Skycastle (aka Lemon Lookout) is an old fire tower offering panoramic views of the Valhallas and Slocan Valley. This ain’t no Idaho Peak – you’ll have to march yourself up the long climb to the summit – but the scenery is nearly as spectacular!
Trailhead: Ponderosa FSR
Distance, Round Trip: 10km
The old fire tower used to be part of a business venture called Skycastle where accommodations were offered in the lower levels. Now the tower hosts communication equipment for Columbia Wireless.
The observation deck is still open to the public.
Turning off Highway 6, drive 4km up Ponderosa Forest Service Road. High clearance is necessary and 4WD may be required to overcome the waterbars.
This isn’t an official trail! There is no trailhead as such, but at 4km the road will widen slightly just before it REALLY steepens so do your best to pull over and park.
A Quick Bushwack
Walking up Ponderosa FSR, you’ll quickly see pink flagging tape going off to the left, with a trail beaten down underneath. Follow it. This short trail will lead down and up a gully, before joining the road that leads to the lookout tower.
The bottom of the lookout tower road is on private property which is why today Skycastle must be accessed via Ponderosa FSR. How fun!
Now, before you ascend the lookout tower road, stop and make sure you’ll remember where to turn off when you come back down! The faint trail leading back to your vehicle should be marked with flagging tape, but it can be easy to miss. Mark it on your GPS or add tape or do whatever you need to do!
Up the road
Now the hike is a matter of walking the remaining 4.8km up the lookout tower road.
Walking on roads can be boring and at the beginning, this road is indeed very forested and very boring. But pretty soon you’ll start to glimpse the Valhallas through the trees.
As you ascend, you’ll start to see more and more of the landscape below. The forest opens up into huckleberry bushes and wildflowers. The distant valley bottom will confirm just how high you’re climbing and why your legs are so tired!
The road steepens and gets rockier as you near the top. And after about two hours of uphill, the tower is reached!
Climbing up to the observation deck, the views are truly stunning! Straight west are the Valhallas with Gladsheim, Dag, and Gimli towering in the sky. Down in the valley, the villages of Slocan and Appledale can be seen along the Slocan River. Looking east shows you the ranges bordering Kokanee Glacier Park.
Need a break from the elements? The observation desk has an inner room full of windows where you’ll find a log book and some chairs.
All-in-all, this is a great shoulder-season hike when you’re feeling a little more adventurous! The Skycastle tower is at 1723m elevation, a little lower than the Idaho Peak fire tower (2273m), but I’d be shocked if you ran into another person on this hike!