The Historic fire tower in Pequot Lakes has re-opened as a brand new county park, Paul M Thiede Fire Tower Park. This park is small but beautiful. If you are in the Brainerd Lakes area, specifically Pequot Lakes this is a must do activity. Unless of course you are afraid of heights! Ha. Even then, its worth the short hike to see.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built the tower in 1935. In it’s years it was quite obviously used to spot forest fires. At the top of the tower is a station with glass windows on all sides that offer a panoramic view of about 20 miles in every direction. DNR would spend hours on lookout with a pair of binoculars to spot any telltale signs of the smoke of a wildfire. The DNR stopped using the tower when technology made it obsolete.
The fire tower just recently reopened, thanks to longtime Crow Wing County commissioner, Paul M. Theide. Which is why the park is named after him. The DNR had closed the tower to the public in 2017 because of vandalism and maintenance costs. Though others had said the tower wasn’t worth saving, Thiede pushed the idea to have the county buy the tower and the 40 acres of land it sits on. Luckily, it was found the tower was stable and only needed maintenance work. The county was able to purchase the land from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in late 2018, for $1. They now are hoping to buy more of the surrounding land to add trails and to make it more of a destination park. The fire tower is now open for people to climb from dawn to dusk daily and will be closed in the winter for safety.
Parking for the Historic Fire Tower is just east of 371 on highway 11. It is very clearly marked with signs. You can also see the fire tower from quite far away, so you will have a good idea of where you are headed. When you arrive there is a great welcome sign and a small parking area. When we visited we got the last spot, it wasn’t even really a spot but we made it work. We found out from people at the trail head that they were meeting for a nature program. I assume it typically isn’t as busy as it happened to be on our trip. I have also read that they plan to add more parking as there are plans to hopefully expand the park in the future.
At the trail head they have great informative signs about the hike and the history as well as a detailed map. From here you can choose to walk the wildlife loop or you can head straight to the tower. We choose to go straight to the tower to beat the nature program, and did the wildlife loop on our way out. In total the hike is only .7 miles. It is .3 to the tower and the wildlife loop is an additional .4.
The hike was beautiful in the fall, it is uphill but it was not too difficult. The tower is really impressive when you see it. There are tables at the bottom for those from your group who do not wish to complete the climb. For the brave ones in is 135 steps to the top of the 100-foot-tall tower together. The walk up is so worth it, the views are spectacular!
Going down is harder than going up, but very manageable. My seven year old loved it! We then took the .4 mile wildlife loop out. Which is definitely worth it, downhill most of the way, easy, and beautiful! We only saw a small garter snake and some birds, but the wildflowers and fall colors were amazing!
As you can see we had a beautiful time on our adventure in the park! I highly recommend this as a quick adventure for anyone in the area or anyone passing thru! I hope this post gave you all the information you need to plan your trip. Feel free to leave me any questions in the comments. Also, if you are in the area check out my post on Fritz Loven Park, its another hidden gem! =)
Much Love & Happy Travels,