Chalone Peak Lookout
US 396, CA 47
May 2019 photo

May 2019 photo - courtesy of Scott McClintock

Lookout Details

Registry Numbers US 396, CA 47 (view other lookouts in United States, California)
Date Registered January 12, 2002
Location Pinnacles National Park
Monterey County, California
Coordinates N 36° 26.856' W 121° 11.676' (view using Google Maps)
N 36° 26' 51" W 121° 11' 41"
N 36.447600° W 121.194600°
Elevation 3,116 ft (950 m)
Built 1952
Administered by National Park Service
Cooperators California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection


Chalone Peak Lookout was built by the California Department of Forestry in what was then Pinnacles National Monument in 1952. Ownership was transferred to the National Park Service in 1990. The 16' x 16' octagonal wood cab sits atop a 20' steel tower enclosed with aluminum siding. Built in 1952, the cab is the oldest of the revised 809R design in CDF's collection. The revision features plate glass windows set on an angle to reduce glare.

As of 2018, the National Park Service has prepared a preliminary estimate of the cost to restore the tower. $200,000 is needed to stabilize the structure, but no funding has been identified.


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Visit Reports

May 7, 2019: Scott McClintock


Needs paint? Yes
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? No
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? Yes
Good condition? Yes
Comments: The steel skeleton, main wood beams, and distinctive slanted cab windows are in good shape. The cab windows are protected by metal shutters. The wood siding and west catwalk deck need replacing. Rat/mouse infestation in interior. There was a break-in and vandals broke the 2nd story windows and spray-painted graffiti in the interior. The Osborne Fire Finder is still in place. I advised Pinnacles National Park staff that the Osborne should be stored in a more secure place.<br/><br/>The tower has a coat of lead-based paint, and within the last 10 years the Park Service had the current coat of dark green paint put over it to contain it. <br /> <br />There is a CCC-era restroom adjacent to the tower that is still functional, except a storm blew the roof off of it last winter. National Park Staff may try to fashion a temporary roof on it.

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? No
Directions to tower signed? No
Comments? This tower sits in Pinnacles National Park and is the property of the National Park Service. Access to the tower is by a 4.5 mile (each-way) hike through a National Wilderness Area. The tower is at the end of a popular hiking trail and gets a fair amount of visitors. <br /> <br />A very old dirt road goes to the peak, however it goes through adjacent private property. The Park staff have a casual agreement with the landowner (and locks on his gates) but he insists on very minimal trips across his ranch. Based on park staff anecdotes, the current landowner would not tolerate daily trips across his land.


Staffed? No
The peak is occasionally used by official naturalists and condor trackers, but they don't enter the tower. The door is boarded-up.

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? Yes
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? Yes
The Park Service says they are interested in refurbishing the tower if the funding could be found, however, if they cannot get it refurbished, they will consider removing it to avoid an attractive nuisance and safety & liability issues. The Park Service is not averse to putting the lookout back into service using volunteers as lookouts. I advised them that volunteer lookouts could deter vandalism and assist park staff with interpretation.