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High Rock Lookout Tower Hike

Mount Rainier Area, Washington

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High Rock Lookout Tower Hike

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  • View of the High Rock Lookout Tower from the trailhead off of NF-8440.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Small cones and broad leaves of the red alder (Alnus rubra).- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Noble fir (Abies procera) cone.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Stalks of bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax).- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Mixed conifer forest of noble fir (Abies procera) and pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis).- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Sitka mountain ash (Sorbus sitchensis).- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • High Rock Lookout Tower Trail.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • View southeast along the trail toward Goat Rocks (8,184') and Mount Adams (12,281').- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • High Rock Lookout Tower Trail.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Mount Rainier (14,411') and the High Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Hight Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Hight Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • View southeast toward Mount Adams (12,281') from the High Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • View southwest toward Mount St. Helens (8,365') from the High Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • View south of Mount Hood (11,249') in Oregon from the High Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • View of Goat Rocks (8,184'), a heavily eroded stratovolcano, from the High Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • View along the rest of the Sawtooth Ridge toward Alder Lake Reservoir.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Mount Rainier (14,411') and the High Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
  • Mount Rainier (14,411') from the High Rock Lookout Tower.- High Rock Lookout Tower Hike
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
360-degree views include Mount Rainier and Cascades. Iconic lookout tower.
Cons: 
Long gravel access road. Vertigo may be an issue at the top.
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Region:
Mount Rainier Area, WA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,365.00 ft (416.05 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
3.20 mi (5.15 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
4,320.00 ft (1,316.74 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

While a short hike, the trail to the High Rock Lookout Tower is all about the views. You'll gain approximately 1,300 feet in just over a mile once you leave the trailhead, topping out on a dramatic ridge with vertiginous and expansive views in all directions. Despite the exposure at the end of the hike, the trail mostly sticks to the dense forest of hemlock and noble fir, so it is a pleasant climb along the way. In the summer, a diverse understory of wildflowers and huckleberries line the trail.

Begin on High Rock Lookout Trail 266, which leaves the parking area right off of NF-8440. You'll be able to see the tower from early on in the hike, which is good for motivation. Note that a spur trail leads off to the right, but this soon rejoins the main trail and is best skipped. The trail remains in good condition, and you'll find a few benches to help with recuperation after the switchbacks. You'll leave the forest after a little more than a mile and continue along the ridge. The magnitude of the this ridge's prominence begins to sink in at this point, and the impression only increases as you approach the tower.

Built in 1929, the tower is no longer in use, but it is often left open in the summer season. Very little sits between the tower and the sheer drop to Cora Lake below, so be very cautious as you explore this ridge. Views from the tower are magnificent: in addition to incredible views of Mount Rainier, you'll see Goat Rocks, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and even Mount Hood.

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(24 within a 30 mile radius)

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(72 within a 30 mile radius)

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