LEMON LOOKOUT TOWER (Skycastle Lookout) 1723m 5653′
Lemon Creek Lookout Tower was turned into Skycastle Lookout about 5/6 years ago, offering overnight accommodation for a small group in the lower levels, while the observation tower remained open to the public. The company is no longer operating.
The tower offers excellent views of the Slocan Valley and some of the rocky peaks in Valhalla Park. The views are almost as good as from Idaho Peak. The outhouse also has an excellent view into the Valhallas, with Gladsheim Pk, Mt. Dag, and Asgard Pk. being the most prominent.
Elevation gain: 750m (2460′)
Key elevations: TH (Ponderosa FSR Lemon Lookout 1723m (5653′)
Distance: 5km one-way
Time: 3 hours
Season: May to November
Map: 82F/11 Kokanee Peak, 82F/14 Slocan
Drive: From Hwy 6, turn up Lemon Creek FSR and drive a few hundred metres north to Ponderosa FSR (high clearance 4WD). Drive 4kms to an area where 3 cars can park but little turn around room. This isn’t an official trail! There is no trailhead as such, but at 4km the road widens slightly just before it really steepens. Pull over as far as possible and park.
Trail: 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.
Before you ascend the lookout tower road, stop and make sure you 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.
Walk the remaining 4.8km up the lookout tower road, initially forested and boring, but it opens progressively as you ascend. Huckleberry bushes and wildflowers provide distractions. The road steepens and gets rockier as you near the top. After about two hours of uphill, the tower is reached.
It is 1.5kms as the crow flies to the lookout but the many switchbacks triples the distance. There are many game trails that can be followed mistakenly. 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.
This is a good shoulder-season hike. The Skycastle tower is at 1723m elevation, a little lower than the Idaho Peak lookout (2273m).