Beautiful panorama awaits at High Rock Lookout
By Justin Chen, Northwest Hiking
NEAR ASHFORD, Wash. - Within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest lies a man-made gem, perfect for hikers who are looking for a spectacular view of Mount Rainier and the surrounding areas.
A lookout tower just a few miles from Ashford, High Rock Lookout provides you with some of the best views in the south sound region from mid-June to late October, with only a short hike to the top. And although the trail isn’t a record breaker, you won’t be disappointed by the scenery on the way up and at the top.
The trail itself is a mile and a half in length and takes you through conifer forests and up a ridge, before finally breaking out at the top, where trees are sparse and views are fantastic.
When you start out, the trail is fairly easy to deal with and climbs slowly along the top of a wide ridge. About a third of the way into the trail, however, you’ll start to climb rather quickly, and you will want to watch your footing as you walk across looser rock and gravel on some parts of the trail.
After about a mile of more rigorous climbing, you’ll see the lookout on your right above you. The trees thin out considerably here, and at the top, you won’t find any within a 30-foot radius of the lookout. This is the primary reason you’ll experience breathtaking scenic views of the surrounding landscape and territory.
The elevation at the top is 5,685 feet, and that accounts for much of the difficulty when climbing 1,600 feet in just over one and a half miles. The trail varies between one to three feet wide, and is comprised of packed dirt with loose gravel and rock areas at times. Hikers of all ages enjoy the terrain, trail, and views.
Even younger children - such as 6 and 7 year olds - can be seen walking up the path with their parents, and elderly folks also make the climb to the top for the rare views. The diversity in age groups and the large numbers of people that traverse the trail help to make it one of the most family friendly-trails in the region.
Once at the top, you will be greeted by a lookout tower built in 1929, and inside, a fire spotter made in 1934.
On the northern side of the Sawtooth Ridge, the ridge on which the lookout sits, a 600-foot drop gives character to the already rocky and barren region.
To the east lies Cora Lake, a small mountain lake located 400 feet below the lookout.
Other views offered by the lookout include Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and the Sawtooth Range. It is truly an amazing hike with some of the best views imaginable. If you want to take advantage of the best Washington has to offer, this is the place to do it at.
Directions to High Rock Lookout:
Justin Chen is the editor of Northwest Hiking. An admirer of new sights and locations, his real passion is travel writing and blogging. In his spare time, he enjoys downhill mountain biking and photography, and is a fanatical lover of the Pacific Northwest.
Tahoma Junior High School students place thousands of flags at the grave sights "Where Heroes Rest", Washington's only National Cemetery. This is the 10th year the Tahoma school has been involved with "Operation Veterans' Remembrance".