High Rock Lookout

Packwood, Washington 98361

High Rock Lookout

High Rock Lookout Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"When your spirits need a lift or you simply want to spend some time with front-row views of Mount Rainier, climb to the High Rock Lookout. The lookout tower itself is a historical relic from years gone by, when rangers were stationed here to keep an eye out for devastating storms. Around you, marmots crash out on the rocky drop-offs, peaks are in every direction, and peacefulness abides on one of Washington’s grandest peaks.

The “High Rock” perch near Mount Rainier holds one of the last fire lookouts in the area. The views are jaw-dropping in every in thirty-one days by drilling steel pillars deep into the rock and fastening four strong direction, and the rock under your feet is warm and welcoming in summer months."

More High Rock Lookout Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades (The Mountaineers Books)
Joan Burton
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"One of the few lookouts still operating in the state, High Rock offers children a rare opportunity to talk with the fire lookout operator if he is there, and see what his or her life is like. If the lookout is staffed, the kids can see the Osborne Fire Finder and radio in use during fire season. The kids can imagine finding smoke, then calling in the fire on the radio. The spectacular views of Mount Rainier and tiny Cora Lake, 2000 feet below, are like those from a small plane. Ask the lookout what it’s like to be there in a storm—especially a lightning storm!" Read more
Day Hiking: South Cascades (The Mountaineers Books)
Dan A. Nelson
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"Savvy hikers seeking stellar 360-degree views know to look for lookouts. The old fire lookout cabins (sometimes cabins-atop-towers) used by the Forest Service in the pre-satellite radar days were always situated atop high peaks with outstanding views in all directions. The sole purpose of these high lonesome structures was to provide fire lookouts a panoramic view of a broad swath of mountains so they could watch for smoke. As such, the old fire lookout stations are wonderful hiking destinations, and unlike many of the old sites, High Rock still has its tower (which is still used in season). As great as the views are, though, the mountain itself is even more astounding. High Rock is one of the more impressive stone formations on which you’re ever likely to sit, not so much for its sheer height (5700 feet) but for its sheer north face (about 600 feet straight down)." Read more
"The top of High Rock, in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, is the perfect place to gaze at Mount Rainier. You’re far enough from the massive mountain to get a sense of its incredible height and bulk, but close enough to pick out such details as icefalls and crevasses on its glaciers. The trip to the old fire lookout atop High Rock is short and sweet." Read more
100 Classic Hikes Washington (The Mountaineers Books)
Craig Romano
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"Teetering on a precipitous pinnacle, High Rock is one of Washington’s most stunning lookouts. It’s one of the few remaining in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, though it’s no longer staffed; much-needed restoration began on it in 2015. The hike to it is short but steep. And if the climb doesn’t take your breath away, the in-your-face view of Mount Rainier’s snowy face will. High Rock is the loftiest and most prominent point along the serrated Sawtooth Ridge rising above the Nisqually River valley just south of Mount Rainier. Folks used to have to hike more than 10 miles to reach High Rock, but over the years the Forest Service punched roads closer and closer to this peak for timber extraction. The days of the big cut are over now, and surprisingly Sawtooth Ridge still retains stands of old-growth forest. But it’s High Rock’s far-reaching and unsurpassed views that you’ll find most intriguing on this hike." Read more
Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington (The Mountaineers Books)
Dan A. Nelson
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"Savvy hikers seeking stellar 360-degree views know to look for lookouts. The old fire-lookout cabins (sometimes cabins-atop-towers) used by the Forest Service in the pre-satellite radar days were always situated atop high peaks with outstanding views in all directions. As impressive as the views are, though, the mountain itself is even more astounding. High Rock is one of the more impressive stone formations on which you're ever likely to sit, not so much for its height (5635 ft) but for its sheer north face (about 600 ft straight down). Be sure to keep your pup leashed around the summit, as the sheer drop leaves no room for error, and dogs can be a bit unwary around ledges." Read more

High Rock Lookout Reviews

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7/23/2011
What a fantastic hike destination! After a 9 miles USFS road trk to the trail head it is 1-1/2 miles and 1500 feet of elevation gain sans switchbacks, so prepare for a good hamstring workout. The final 200 yards, as the guide suggests, is a solid rock scramble to the top. There are, however, no longer any guard rails or cables on the slope, so it is truly a scramble to the top. Once you get there the views are AMAZING. I was lucky to go on a crystal clear day and could see every peak from Mt. Baker in the north all the way to Mt. Hood to the south. With the incredible amount of snowpack this year there were several snow traverses to navigate and the trail got lost a few times under the snow. Also, once at the top, it is 2000 feet straight down to Cora lake, so keep kids and dogs away from the ledge.
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7/6/2009
I have been going up this trail since my dad had to carry me half the way and now I enjoy taking anyone who is willing to go up. Pretty steep trail but not long at all. And when you get to the top one word "WOW". Views of all the high peaks, and valleys.
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7/1/2009
This was a great hike! My brother and I did it to get back into shape. It's a pretty steep hike, but once you get to the top, it is completely worth it. My brother is afraid of heights, so he had some problems with it, but we still had a lot of fun. It's a great place for photographers to get amazing landscape shots. I highly reccomend this hike!
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9/1/2008
Nice views. If you take your children be watchful when your on top. Check out the pictures to see the shear size of the cliff.
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8/3/2008
Beautiful views of Mount Rainier.
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High Rock Lookout Photos

Trail Information

Packwood
Nearby City
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
3.2
Distance
1,400 feet
Elevation Gain
Out-and-back
Trail Type
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Best late July–Oct
Season
Mountain Biking
Additional Use
Views
Features
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
Local Contacts
Green Trails Randle No. 301
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018