s where it belongs.
–Keith Lundy Hoofnagle, Former Olympic Fire Lookout and National Park Service Ranger

When it comes to exploring the hills, doing the research and having knowledgeable contacts, Leslie leads the pack. This long-needed guide from her many site visits provides everything you need to have a wonderful fire lookout experience, even if the lookout building is long gone. The guidebook lays out the history, access and route in excellent detail, prompting the reader to want to go out and explore them.
–Eric Willhite, Peakbagger and Fire Lookout Blogger

Leslie Romer performs a major feat of archival research, as well as years of footwork, to come up with this wonderful new contribution to the Northwest’s great-outdoors bookshelf. She spells out exactly how to follow in her footsteps, and she fleshes out the experience with details of both the present plant life and the past—in words and in exhumed photos.
–Daniel Mathews, author of Cascadia Revealed: A Guide to the Plants, Animals and Geology of the Pacific Northwest Mountains

This is a magnificent book, written by an experienced hiker and environmentalist. She has specialized in hiking to old fire lookout sites and has now visited more than 500 sites, most of them in Washington State. The book contains extensive overview of 65 lookout sites in Washington´s coastal region, providing historic background as well as practical information and detailed route maps.
–Bragi Ragnarsson, Professional Hiking Guide, Reykjavik, Iceland

Part hiking guide and part history book, Leslie Romer’s Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories is a richly detailed account of the long forgotten fire lookouts that once dotted the Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills. Romer, a backcountry enthusiast, adeptly guides the reader to the lookouts on trails just waiting to be explored.
–John Dodge, author of A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm

It is delightful…  Leslie Romer makes a difference ⁓ inspiring a search for our history while exploring our beautiful world. May her readers follow her footsteps and find their own paths.
–Molly Erickson, US Forest Service, Retired (44 years)


Sometime in the second half of 2021, free public access to the South Mountain Fire Lookout site through the surrounding private forest lands was eliminated by the Green Diamond Company. Until sometime that year, the long bicycling and hiking route to South Mountain, the southernmost peak of the Olympics, has been accessible from the Shelton˗Matlock Road, year round. Until this autumn, the forestland gates at that main road, and within the tree farm have been opened, allowing cars and trucks to drive to a gate four miles from the 3000-foot South Mountain summit, during the September through December hunting seasons. From there it has always been an enjoyable hike to the top.

Without any announcement beyond their website, Green Diamond developed and published new access maps for their forestlands in Mason and Grays Harbor Counties in 2021 (NEW – Grays Harbor/Mason County). The previous practice of press releases published in local newspapers, and listed on the company website News page: ( was not followed. This information was probably shared within the company, and with current Recreational Access Permit holders. In the past, the public affairs office answered the phone for questions. This year no one answered the phone or returned my call to ask about the new maps.  

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DECEMBER 2021- JANUARY 2022 REVIEWS December 10, 2021 blog

“Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills” by Leslie Romer

Our state’s rainy western flanks might not be first place you’d look for fire lookouts, but local hiker and author Leslie Romer has documented over 60 current and former lookout sites between the mouth of the Columbia River and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Part history book and part guidebook, Romer combines years of ground-truthing with detailed, archival research to bring these oft-forgotten sites to life. “Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories” lays out all the background you need to start planning your summer adventures around the Olympic Peninsula and find some truly off-the-beaten path locales., December 15 post. Published as part of a five book review in the Aberdeen Daily World:  December 16 by Jon Larson, Polson Museum Director:

For the physically active history fan, the newest addition to the local written record is Leslie Romer’s “Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills.” Released only last week, this 330-page softback is packed with historical geography detailing 66 individual hikes to the fire lookouts that once dotted our region. The hikes themselves were chosen for being accessible to the public and range from a half mile to twenty one miles in length. While few of the lookouts remain, Romer has done exhaustive research to locate where they once stood and has created a lasting record of this once crucial network of early warning stations. With many dating to World War II and ranging from the Columbia River to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and everywhere in between (a majority here in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties), each hike is detailed for historical context as well as for geographical accessibility. The cartography is excellent and this book is highly illustrated with historic photos. $22.95 softback.

OUR COAST WEEKEND Arts and Entertainment Weekly, January 11, 2022. Astoria, OR

“Bookmonger: Hiking guides for nearby exploring”

For all of you who have dreams of getting out into nature more in 2022, here are two new books that will encourage you to do so!

“Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories” offers over 60 hikes to fire lookout sites throughout the Willapa Hills and the Olympic Peninsula. In researching these destinations, Olympia, Washington, author Leslie Romer proves to be not just a doughty hiker but also a veritable scholar. 

But before you get to the section of the book that details the hikes, please read the 11 pages of preface. These contain smart advice that Romer wants to convey to anyone following in her footsteps, things like: make sure you know who owns the land where you’ll be hiking, and get the proper permits ahead of time; know the etiquette you should practice when encountering wild animals; and, don’t skimp on the Ten Essentials.

Heeding this counsel will lead to a better experience once you actually hit the trails.

Following this introduction, Romer has prepared at-a-glance tables that summarize the hikes by distance, elevation gain, seasonal access and more.

Then you’ll get to the actual hike descriptions. Each entry methodically includes an overview, driving directions to the trailhead, a map and detailed directions for the hike.

Romer also combed through archival records and pored over old maps and written guides to provide mini-histories of each site and even information about some of the folks who once staffed and supplied these lookouts. These included a Disney illustrator, a famous female horse packer, and — during World War II — Aircraft Warning Service spotters.

“Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories” provides destinations that are off the beaten path.

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest.

Publication Info

Available from these sources:

  • REI – Olympia, Capital Mall, West Olympia, WA
  • Olympia Gear Exchange, 104 4th Avenue W., Olympia, WA
  • Courtyard Antiques, 4th Avenue E., Olympia, WA
  • Polson Museum – Hoquiam, WA
  • The Barn Nursery Gift Shop – 9510 Old Hwy 99, south of Olympia, WA
  • Browsers Books – Olympia, WA
  • Village Books and Paper Dreams, Bellingham, WA
  • Willapa Brewing Company, South Bend, WA
  • Barnes and