Off the Grid: Thorny Mountain Fire Tower

Located in the heart of Seneca State Forest in West Virginia, the 65-foot Thorny Mountain Fire Tower allows you to sleep amongst the clouds, with unforgettable 360-degree views of the unobstructed night sky and dense forest below. 

You’ll be higher than all your surroundings at this restored 1924 fire tower, which stands at an elevation of 3,385 feet. It is considered one of West Virginia State Park’s most iconic attractions and is the only tower available for overnight stays East of the Mississippi. 

When the Civilian Conservation Corps first built the tower, back in the 1920s, it was for the purposes of lookouts taking up residence high above the trees in order to scour the forest covering the folds of the Allegheny Mountains for any sign of smoke. They slept in cots, warmed themselves by the woodstove, and hauled up food, firewood, and water using a rope-and-pulley system.

Nowadays, it’s about as rough as it was then. 69 rickety wooden steps to a tower with no cell service. No running water. No electricity. And just two simple cots (it’s Bring Your Own Sleeping Gear for any additional guests). Goes without saying that it’s all part of the charm and historic, throwback experience of the place. Think of it as camping in the sky, high above the trees. 

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows means sweeping panoramas: breathtaking, 360-degree, unobstructed views of everything from storms rolling across the mountain tops, fog settling into the valleys, moonlight piercing the night sky while you sleep, and sunrises and sunsets like you’ve never previously experienced. 

Reservations from May to October are just under $100 for up to four people. Get on it because it books up fast. You’ll need to make a reservation up to a year in advance. 

Seneca State Forest / 833.987.2757


  • The entire area is off the grid. 
  • The road up to the fire tower is best tackled with a four-wheel drive. 
  • Plan on bringing all your standard backpacking gear. 
  • There is an outhouse, fire pit, and picnic table at the base of the tower. 
  • All water must be acquired 15-20 minutes away at the Park Headquarters. 
  • There is a clean shower and coin-operated laundry behind the ranger’s station.
  • No dogs or alcohol allowed. 


West Virginia’s oldest and largest state forest, Seneca State Forest is located in rugged Pocahontas County with 12,884 acres of lush woodlands to explore. 

seneca state forest on LEO edit
Photo courtesy of West Virginia State Parks



Explore 12,000 acres of secluded woodlands by biking or hiking any of the 12 challenging trails or the nearby Allegheny and Greenbrier River trails, which run through and can be accessed from the forest. Maps available at the park office.

seneca state forest map on LEO edit

Download Map


Seneca Lake is a great place to fish for trout, largemouth, bass, catfish, and bluegill. The nearby Greenbrier River offers smallmouth and rock bass. But before you head out, make sure you purchase a current West Virginia fishing license, available at

seneca lake on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of West Virginia State Parks


Many of the hundreds of fire towers that were spread throughout the Eastern United States have been torn down or are in severe disrepair. A handful of states and organizations recognize not only the architectural and historical importance of the towers but also that if they are preserved and made available, tourists will travel from all over for the incredible views. 

(None available for overnight stay)

Olson Tower
Bickle Knob
High knob lookout
Hanging Rock Observatory

west virginia towers on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of West Virginia State Parks