Pechuck Lookout and Rooster Rock Hike - Table Rock Wilderness, Oregon

Katie and I dropped off our mini adventurer at Grandma's on Saturday morning before heading over to the Table Rock Wilderness. Our plan was to hike to Pechuck Fire Lookout from the Rooster Rock trailhead (end of Rooster Rock Road by Molalla River). It is about a 5 mile round-trip hike plus another 2 miles for a short side trip to Rooster Rock which we planned on.

Pechuck Lookout Trail Elevation Profile

Thanks to temperature inversion, it has been cold down in the valley, but much warmer up in the mountains. By the time we arrived at the Rooster Rock trailhead, it was approaching 50°F. It appeared that BLM crews had recently cleared the road of about a half dozen or so fallen trees. Our timing was perfect. There was one other vehicle at the trailhead when we arrived around 10:30 AM.

Rooster Rock Trailhead     Rooster Rock trail

The Rooster Rock trail quickly gained elevation on its way to a saddle at the junction with the High Ridge trail. The trail was in great shape. It was snow-free and we only encountered 3 downed trees on our way to Pechuck Lookout.

Katie on the Rooster Rock trail     Old road bed in the Table Rock Wilderness

The only real decent patch of snow we found was on the closed access road at the bottom of Pechuck Mountain. It was an open, but shaded, area where snow must have accumulated and not been able to melt as fast as elsewhere.

Old Table Rock Wilderness registration sign     Katie on the last part of the High Ridge trail to Pechuck Lookout
A little bit of snow on the closed road below Pechuck Lookout     Looking down from Pechuck Mountain at some snow

We knew we were getting close to Pechuck Lookout as we caught a glimpse of Table Rock and then came upon the composting toilet. There's definitely no privacy for those wishing to use the toilet. All that's left of the walls is in a pile of wood nearby.

Table Rock     Composting toilet below Pechuck Fire Lookout

It took us about 75 minutes to hike the 2.4 miles (according to my GPS) to Pechuck Lookout. We were the only ones there when we arrived. It was t-shirt weather with sunny skies and no wind. We could hardly believe it was the end of January. It felt more like early June.

Pechuck Lookout     NW corner of Pechuck Lookout

The Pechuck Lookout is a neat two-story structure. People can spend the night without reservations. However, the amenities are much less than typically found in the reservable lookout towers. Originally there was a fire place in the SE corner, but the chimney and part of the wall collapsed and was not rebuilt when the lookout was renovated. Currently there are several benches that can be used as cots. There are a few tools, first aid kit, and maintenance supplies on the shelves. We also noticed a single burner propane stove, one pot, and a double burner propane stove. I had read that there was a small propane heater, but it was not there today. During a typical winter overnight trip I would recommend bringing warm sleeping bags and a small propane heater.

South side of Pechuck Lookout     Welcome to Pechuck Lookout

From BLM website:

This Fire Protection Facility was staffed from 1918/1919 until 1964. A growing concern for fire protection in forested areas in the early 20th century resulted in the construction of lookouts and the placement of fire location devices on high sites with wide views throughout the northwest.

Located on the Table Rock Trail, the original lookout was built in 1918 by the predecessors of the Clackamas-Marion Fire Protection Agency (C-MFPA) on top of 4338 foot elevation Pechuck.

It consisted only of a rangefinder (most likely an early version of the Osborne Firefinder) set upon a four log post stand. A small cabin of wood planks with a shake roof was built nearby to provide living quarters for personnel. Until 1932, the only access to the lookout site was by way of the Table Rock Trail through what is now Table Rock Wilderness.

The first people to staff the lookout were Mr. And Mrs. Bill Elkins, a middle-aged couple from Molalla, who reportedly worked at Pechuck in either 1918 or 1919.

The present two-story cupola Pechuck Lookout structure was built in 1932 for the C-MFPA. Construction of a new lookout also began on Lookout Mountain. To hasten the construction efforts, a wider, more direct and less steep route was needed to the lookout. As a result, the South Fork Trail, developed to reach both Pechuck and Lookout Mountain lookout was developed as an easier alternative for work-related travel in the area.

Pechuck Lookout was built by John Oblack, a Czechoslovakian from Molalla with help from a veteran stone mason-name unknown-from Portland.

Pechuck Fire Lookout is a cupola-type groundhouse built primarily of native stone. The lower story served as the living quarters for the observer(s). There are also windows on all sides of the lower story which had protective steel shutters. The windows fold out and up and are held open by guy wires anchored to the roof above the windows. The floor of the lookout is a concrete slab. The groundhouse is 12' x 12' x 7'.

Pechuck's upper story, made of wood with a shingled roof, was the lookout tower. The upper story has windows on all four sides providing a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. The cupola measures 7.5' x 7.5' x 9. The entire structure stands about 16 feet tall.

Pechuck Lookout's style of stone and wood construction is highly distinctive. It is one of the few remaining lookouts of this vintage and is the only stone lookout known in northwest Oregon.

Pechuck Lookout site map     Inside Pechuck Lookout with Katie in the doorway
Pechuck Fire Lookout     Inside Pechuck Lookout

We climbed up into the cupola part of Pechuck Lookout where we were able to open one of the window shutters and look out. The lookout gets shuttered in the fall to protect it from winter storms. Before leaving we enjoyed lunch on the porch and made sure to close up all the shutters and the front door.

Katie climbing up to cupola part of Pechuck Lookout     In the upper (cupola) part of the Pechuck Lookout
Fire pit in front of Pechuck Lookout     Katie and I in front of Pechuck Lookout

As we were leaving another couple came hiking up the trail to enjoy lookout. We made a quick 300 yard trip down a side trail to a local spring (only water around). Be sure to head down the left fork of the trail which heads steeply downhill. The right fork eventually dead-ends in some rhododendron bushes.

Spring 300 yards below Pechuck Lookout     Looking back up at Pechuck Mountain

At the Rooster Rock trail junction, we decided to hike the short mile to Rooster Rock before heading back. It was worth it for the great views from a vantage point just to the NW of Rooster Rock. We could clearly see Mt Jefferson. Mt Adams, Mt Rainier, and Mt Saint Helens were also visible to the North. To the South we could see the Three Sisters, Mt Washington, and Three-Fingered Jack although they were partially obscured by a hazy sky (possibly from the wildfires we are having).

Rooster Rock     Mt Jefferson and Rooster Rock
Vantage point near Rooster Rock     Katie hiking down from Rooster Rock vantage point

We had a fantastic hike with the great weather and scenery. I commend the BLM and volunteers for doing a great job with Pechuck Lookout and maintenance of the trails in the Table Rock Wilderness. The Clackamas County Government Channel produced a great 20 minute video on the history of the Pechuck Fire Lookout.

Gear List

REI Lookout 40 Liter Backpack
Deuter Futura 32 Pack
Komperdell Powerlock Trekking Poles
GoLite Kenai Pertex 2.5L Jacket
Triple Star Packable Down Hooded Jacket
Gordini Midweight Quarter-Zip Top
Head Digital Sport Liner Gloves
Columbia Men's Fast Trek Fleece Hat
Petzl TIKKA XP 2 Headlamp
Olympus Tough TG-1 Camera
Sony NEX-6 Camera
First Aid Kit
HighGear ATF8 Altimeter
iPhone w/NeoTreksGPS
Suunto A-10 Compass


1 comment

Terry Musgrove, Wed, 01/29/2014 - 15:13

I really enjoyed your article about your trip to Pechuck Lookout and Rooster Rock. It's hard to believe there is hardly any snow up there. Thanks for the link to the Clackamas County video too. Good deeds for good places!

Terry Musgrove

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