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part ofTahoe National Forest, US Forest Service
Status: Open year round.   Season Dates


Calpine is a forest fire lookout tower that was constructed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and is one of three remaining examples of the enclosed windmill-style lookout in California. The lookout was actively used every summer until 1975. It is a three-story structure with external stairs. The top room or observation cab is the only rented space at this time.

Calpine sits at an elevation of 5,980 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Tahoe National Forest, approximately 40 miles from Truckee, California. The lookout is ideally suited for over-the-snow ski or snowmobile access.

The lookout does not have electricity or water. It contains propane-powered appliances.

Natural Features:

The lookout tower sits on a hill in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, within 15 miles of Sand Pond and Gold Lake. Wildlife is abundant in the area.


Hiking and mountain biking trails are within 15 miles of the lookout. The Pacific Crest Trail can be accessed approximately 20 miles away.

For outings on the water, Gold Lake is northwest of the lookout, and Sand Pond is west of Calpine.


The interior of the cab measures 14' by 14' and currently has two single beds, a dry sink, a table and four chairs, three propane lights, a propane heater, a propane stove/oven and a fire finder. A limited assortment of cooking utensils, pots and pans is provided.

An accessible pit toilet and a picnic table and fire ring are located outside the lookout. Firewood is not provided.

Visitors must bring their own bedding, toilet paper and other personal items.

Activities and Amenities

Within Facility
  • Accessible Picnic Areas
  • Accessible Pit Toilets
  • Birding
  • Broom & Dust Pan
  • Bunkbed(s) With Mattresses
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Campfire Rings
  • Cooking Pots
  • Cooking Utensils
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Propane Lights
  • Propane Oven
  • Propane Stove
  • Skiing
  • Snowmobile Trails
  • Snowshoeing
  • Table & Chairs
  • Wildlife Viewing
Know Before You Go
  • Before arrival, visitors should call the Sierraville Ranger District at (530) 994-3401 (Monday through Friday) for road and weather conditions or fire restrictions
  • The cabin is accessed by an improved Forest Service Road; passenger cars are not recommended; vehicles may get snowed in during late fall snowstorms
  • Weather conditions and snow may cause an early seasonal road closure or a late spring opening
  • If the road is impassable due to mud or snow, the gate combination will not be given and the only access to the lookout will be on foot
  • The key for the lookout is kept in a lockbox at the lookout; renters will be given the combination to the gate and the lockbox upon check-in
  • Snowshoes, skis or snowmobiles are required to access the lookout when snow is present
  • In winter conditions, temperatures may be as low as -21 degrees; cold weather clothing is required
  • No water is available; visitors must bring their own supply
  • Wildlife is abundant; all food must be kept in secured containers
  • Pack out all food and trash
  • Lightning may be a hazard during summer storms
  • Renters must provide a valid contact phone number so the district staff may contact renters to provide any updated information before arrival
  • Learn more about Tahoe National Forest
  • Don't Move Firewood: Protect California's forests from tree-killing pests by buying your firewood locally and burning it on-site. For more information visit firewood.ca.gov.

Getting There:

GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
39.67889, -120.46222
39°40'44"N, 120°27'44"W

From Sierraville, head north on State Highway 89 for 9 miles to the town of Calpine. Look for a sign on the left side of the road, 1.5 miles past Calpine. Once past the gate, continue another 1.5 miles to the lookout.

Contact Information:

Mailing Address:


Phone Number:

Project Office: (530)994-3401
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