helena national forest


Meet the “Freaks on the Peaks”

(Don’t worry: The nickname is meant affectionately)

Every summer, dozens of fire lookouts for the US Forest Service climb up to 15ft-by-15ft wooden cabins perched atop remote towers. There, they spend their days scoping the sweeping panoramas, a low-tech, very human first line of defense against forest fires. Staffed lookout towers began a century ago, peaked at about 10,000 in the 1950s, but have gradually declined to just a few hundred as camera-outfitted drones and planes become ubiquitous. 

But the freaks who remain in their isolated cabins? They wouldn’t have it any other way.