After a conversation with the bartender at the local watering hole, we set out the next morning in search of the “fire tower.”
Over a few beers at Mountain State Brewing Co. in Thomas, WV, we struck up a casual conversation with the bartender. She mentioned a nearby fire tower that we should check out, but wasn’t quite sure where it was. After a little research through our best friend google and a local map we managed to locate the Olson Observation Tower and headed out Sunday morning to find it.
Originally built in 1922 and subsequently rebuilt in 1963, Olson Tower sits at 3,736 ft on top of Backbone Mountain in the Monongahela National Forest. It is one of the few remaining fire towers in the area and is accessible via Forest Road 717.
As we made our way up the road to the fire tower we were greeted with some spectacular scenery. All of the trees were frozen and covered with snow, and the powder on the ground was still untouched after the last snowfall.
The drive up is a maintained gravel road and is friendly for all vehicles unless your daily is a slammed VW – then you’ll want to walk up the road.
When we got to the fire tower, we could see that it was iced over and covered in snow. So like any other smart person would do, we climbed to the top.
The steps and handrails were icy and slick but we made it to the top without incident, and after we got over the “holy crap this is high” feeling we actually took a look around.
The observation deck at the top is closed to the public, but you can climb the stairs to the level right below it and it makes for some spectacular views.
If you’re planning a trip out to the Canaan Valley/Monongahela National Forest area and the weather is decent, the Olson Observation Tower should make your short list. If you’re afraid of heights, I’d plant yourself on a bench at Mountain State Brewing Co. down the street and knock back a tall one.