Visiting Strawberry Peak Lookout

Last month I was flipping through the latest issue of Westways when I came across a little blurb about local fire lookouts. Somehow, it had never occurred to me that they would be open to the public and I was instantly intrigued. I did a little internet research and found several that I could visit and made a note to seek one out next time I was in the mountains. Well, that moment came pretty quickly when my family and I headed to Lake Arrowhead over Independence Day weekend.

It had been several years since we last visited and we were a little disappointed with what we found. Although beautiful it’s a bit touristy and, as we didn’t have access to a boat, all we could do was shop. Thank goodness we had only gone up for the day! We soon departed and decided to explore the surrounding area instead.

Remembering we had seen a sign for the Strawberry Peak Lookout we decided to go check it out. After a 2 mile drive up a very windy mountain road we came across a cluster of industrial buildings and satellite towers and smack dab in the middle was the lookout.

Built in 1934 it’s over 30 feet tall and accessible via a stairway. The whole area felt a bit off limits but luckily there was a sign indicating it was indeed open and visitors were welcome.

I headed up the stairs and when I got to the top I was shocked to see a group of rangers inside! I had assumed the tower was decommissioned but it’s actually still in use. What I thought were rangers were actually volunteers who regularly man the tower and keep a lookout for wildfires.

They were very friendly and welcomed me in with enthusiasm. The day was quite hot and windy  which made for prime fire conditions. The volunteers were actively scanning the horizon but luckily there was no sign of a fire. Surrounding the office is a catwalk providing panoramic views of the mountains and valley below.

There’s Lake Gregory! There’s Saddleback peak! The 210 freeway and the road down the mountain! It was a beautiful day and I was in awe of what I could see. I’ve been lucky enough to glimpse several panoramic views from Joshua Tree to San Francisco and, I must admit, this was one of the best. Standing on top of a 30 foot tower on top of a mountain was an incredible experience and I’m so glad I took the time to check it out.

After viewing Lake Gregory from the tower we decided to stop there next and found our perfect mountain lake.

It may be smaller than Arrowhead but it’s quiet and accessible and truly beautiful. I’m resolved to go back and explore it some more. Even though our first destination was a disappointment the day was an overwhelming success. The diversity of Southern California is astounding and the fact that such a beautiful, mountainous setting is so close by makes me love living here even more.

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