Oregon has a lot of lookouts that are still standing and Carpenter Mountain is one that is worth a visit. It was restored in the 1990's and is now able to be in active service when needed. I have a love for lookouts and one of my goals is to visit as many as I can but this one also has the added advantage of being an Oregon Prominence peaks, 1 of 73. While it ranks near the bottom on prominence, having just 2029, it is a prominence peak nevertheless. See this great resource developed by SP'er Dennis Poulin and follow the links he has put on that page about prominence.
Therefore, this mountain, not only does double duty as being both a goal for lookout chasers and for Oregon prominence peakbaggers. It is an outstanding viewpoint as well and on a clear crisp day, the views are going to make this a very popular place to be.
Getting ThereHow to get there. From I-5 near Eugene, take highway 126 and head east towards Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge. However, a few miles before Rainbow you pass the small town of Blue River. From Blue River proceed east 2.5 miles on Hwy. 126, turn left unto USFS Rd. #15 for 3.5 miles north which is on the east side of the Blue River Lake (a reservoir). At the north end of the lake, start watching for FS road 1506 and turn right onto it and follow it east for 7 miles Stay on 1506 until you come to FS road 350 and turn left (north) onto it and follow it 6 miles to the trailhead, located on the right. Make sure you take this right fork prior to getting to the TH (fork). Avoid a couple of spur roads as you proceed up the road. The road is doable in a 2 wheel drive vehicle with moderate clearance, just dodge the bigger rocks. Just before the road ends, find a place to park near the Carpenter Peak trail.
It is a mere mile to the lookout on a very pleasant trail that trail that gains a bit over 800 feet to the foot of the lookout. The trail heads west for the most part but swings back to the east as you near the lookout. Just shortly after the swing to the east, you should begin to catch glimpses of the lookout above you. A rough path leads to the base of the lookout which is easily accessible. Should the lookout be occupied, be sure to ask for permission to access it and reach the highest point (which the lookout sits atop).
Another nice resource is this google map, showing the roads and providing a little more information should you need it.
The routeWhen you park your vehicle, you'll notice a sign at the beginning of the trail that actually invites you to visit the lookout. It is one mile from where you park to the lookout and you will gain about 1000 feet of elevation in that mile. The last little bit to the lookout itself is a bit steep but not difficult. The views from the lookout are exceptional.
Roundtrip: two miles
Elevation gain: 1000 feet
Time up and back: allow two to three hours.
Avoid the top if an electrical storm is approaching. Trust me on that aspect.
Red TapeInformational link # 1
To get more information on the area and campgrounds:
Mc Kenzie River Ranger District
57600 McKenzie Hwy
McKenzie Bridge, OR 97413
Summer hours: 7 days a week Memorial Day - Columbus Day
Regular hours: Monday-Friday 8-4:30
CampingThere are quite a few camping areas in the area.
Delta Campground near McKensie Bridge is a fee campground with 38 campsites.
Mona Campground near the north end of Blue River Lake is also a fee campground with close to 30 spots.
Of course there are other campgrounds in the area and there are places near the trail head where off road camping looks to be a possibility.
The LookoutThe first lookout at Carpenter Mountain on the Willamette National Forest was an open sided fire fighter shelter built in 1917. In 1935 the CCCs constructed the current 68 year old station. It is [one of 2, see US134,OR18] (the only) remaining example of a hip-roof L-4 with catwalk on the Forest. Recently restored it is reached by a one-mile trail and is again in active service. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
External LinksWeather Link
From this RESOURCE, they had the following to say about the trail
"The Carpenter Mountain Trail (#3302) is a very difficult 1 mile hike. Trail ends at Carpenter Mountain Lookout which is on a volcanic pinnacle. The trail is of moderate grade except for the last 600 feet from the top of the mountain which is very steep and rocky. BE CAREFUL. From the lookout you have a view of Wolf Rock, Cascade Crest, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters."