High Rock Lookout, built as a fire lookout in 1925, is truly one of the most spectacular places to stand and gaze at the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. With views almost as dizzying as the 600 foot vertical drop at your feet, while you stand facing Mount Rainier, High Rock Lookout needs to be added to everyone’s hiking bucket list. The easy to follow trail climbs 1,365 feet in 1.6 miles, making it a bit of work for those not used to the climbs of the Cascade Mountain Range. While some consider it steep, this 3.2-mile round-trip trail is a locals’ favorite, frequented by visitors of all ages and hiking skills. After you reach the top and see the view, you’ll understand why.
What Makes It Great
Mount Adams, visible to the south, appears on the horizon as a tiny replica of Mount Rainier. Further south, Mount Hood peeks over the smaller hills, as does the crater of Mount Saint Helens. To the east, the blue sky appears huge over the rugged, dark green tree-covered hills and mountains of the Cascade Mountains. Gazing toward the west in the direction of Puget Sound, this rocky ridge appears to defy gravity, dropping straight down nearly 750 feet to the valley floor below. The steep ridge continues to the lookout, where you can look straight down at Cora Lake, the dark blue standing out against the green trees. As your eyes elevate past the glacial fed Nisqually River and valley, Mount Rainier presents herself in all her glory, standing taller than many have ever seen her snowy slopes. The view from High Rock Lookout, which is the name for the old lookout sitting atop the highest rocky point, is staggering. The cliff to the north is impressive and can cause bouts of dizziness for those with height issues, but the knife ridge you are standing on doesn’t seem any less dangerous in any direction. Some who dare hike to the summit are overcome with vertigo and have needed to be rescued from the top. However, nearly all hikers who take their time and know their limits are able to enjoy this amazingly rare, unique and impressive view of Washington State’s mountain. Just twenty miles as the crow flies away from the 5,685-foot High Rock Lookout, Mount Rainier towers over you by nearly 9,000 feet. There are no mountains or hills blocking your view of this majestic mountain, just a deep river valley and the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. This is the ultimate view of Mount Rainier and is well worth the detour from your trip to Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone looking for a moderate hike to get into some incredibly scenery.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Leave the car where the road widens into a parking area. Then look for two trailhead signs on opposite sides of the road. You want the northwest sign, which, if still legible, reads “High Rock Lookout Trail 266.”