May 29, 2024
View in October from the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, Oconto County, Wisconsin

The two highest natural points in Wisconsin you can climb to for a view: Timms Hill and Mountain Fire Lookout Tower

Want to tower over beautiful fall color views? Check the two highest natural spots in Wisconsin you can climb (fairly easily) to feed your eyes and camera!

Fall colors are beautiful from any angle, but it’s particularly fun to climb high up and take in 360° views. Wisconsin isn’t a mountainous state, but we do have some nice topography. We have two suggestions here for a road trip and a nice climb that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world: the tower atop Timms Hill – Wisconsin’s highest point – near Ogema in Price County and the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower near Mountain in Oconto County.

Timms Hill in Price County

Fall colors from Timms Hill in Wisconsin

Timms Hill is Wisconsin’s highest natural point at 1,951.5 feet above sea level. Of the 50 states, it ranks 39th as a highest point, well below #1 Alaska’s 20,310 feet above sea level with Denali Peak.

Timms Hill is the centerpiece of Timms Hill County Park, which offers some nice hiking trails, a few lakes, and camping areas. The hill itself is clearly the highest point for miles around, and the tower sits right on top. Climb the tower and you’ll be just over 2,000′ up, enjoying a series of nearby hills – some of which are within a few feet of Timms Hill’s height – and views that can extend 40-50 miles on a clear day. During fall colors, the patchwork of reds, yellows, golds, greens, and colors in between could keep you up there just taking it in for a long time. The tower is about 50 feet tall on the hill with at least five landings; it’s not too challenging for most and there’s ample room up top for multiple groups to hang out and appreciate the view up there.

Timms Hill County Park Directions & Hours

Timms Hill is the main feature of Timms Hill County Park – not a shocker, there – and is located in Price County just off Highway 86 east of Ogema, about 20 miles west of Tomahawk.
From the west: follow Highway 86 east past Highway 13 and Ogema to County C. Turn right on C, continue onto County RR, and follow the signs to the road bringing you to Timms Hill itself.
From the south: use the directions above or, if using Highway 102, follow County C north from just east of Rib Lake to County RR; turn right and then follow the signs to the road bringing you to Timms Hill.
From the east: follow Highway 86 west from Tomahawk. Just past Spirit, you can turn left on County RR or continue further west to County C; follow the signs that bring you to Timms Hill from there.
From the north: follow Highway 13 south from U.S. 8/Prentice to Highway 86; turn left (west). After a few miles, turn right on County C, follow to County RR, then follow the signs that lead to you Timms Hill.


Mountain Fire Lookout Tower in Oconto County

The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, constructed in 1935 and restored in 2015-16, rises 100 feet above Mountain, Wisconsin and offers memorizing views in every direction from the 7’x7′ cab at the top. The beautiful North Woods that make up much of Oconto County and northeastern Wisconsin have long had lookout towers designed for monitoring fires, weather conditions, and more. Most are gone, but a key one remains, and you can still climb it! This is a fun stop along a Highway 32 or even Highway 64 State Trunk Tour road trip.

Numerous lookout towards once dotted the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest; few remain. The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower is the first one to be placed on the National Historic Lookout Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The tower was in active use as a fire lookout until April of 1970; aerial surveillance essentially replaced its usefulness in its original capacity. While many others were dismantled, the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower survived by serving as a radio relay station for the Forest Service and the Oconto County Sheriff’s Department until 1992. This is the only one you can just drive up to and climb yourself.

The 100-foot tall Mountain Fire Lookout Tower near Mountain, Wisconsin

When you arrive at the tower entrance, just head up the gravel road past the sign. You’ll get to a small parking lot that also has some informational signs about the tower, the surrounding forest, the Native Americans who’ve lived in area for thousands of years, and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) that helped build the tower in the 1930s. A few signs also share some background on the view you’re about to witness.

Guide signs at Mountain Fire Lookout Tower outside Mountain, Wisconsin
Plenty of guide and background info signs greet you at the base of the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower.

If you’re squeamish about heights, this can be a tricky climb. The stairs are steep with open grates and two metal railings, so you feel pretty open to your surroundings. The tower will shake a little as others climb up or down the stairs, or if the wind is pretty strong. Six or seven landings give you a break on the climb or descent, allowing people criss-crossing to more easily get past each other. But when you get to the top, the view is pretty spectacular:

View in October from the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, Oconto County, Wisconsin
View in October from the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, Oconto County, Wisconsin
View in October from the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, Oconto County, Wisconsin
View in October from the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, Oconto County, Wisconsin

On clear days – and we were there on a partly to mostly cloudy one – you can see a good 30-40 miles in every direction. The 100 foot tall tower happens to be on top of Lookout Mountain, one of the ten highest natural points in Wisconsin with an elevation of 1,900 feet. So, your view is more like one from a tall building. Along with miles and miles of treetops – very colorful in fall – you can potentially see other high points in the state including East Hill near Rhinelander to your northwest in Oneida County; Sugarbush Hill (elevation 1,939 feet, third highest in the state) to the north in Forest County; Kent Tower Hill to the west in Langlade County; and then east towards the lower elevations that head toward Lake Michigan, nearly 1,400 feet lower in elevation than where you stand in the tower. You can tell how this view would allow watchers to spot fires, track weather systems nearby, and more.

The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008. It’s a beautiful view, a slightly challenging climb, and definitely an adventure in windy weather! It’s the highest point where one can stand in Oconto County and northeastern Wisconsin.

Mountain Fire Lookout Tower Directions & Hours:

Rustic Road R-113 - also Old Highway 32 - ends at Highway 32 in Mountain at its south terminus. Its northern terminus is in Lakewood.
Rustic Road R-113 – also Old Highway 32 – ends at Highway 32 in Mountain at its south terminus. Its northern terminus is in Lakewood. The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower is 2.5 miles north of the southern terminus at Highway 32/64 in Mountain itself.

The tower is open 8am – sunset from May 1st through November 1st. In Oconto County, Old Highway 32 – now also Rustic Road R-113 – brings you to the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower. Today’s Highway 32 parallels anywhere from 1-3 miles to the west. Follow Old 32 north from Mountain about 2.5 miles to the sign. You can also follow Old 32/R-113 south from Lakewood. A brief drive up a twisty gravel road past the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower sign brings you to a small parking lot at the tower’s base. From there, climb away!


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