Vandals damage historic Hahn’s Peak lookout

Broken windows sit in their panes in the historic Hahns Peak lookout, which was vandalized in late June or early July. Photo courtesy Historic Routt County.

HAHN’S PEAK — The Hahn’s Peak fire lookout, a historic building that sits at 10,759 feet atop Hahn’s Peak, was recently vandalized.

Sometime during the last days of June or the first days of July, a door was damaged and 13 windows were broken. Vandals also damaged an historic piece of the lookout’s cab, which fire watchers used to get directional bearings on a fire, said Emily Katzman, executive director of Historic Routt County.

A damaged door and windows in the Hahn’s Peak lookout. Vandals broke 13 windows, a door and a historic directional device. Photo courtesy Historic Routt County.

“It’s one of the most visited and beloved historic sites in the county,” Katzman said.

The trail to the summit of Hahn’s Peak remains open.

The U.S. Forest Service first became aware of the incident after North Routt locals who visit the site regularly discovered the damage. Katzman thanked the community “for keeping an eye out.”

A good Samaritan collected the shards of glass and cleaned up the building, Katzman wrote in an email.

Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Forest Service law enforcement officers are investigating the incident. Historic Routt County and HistoriCorps are assisting with information.

The Forest Service expects to release more information on the vandalism later this week. Right now, the agency is determining how best to receive tips from people who might have more information about the incident.

Records show the lookout was built around 1912, though some iteration of it might have existed as early as 1908, Katzman said.

The lookout is listed on the Routt County Register of Historic Properties and on the National Fire Lookout Association registry. The Forest Service considers it a priority heritage asset — a designation given to significant cultural resources on Forest Service lands.

Every summer, a person stood watch with binoculars aimed at the valleys below to watch for the first flames of wildfire.

In the 1930s, a wooden lookout with stairs and a catwalk was built atop the stone base. The lookout fell out of use around the 1940s when authorities began using aircraft to watch for fire.

The lookout began to fall into disrepair, largely due to exposure and vandalism, Katzman said. In 2014, the Hahn’s Peak lookout was listed on Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List.

A group of hikers visited the original Hahn’s Peak fire lookout in 1922. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the wooden second story and catwalk were added.

A restoration effort kicked off in 2015. During the course of three summers, from 2015 to 2017, the Forest Service, Historic Routt County, HistoriCorps and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps worked to restore the building to its 1940 condition.

They rebuilt the cab, installing new windows. They repaired the stairs to the cab and the concrete surrounding the building. The groups still intend to install interpretive signs at the site.

“It’s definitely very disappointing considering the investment of public dollars and also a huge labor effort and all of the energy of all of the partners that were involved,” Katzman said.

Katzman wrote in an email that there might be opportunities to volunteer to make repairs or monitor the site in the near future. For now, though, she is frustrated.

“No one really understands why someone would do something like that,” she said.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter, @elHasenbeck.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.