heybrook lookout via a drone with mountains in the back surrounded by forests

Expert Guide to the Heybrook Lookout Trail in Washington

The Heybrook Lookout trail is a short, steep, yet sweet hike to awesome views of the surrounding Washington Cascades. Sitting 75 minutes outside of Seattle, this trail offers hikers a great time without making them sacrifice the entire day outside. 

So, if you’re visiting Washington and looking for a nice hike to understand why this place is so great or just want a nice workout hike, choose Heybrook Lookout. 

Inside, you’ll find everything you need to hike this incredible trail safely! (Plus, I’ve got some pretty sweet pictures in the middle!)

Hiking Heybrook Lookout Near Index, Washington

Quick Hiking Stats

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 900 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time on Trail: 2 hours (probably overly generous)
trees in the forests in washington
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Trail Report for Heybrook Lookout Trail

It was a Wednesday afternoon, and I wanted to stretch my legs and get out and about! Heybrook Lookout seemed like the perfect hike, especially with me still recovering from my cancer treatment. 

Thankfully, I convinced a buddy to join, so I didn’t have to do it alone. 

Related: The best fire lookouts in Washington

The incline began immediately once we hit the trail – and never relented. However, the first half mile is definitely the steepest, with the last quarter mile a little more mellow. So, if you like to wear a jacket when you hike, don’t bother, as you’ll be burning up in no time. 

Once arriving at Heybrook Lookout, you must climb about 60 feet of stairs to reach the lower balcony area. The physical lookout was closed – a slight bummer. 

mountain peak views from heybrook lookout
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

We enjoyed some snacks and drank water, and I put the drone up for a bit to get a better vantage point. After 20 minutes, we headed back down the trail to our cars. I’m pretty sure we got down in less than 20 minutes. 

It is a nice area and perfect for tourists to enjoy hiking without being forced to spend an entire day on the trail. 

Your Guide to Hiking to Heybrook Lookout

Is Heybrook Lookout worth it?

Yes! The Heybrook Lookout hike is definitely worth it and offers sweeping views of the Washington Cascades and the lovely forest below. Everyone who visits will surely have a good time! 

a hiker and his dog hiking on a trail in the forest
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Where is Heybrook Lookout Located

Heybrook Lookout is located just past the town of Index on Highway 2, heading east towards Steven’s Pass. It sits in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. It’s around a 75-minute drive from Seattle if traffic is decent.

Finding the Trailhead

The trailhead sits on the north side of the road (left if you’re coming from Index) and is just a big open lot. You should see signs for it as you approach, but slow down and be extra careful crossing traffic as opposing cars are not slowly down. 

Furthermore, if you pass the trailhead, you may have to drive into Baring before you get a chance to flip around. 

If you cross railroad tracks, you have gone too far. 

The best bet is just to have it plugged into your maps!

views of heybrook lookout from a drone
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Tips for hiking the Heybrook Lookout Trail

  • Give yourself some grace at the beginning and start slow
  • The trailhead is on the left side of the parking lot
  • You may not be allowed to physically go into the lookout (the top was closed for us)
  • The forest is beautiful and picturesque
  • It’ll be very crowded on the weekends. Even on a weekday, there were half a dozen cars

How hard is the hike?

It’s a decently strenuous hike, considering the elevation gain. But it’s also a quick hike, so the “pain” will be over quickly. I would say this is a moderate hike due to the steepness, and it never really subsides until the top.

We did stop twice to catch our breath. The most unfair part is you get no warm-up. You simply start hiking upwards, and once you’re on the lookout, you get your break!

How long will it take to hike to the lookout?

I would estimate it took us about 40 minutes to get to Heybrook Lookout. It’s barely a mile up to the top, but you are gaining nearly 1,000 feet of gain over that timeframe. So, that does make it a little challenging. That said, a mile is a mile, and it only takes so long. 

I’m pretty athletic and a quick hiker, so maybe others will take 45 minutes. Still, don’t anticipate it’ll take you too long. 

When is the best time of year for the Heybrook Lookout hike?

What makes the Heybrook Lookout hike so great is that it can be done year-round. It’s at a low enough elevation where the trail does not get snowed in, and you should be able to do it without snowshoes. Then, from spring through fall, it’s a lovely hike to see the nearby views of Baring Mountain and Mt. Index. 

So, if you visit Seattle any time, put this on your radar if you want a short hike with powerhouse views!

multitudes of trees in washingotn
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Are there any bathrooms?

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead, but there is a vault toilet near the lookout.

Are dogs allowed on the trail?

Yes, dogs are more than welcome on this trail. We saw plenty of them when I hiked, and my buddy brought his, too. Just know that the steps leading up to the lookout are steep, and dogs may not like it. 

Will I have cell service? 

Yes, you should have cell service. You’re pretty close (mere minutes) from the town of Index, and you are above the trees, so you have a clear line of sight with any cell towers. But consider putting your phone on airplane mode while you hike so you aren’t distracted!

Sleeping overnight at Heybrook Lookout

Yes, you are allowed to spend the night at Heybrook Lookout. However, it requires a reservation and operates on a 6-month rolling basis. 

Currently, you can reserve dates at Heybrook Lookout from May 1, 2024, through July 17, 2024. Starting January 18, 2024, you can reserve dates up to July 18, 2024. 

The season closes on October 31, 2024. 

the lookout with mountains in the background
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What is inside the lookout? 

From Recreation.gov:

The 14 x14-ft. lookout cabin sleeps four and is furnished with one twin-sized bed with mattress, two additional floor mattresses, a table, and chairs, a propane stove, pot, pan, silverware, coffee pot, and battery-operated lanterns. A primitive vault toilet is located several hundred feet down the ridge from the lookout. There is a picnic table at the bottom of the tower. There is no water at the site. Guests must bring water for drinking, cooking, and washing. Guests must also bring flashlights, sleeping bags, towels, dish soap, matches, a first aid kit, toilet paper, and garbage bags. All trash and food must be packed out, and guests are expected to clean the cabin before leaving.

How much does it cost to stay a night?

It costs $75 per night to stay at Heybrook Lookout. Honestly, this seems a bit pricey for me, but it is what it is. 


Water Sources

There are no water sources on the Heybrook Lookout Trail. But due to the trail’s short distance, you’ll be fine. Just have some extra water in the car. 

What trails are nearby?

baring mountain on the left with a river winding through the forests
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

FAQ: Heybrook Lookout Trail

When was the lookout first built?

Heybrook Lookout was first built in 1925 and was only a tent platform. Over the following years, they improved it with a 45-foot log leg tower in 1932. Then, in 1964, the lookout was crafted as it is today. It’s one of only 106 lookouts in the state of Washington

Can you drone near the lookout?

Yes, you are allowed to drone near Heybrook Lookout. Be respectful of those around you, and please fly safely. 

Do I need a permit to hike or camp at the lookout?

Yes, you have to make reservations to stay overnight in Heybrook Lookout. You do not need permits to day hike it. 

Are there any bears?

There are bears in the area, but I wouldn’t worry about it for this hike. First, it’s way too popular and near a major highway, and bears don’t want to deal with it. Secondly, it’s only a mile-long trail, and it would be wild odds to see during that period. 

What gear to pack for your hike

Just bring your classic hiking attire and gear. Nothing is overly needed if you’re not staying overnight. 

  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking backpack
  • Water and snacks
  • Hat
  • Moisture wicking clothes
towering peaks in the clouds near heybrook lookout trail
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Final Thoughts on the Heybrook Lookout Trail

This is a great hike and one I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s short and sweet, but the views up top are worth it. 

If you’re a decent hiker who gets out weekly, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble on this trail.

Until next time adventures, take care.

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside